A Red Circle

Youth Violence – the racialized toxicity of our national culture

Every day we look at the pain and suffering spread across American cities that we love and call home. Every day there is more pain added to a mountain of hurt that simply should not exist.  We are losing our children to a level of everyday violence that has to end.  We can no longer chalk that violence up to “that zip code” or send empathy to “those poor people.”  This violence is systemic. This violence is all of us.

We can talk about gun control because that is real. Our American culture holds gun ownership and gun use in high esteem.  We are the land of cowboys and righteous gangsters who say “screw you” to oppressive and prohibitive government rule. We celebrate those who have the courage to live out their convictions, even when we do not.  And our children are watching.  We are the birth place of the weekend warrior class that is its very own brand of national super hero. Our children notice what it takes to be admired and respected. As a nation, we love the idea of being too “bad” to be messed with.  And our children imitate us.

We are also the land of avoiding difficult conversations, opting out of naming and claiming what we’ve broken, and experimenting with alternatives when all wisdom suggests we are on the wrong side of history and need to completely change direction.  To get to solutions we have to admit that violence is the deep outline of our footprint.  It’s how we’ve shown up in history, it’s how we acquired and maintain global control, it’s who we are, for now.  At this moment, it should not surprise us that our children are the new cowboys who seek to cash in a bounty over some internet beef … Who take it to the streets to flex their muscle…That they have learned from us what it takes to not be messed with.

But, there is another element to the violence that is sickening our communities. That element is the poverty, historical oppression, marginalization, and trauma that American culture has heaped onto Black communities, for generations. We must name, claim, and change oppression and toxic stress because they are all too real. The racialized toxicity of our national culture is now bearing fruit. Strange as it may be.

Gun control in and of itself won’t uproot the seeds we’ve planted. Gun control won’t repair the harm that has led us to this. As caring and diverse as the non-profit sector is, this solution is well outside the scope of any single organization or current collective impact arrangement. This is not a program or a grant opportunity…this is not a call to brainstorm how to serve underprivileged, it is a call to end underprivilege-ing! The reality is our government (national, state, and local) and even business stakeholders have done immense harm to the Black community. We, our children and our regional community, are reaping the results of that harm. To repair that harm we must saturate the Black community with what has been denied it.  Specifically, the direct delivery of resources and equitable security.  We have to infuse what has been withheld.

We have to mercilessly call out and replace gatekeepers. We have to strategically and urgently takeover our systems that allow or create toxicity and Black deprivation.

There simply is no other way…and intentional repair is the only thing that we haven’t tried!

Every alternative has failed or is taking too long. The era of experimentation is done.

As you read this, imagine bold, visionary, and targeted actions steps, you must consider the vital role of systemic reparation and stakeholder accountability.  Where and with whom is the first place to start?

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