Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Chicago Gun Violence

Last night the CBS Evening News showed this story on the rash of recent gun violence in Chicago:

It always makes me sick to learn of senseless deaths, especially those
of young people. The story told about one young victim who was only
ten years old!

According to the report, "Since September, 24 students have been
murdered, most of them shot. The dead amount to a classroom of kids. ... Last school year 34 students were killed. That's 58 deaths over what amounts to a 17-month period. And that makes an average of one child getting murdered every eight days."

Several years ago, I was in a high school about twenty miles out of Minneapolis, and asked a class of seniors what they wanted to be doing in five years. I got a number of responses like, "I'd like to be in grad school," "I want to be done with college and starting on my career," "I want to be married and starting a family," among others.

After seven or eight answers, the one black male student raised his hand and said, "I want to be alive."

I asked him, "Why would you say that?"

His response was, "Because the life expectancy for young, black males isn't very great."

I asked, "Why is that?"

He said, "Because we don't know how to solve problems. It's just easier to pull your gun and shoot the other guy. Back in my 'hood, I could be shot in a drive-by at any time. That's why I drive all the way out here through the open enrollment program."

Then I asked him, "If you decided to get out of your old school and drive out here, why don't you find a different group of people to hang with who don't hang out on the street to be targets for drive-bys?"

You should have seen the look on his face! That thought had never occurred to him. My thinking was he had made the decision to switch to a safer school, why not make the decision to make safer friends?

How do we change the paradigm of violence?

I'm interested in your comments on the subject.




Stu said...

Through my experiences and training, etc., I have found that asking 'why' only gives a person an opportunity to give an excuse or explanation for their behavior or reaction to an event that is based on a false belief system. Asking a person what their thinking was at the time of an incident (or what their thinking was when they made a decision, good or bad) enables them to form a response based on their present belief system. In the example you gave, you did this, albeit in a roundabout way. You asked that young man to change his belief system, i.e. that he HAD to hang around with other people who COULD be targets of random violence. His belief system needs to be that ALL individuals value SAFETY, or DESERVE to be safe, and that if you value a belief system that values SAFETY, you will do whatever it takes to stamp out any form of VIOLENCE. Help kids identify what is important to them, i.e. SAFETY, and they will begin working toward achieving that belief. Substitute BEING LOVED or FEELING ACCEPTED or FORGIVEN in any kid's DESIRES, or what they want to believe, and you are on your way to empowering them to obtain what they want. Just a few thoughts from a grizzled old public servant. Take care. Stu

I'm Not Done Yet said...


Thanks for your comments. I appreciate them a great deal. Coming from someone with your training and experience, they make perfect sense. Not having neither the appropriate training nor experience, I corresponded with him the best way I knew how at the time. I had never run across a situation like that, and did, what I thought at the time, what came to me, and felt like the right thing to do. I'm not making an excuse here, but the only part of what I do I don't like is the fact I only get them for an hour or so. Basically, I try to plant seeds, then I turn them back over to their teachers to nurture those seeds. Your comments will help me deal better with the next situation.

With behaviors comes consequences; and I was building on the fact he had already made one positive decision, what could he do to make another good decision? I believe one good decision leads to another, and before you know it, you start to see a snowball effect of positive decisions. That is my experience.

Changing the belief system for young, black males, or any other demographic group for that matter, is obviously a huge issue. That's why I put up the post in the first place. The situation in Chicago is escalating out of control. Sadly, Chicago is obviously not the only place where that particular belief system is out of whack. When I showed this video to a fifteen-year-old black male who will be moving to Chicago in a few weeks, his response was, "That's life. When your time comes, it comes. Ain't nothin' you can do about." Obviously, it is a big task to change the paradigm! We need to keep chipping away at it.

I was looking for comments to help address the problem. You did that. Thanks again. That's the reason for my blog. I'm trying to teach and learn at the same time. Thanks for teaching me!