Understanding the Culture of Violence in America: The Death of Derrion Albert

Hopefully after reading this post you’re able to look at this issue differently. To do so, I suggest taking the time to view the following videos starting with this one:
So everyone has heard the story – or watched the video – of 16yr old Derrion Albert savagely beaten to death in Chicago. In my opinion, I don’t know if the video or the knee jerk reactions to it was more appalling. I’m sorry and I apologize if that last line offended anyone, but it’s just the way I see it. I’m disappointed that a young man had his life cut short in the manner he did, but I’m not angry. Am I a bad person for not being angered by this incident? No. Am I apathetic because I’m not as “enraged” as some people claim to be? Of course not, but some may think that I am. But hey, the cynic in me tells me that this “rage” will quickly disappear as it did after the Oscar Grant incident earlier this year. Everybody was mad then after watching the video of him being killed by a police officer, but no such rage at the fact that currently murder charges against said officer might be dropped.

If you ask me, it is this very “anger” which is essentially a part of the problem. Let’s be honest, Derrion Albert wasn’t killed because people were “Steppin’ in the name of love,” in the streets of Chicago. I say that because I doubt he was caught up in the midst of two separate but very happy groups of teenagers. Real talk: How do we solve problems if angry? When has anything positive ever developed from a position of anger? Shouldn’t this be yet another albeit teachable moments as it relates to conflict resolution? Ironically, it is this “anger” which has fueled some of the most unproductive discussions and commentary surrounding this incident and the blame game.

So in the spirit of “community” where community exists only when there is real commitment to go beyond rhetoric, beyond the limitations of tolerance, beyond the accusations, attacks and suspicions often experienced when people try to talk through the tough issues. I offer some Socratic questioning in an attempt to provoke rational thought and hopefully move towards solutions.

1) Bad Parenting: I’ve heard it said that what happened to Derrion is a resut of bad parenting. How can one watch the video of this or read about this story and come to this conclusion? Were there parents at the scene acting as agitators and or instigators? I’m sorry, but unless that was the case, I’m not buying that “bad parenting” cliché explanation. If you feel differently than I, feel free to explain that one to me in your commentary. And please give me more than that “babies raising babies” talk.

2) Absentee Black Fathers: Yet another one of those silly arguments to explain this incident. Can anyone prove to me that every single solitary soul involved in that melee came from single parent homes? Again, I’m sorry, but Black people, as a people we need to stop believing the hype as we’re fed by the media. Using absentee fathers as an excuse negates this being a teachable moment as far as personal responsibility and consequences in my opinion. Absentee Black fathers may be a problem in itself. But let’s not use this incident as one of those soapbox moments to promote Black fatherhood when it is not known whether it’s even a contributing factor in this instance. If that’s what you think to be a contributing factor in this and all instances of violence, pay attention to the last video.

3) Hip Hop: Let’s see, Hip Hop as we know it in the mainstream has been around how long? I don’t know, but I seriously doubt whether it has been around as long as Black on Black violence and crime has, no? Hell, a White rapper was just arrested for murder a couple of weeks ago. How come nobody submitted Hip Hop to be the causation of his crime which had multiple victims? Do we blame, or are other musical genres the motivation behind acts of crime committed by non-minorities? But hey, we can debate that issue in the commentary as well; actually being a Hip Hop head I welcome that debate. Shit, I know plenty of cats my age who love Mobb Deep’s “Shook One’s PT. II” who have yet to just lose it causing the end to the life of an individual.

4) The Black Culture of Violence: I know and understand Black on Black crime is an issue itself. But, why make this incident, or use similar incidents to give the perception that “it’s a Black thing”? Correct me if I’m wrong, but is there something in the DNA of people of African descent that predisposes them to violent crime? I’m just curious, but isn’t crime – be it violent or not – a problem throughout society that affects us all negatively? Why then see it as another one of those Black problems? Also, I’d like to take the time to remind people that gang culture has always existed in this country, and that the U.S. Gov’t did not create Ricco law statutes to take down the Bloods and the Crips. Yes, there is a pathology associated or attached to Black folks which directly impacts behavior. But how can we challenge this issue without tying it in to a larger societal problem?All in all people, the problem here as I see it is violence in America; yes, we live in a violent nation. Is it any surprise that a country that was birthed through violence, where people are comfortable packing guns to political town hall meetings, and creating “Should Obama be Killed” polls on Facebook that these type of incidents occur? Derrion was caught up between an incident which involved two rival groups – you know that same “mob mentality” currently occupying our national political discourse? But hey, I guess that’s to be expected when the country you love has, is and will always be the biggest bully in the world community. Yeah, mobs and gangs have long been a part of American culture; why worry about violence here when this country exercises its “violent will” on other people and other cultures abroad.

What’s sad to me Black people, is that we view Derrion’s demise within the “Black community” to be tragic but yet accept or are apathetic towards the culture of violence within our country at large. Hell, a White kid was beaten on a school bus recently by a group of Black kids, but yet I didn’t hear this much “rage” from the Black community. Lemme guess, he lived, so it was no big deal, right? But since I’m trying to offer solutions I’ll ask: how can we stop the violence when we all live or are a part of a larger society within which such behavior is commonplace and not addressed?

Let the healing begin after this video:SUGGESTED READING: Whose Responsibility is it Anyway? by soulbrother v.2