As Thousands of Black and Latino Youth Are Murdered

As Thousands of Black and Latino Youth Are Murdered, President Obama Gets Bad Advice from His Aides Centers for Disease Control predicts nearly 6,000 U.S. youth murders this year.

Recently, President Barack Obama's senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, spoke about how the Obama administration is addressing the murders of Chicago's Black and Latino children. Jarrett says the Obama administration will provide an unprecedented level of support for law enforcement.... This pledge to further militarize the Black community is the absolute worst news possible for struggling Black communities across America. More police only means more arrests and more incarceration of mostly young Black men, more children losing their fathers and more communities losing strong-spirited men who are capable of becoming positive assets to their communities.

Using police as the primary tool to reduce or prevent violence does not work. The police in Chicago could not have prevented even one of the 39 murders of mostly Black and Latino youth in the past 11 months no matter how much federal funding might have been provided. Police are excellent at responding to post-event calls, but police are a poor deterrent to stopping crime. The action announced by presidential advisor Jarrett amounts to no more than an expensive public relations campaign at the expense of mostly poor, young Black men. Such advice will not fix the problem. In fact, Jarrett's remarks show just how out of touch the Obama administration is with real issues in American cities.

This is certainly not the kind of "change" that President Obama promised when he campaigned for the office of President. While many Black Americans want to protect President Obama from embarrassment and tough decisions, other Blacks and some Whites are becoming increasingly impatient and are calling for stronger leadership from the White House. The current annihilation of Black American youth is arguably the most important domestic issue in America--after the economic collapse. It is hypocritical for America to advocate for human rights throughout the world while the blood of young Black and Latino men runs in the streets of America. Just as we need peace in the streets of Iraq, we also need peace in the streets of America.

While some say these murders are just a serious local problem, the approximately 6,000 mostly young Black and Latino males murdered in America annually points to a national crisis--a catastrophe that demands federal attention. The genocide of 6,000 youth is an international embarrassment--especially when compared with the federal response to the swine flu epidemic, during which the White House took the lead in managing the national response. It must be noted that only eleven Americans died from complications associated with swine flu versus approximately 6,000 American youth who are killed every year by street violence. In Chicago, three-fourths of the 39 youth killed so far in the past year were murdered less than eight miles from President Obama's Chicago home.

Eradicating this pandemic of violence will take resolve, resources and leadership, but it is fixable with presidential attention. Scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, have studied the problem of youth violence for 70 years, and they have great evidence-based recommendations for preventing such violence--but those effective solutions are being ignored by Jarrett and the White House. Those evidence-based recommendations are:

1. Build strong-functioning family units. Strong families and good parents are the best defense against youth violence.

2. Provide mentors and role models for young men and young women. Young people will become what they see.

3. Teach children conflict-resolution skills and anti-violence philosophies at a young age. It is easier to build a child than to re-build a man.

4. Ensure that children have solid educational foundations and real economic opportunities. Education and economics are the two keys to preventing youth violence.

The Black Star Project is proposing that a trickle-up stimulus plan be adopted by the White House to address the issue of youth violence. With one trillion dollars spent in the first 100 days of President Obama's administration for only "shovel-ready" projects, there is little hope that any of that money will ever reach those who need help the most. In fact, this kind of fiscal policy is making Black and Latino children "shovel-ready" for prisons and cemeteries. It also makes them hopeless, desperate and dangerous to America. We live in an "educate or die" world. Our youth know that without good educational backgrounds and viable economic skills, they, their dreams and their futures are as good as dead.

Ironically, Patrick Fitzgerald, a fierce and successful U.S. Special Prosecutor, said it best as he advocated for businesses to hire ex-felons to reduce murders and violence. He said, "On any given day, there are 4,000 Chicago police officers on the streets and an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 gang-affiliated youth in the city." How in the world can we incarcerate our way out of the problem when we are outnumbered that much? Commenting on the dead-end futures for some of the men returning to society that he helped lock up, Fitzgerald said, "When they got back, they tried to open the door to opportunity but it was locked."

If President Obama doesn't respond as president to the issue of youth violence in America, then he should at least respond as a resident of his Chicago home-town community and work personally to stop the killings and violence here.