PROGRAMMED TO FEAR YOUNG BLACK MEN

My Dear Friends and Readers,

This morning I was in an urban grocery store in downtown Baltimore. The store caters to the high-end employed in Baltimore’s business district. The rest of the folks get to shop there as well, but you won’t find bargains or specials there. You will find unsweetened organic soy milk and gluten free brownies. Back to the point. This morning I saw an African American male child about age 9 or 10- tall for his age,  wearing a Batman mask and costume. For a moment my heart leaped. “I hope they don’t think he’s here to rob the store.”  A few seconds later, the child’s well dress parents walked in the store behind him. I was relieved.

However, it bothered me that, I too have become a victim of “black scare”.  In the few minutes that I remained in the store, I pondered my own prejudicial reaction.  As I was leaving the store, the boy stood at the entrance, and he had removed his mask to expose a well nurtured and cared for young man. I walked out the store and then walked back in ” I forgot to say Hi, Bruce Wayne.”  He smiled and I reminded myself to check my “already always thinking.”

What has caused me to jump to this conclusion? If it were a white child would I have reacted the same way?
I don’t think so. I have become conditioned by the media to expect the worst of young black men and at the same time fear for them.

As I pondered further, I realized that tomorrow I will address an audience of social workers and therapists who work with incarcerated youth.  The statistics that I will present to them are the following:

 Last year’s police  arrest records indicate  that young people under the age of 25  represented  51% of the arrests for violent behavior.
 The same age  group  under the age of 25, made up 49% of the
weapons violation arrests. 

This group is also the victims of trauma. When last year’s murder rate in Baltimore rose to 344, so did the rate of young people entering emergency rooms. The rate of gunshot and knife wounds rose by 5% last year.

We also find that young people in Baltimore have the same out look out about their future prospects as young people in third world countries like Nigeria, New Delhi, India and Johannesburg ,South Africa.

This should come as no surprise because these young people are the victims of trauma induced by  living in poverty; in high crime communities, in homes with domestic violence; drug use; drug sales; incarcerated parents or missing parents. The day to day toll on our youth, 30% which live in poverty is showing up in violence on our streets.

We know that locking up young people, or people in general does not work. In 2005 100,000 thousand Baltimoreans were arrested. That number equals 1/6th of the city’s population.

11 years later, today, we know that the Baltimore police racially profile and violate the rights of African Americans. Now that we have this information, hopefully, the rate that which  young  black people are illegally stopped and detained will decrease. Hopefully.

Last year our young people rioted. The city reacted. They allotted 2.9 million dollars to trauma prevention and 40 million dollars to the Baltimore Police Department for violence prevention. The forty million dollars should have gone to to help our young people and perhaps we wouldn’t need to so much money to prevent violence- induced by trauma.

Finally, in our city of unequals, where the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington D.C., found that Baltimore is one of the most “unequal” cities when it comes to income earnings, let’s hope that
with all of this information in the hands of our politicians and leaders  there will be meaningful change in this city of two cities. Let’s vote for real  change in November and keep close watch on the actions of our elected officials. Let’s make them keep their campaign promises.

Praying for Baltimore and Voting for Equal Opportunity,

Brianna S. Clark
The Addict Writes

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