Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Have We Forgotten Already?: Five Lessons for Young People in Rememberance of Derrion Albert

It’s winter.

Winter in America

And ain’t nobody fighting.

Cause nobody knows what to save.

Gil Scott Heron

Everything that is learned must be taught. –Lev Vygotsky

On September 24, 2009, on sixteen year old male, a honor student, was beaten to death on the south side of Chicago.

And as I suspected, just as always has happened, for a few days, for a week or so, we were completely infuriated by the incident. For a few days, for a week or so, we walked around shaking our heads, wondering just how an incident of this nature might happen, wondering just what malevolent forces could drive young men to commit such a heinous act. For a few days, for a week or so, we talked about it, and we blogged about, and we looked for answerw.

But as soon as the furor died down, the whole episode seemed to just fade away, and we moved on to the next new outrage.

The president even dispatched a team consisting of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Chicago with $500,000 in emergency grant funds to meet with school officials, parents, and students. However, from what I have read, the meeting took place across town in the Four Seasons Hotel, far removed from the inner city, the locus of the violence.

Please do not misconstrue this as acrimonious; however, perhaps within the comfortable, safe confines of the four seasons hotel was not the best place to hold the meeting. The meeting should have been held there in the very streets where the violence occurred.

And though more funding is desperately needed, money is perhaps not the greatest need; we have a bad habit of throwing money at a problem, and then standing back waiting for the problem to solve itself. But what we really need on the south side of Chicago and in the inner cities across the nation are people willing to step outside their comfort zone, willing to take leave of the suburbs and the Four Seasons Hotels, and give of themselves.

We need teachers, and by teachers, I do not mean school teachers. I mean those who have come from similar backgrounds, those who have faced similar obstacles, those who should have been statistics but ended up otherwise, those with a testimony to give. We need those people to come back and maybe take responsibility for as many as they believe themselves to be able to handle, and teach those who need instruction the most. Based on my experience with working with inner city youth, the five lessons that follow are those that need to be taught first:

  1. Every action has a consequence.

I teach my own children this very same lesson. Every action, no matter how great or small, carries with it a consequence. For every positive action, the consequence is usually positive; conversely, for every negative action, the consequence is usually negative. But the catch is we cannot the magnitude of the consequence.

I don’t think those young men meant to kill young Derrion Albert. This type of incidence occurs with such frequency in inner cities that the young men involved thought nothing of it. However, this time it was caught on tape and somebody died. Now as a consequence of their action, their lives are forever altered, which brings us to the next lesson:

  1. In only a brief moment, your life can change forever.

My grandmother was fond of saying, “In the twinkling of an eye…” In just the time it takes you to blink your eye, the action you take may have consequences that could irretrievably alter your life. The whole notion of being caught up in the moment, in the emotion, is inexcusable. Take time to think.

  1. There are no acceptable excuses.

It seems to me that we give our children far too many excuses to fail. I attended the sentencing trial of a young man recently, and for almost a whole afternoon, person after person—relatives, neighbors, psychologists, former teachers, coaches and other individuals—took the stand to offer excuse after excuse for this young man’s behavior. In the end, the judge simply shook his head and handed down the maximum possible sentence.

Then a few days later I was speaking to another young man about his behavior. I usually begin such conversations with the question, “Why?”. Often in the process of trying to articulate the rationale for their actions, they realize how utterly foolish their actions were.

But this young man took me completely by surprise. He gave me the most learned, clinical explanation of inappropriate behavior that I have ever heard. He had been through so many hearings that he had memorized and internalized those very excuses we had given him as excuses in our pleas for leniency.

  1. Everyone who tells you no is not necessarily against you, and everyone who tells you yes is not necessarily for you.

Often I meet with groups of students who, for whatever reason, are behind in their studies. And when I say behind, I mean fifteen and sixteen year olds in middle school. There is one main theme to the excuse I hear most often: I am in the condition I am in because someone did not like me.

It seems that too often our children are under the impression that for someone to have their best interests at heart, they must necessarily say yes to all their whims. They must always offer them the path of least resistance, and God forbid that anyone should take the time to reprimand them for improper behavior.

However, those who are really on your side, those hoping most for you to succeed, will offer the appropriate response and will point out the most efficacious path, and they will offer praise and reprimand as needed. And it is not necessary for them to smile when they do so.

  1. Life ain’t fair.

There seems to be some prevailing notion that life is somehow fair. But I found out a long time ago, this is not always the case. However, I have find that somehow I can manipulate the curve simply by putting forth the very best effort I can offer and preparing myself for that day when things do go in my favor.


Constructive Feedback said...

(I know that one day you are going to respond to my comments on your blog, until then I'll just keep interacting with other posters)

I was actually "feeling" your concern for this situation in Chicago until I got to this passage:

[quote]But what we really need on the south side of Chicago and in the inner cities across the nation are people willing to step outside their comfort zone, willing to take leave of the suburbs and the Four Seasons Hotels, and give of themselves.[/quote]

Let me be clear that I am not simply reading your posts to find fault in them.

Instead I have been dialoguing with people with a different viewpoint than what I have for a long time and I am amazed at how much you make comments that I have observed and confronted in the past.

Thus I must ask you a fundamental question per the statement above. You might think the question is nonsensical but it really is not.

SoulBrother: DO YOU SEE THE ADULTS IN THE INNER CITY COMMUNITIES IN QUESTION as being EQUAL TO those folks that you pointed to in the Suburbs?

This is an important question because there are two attributes that are intrinsic in your call for the "Suburban Dweller" to come to the inner city to help.

1) Is the assumption that these "expats" are EDUCATED and thus have access to some knowledge of human resource management that the EQUAL HUMAN BEINGS in the inner city simply have not been exposed to.

2) That there is some innate inferiority incumbent within those adults in the Inner City that will not ever afford them the ability to effective operate in their own best interests. Thus the need for the "Suburban Dweller" has more to do with hard coded stratification of some force that can't be undone.

The reason why I make this stratification is because this is such the common theme in the notion of "Reaching Back" into the "Ghetto" - which is sold as the "Original homeland for Black people".

For the past 3 years I have been involved in an educational mentoring program for young Black males that takes place on each Saturday. I love the kids, don't get me wrong. However, as my kids grew more independent and thus my wife sought to get back out there - I began to see the key flaw in this strategy.

POINT BLANK - I was departing my own FAMILY in order to cover for a Black Man who was not present with, sorry to say - the woman who received his sperm and the kids who were gestated as a result of his deposit.

Lets get real here - In 3 years of attendance I HAVE NEVER ONCE seen a FATHER come to the community center to pick up his kids. It is always (in ranking order) The Mother, the older sister, the older brother dropping off and picking up these 6 through 12 year old Black boys.

Per the "Non Judgmental - Reach Back And Lend A Hand" ethos within our community - such an observation by me will trigger more condemnation upon ME than it will the SPERM DONOR.

Earlier today, SoulBrother - I mentioned about the theme of REBELLION FROM THE ESTABLISHMENT that appears to be resident in a significant number of your posts. Here is a front and center example of how the aversion to conformity and enforcement that takes place within our community has harmed us.

I did not have sex with these women which produced these young Black boys, brother.

I am not so sure that the Black Establishment sees their FATHERS as being EQUAL TO ME in it's willingness to lump RESPONSIBILITY upon the shoulders of these men who produced them.


There is NO FUNCTIONAL way around this issue, SoulBrother ABSENT the very cultural and societal strictures that you appear to be struggling with.

Most certainly the Republicans and Fox News are not the cause of this problem within our community.

md20737 said...

The rules you listed were so on point and so needed to be verbalized. GREAT GREAT post. I pray it doesnt fall on deaf ears.

joe said...

If life was fair my mom wouldn't have dressed me in this god-awful leisure suit.. just look at me...

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