When I was on my trauma surgery rotation in medical school (located in downtown Louisville, KY), an African American male came into University Hospital with several high powered gunshot wounds to his abdomen, not an uncommon occurrence during my trauma rotation. One of my residents saw this young man as well. Seeing it led him to ask me what I thought the cause of all of the black on black violence was. My response was that it all goes back to the disparity in education between African Americans and whites.
The educational disparity between whites and minorities can be blatantly obvious depending on where you are. Take Louisville, for example. If you look at some of the schools that mainly have minorities, you will find them in disrepair, with outdated books, overcrowded classrooms, and insufficient computers. Almost everything important for a proper education is either not up to standard or is simply missing. Now in the other neighborhoods, some of the schools will not only have the basic necessities, but you will find extra things like crossing guards stopping traffic to let little kids across the street. Some schools will even have landscaping with sprinklers and LCD school signs informing you of upcoming events. You will also see those flashing 25 mph school zone speed limit signs that you hate so much when you’re in a hurry.
So now a few questions arise:
1) How can any city have such disparities in schools that are located 5 minutes from one another? After all, is it not the federal and the state government’s responsibility to educate the children? They both have a stake in the children they educate as they will undoubtedly grow up and pay taxes to support the salaries of our congressmen who cannot make decisions on things like education and healthcare, but are never confused when it comes time to vote themselves a raise.
2) How do your school board members and state representatives sit down and make decisions that give the “white school” down in the Highlands a higher budget than the black school on the west end. In any case, back to my original point.
So I explained to my resident my theory on how black on black crime originates. The current state of the African American community follows what I like to call the “education provider paradox.” A young black child goes through a subpar education system. Not only that, but because their parents probably had the same poor education, they likely work two jobs and have little time to reinforce the things their children learned in school. With their parents working all the time, who is there to help the kids with their homework? Nobody. And so their education continues to suffer. I have met 6-7 year olds that can barely read, write their own name, or tell time.
Eventually the child may either drop out because of disinterest or bad grades or somehow gets pushed through the education system. Both scenarios are followed by getting a minimum wage job. As everyone knows (not including some congressmen), a single minimum wage job is barely enough to pay bills. These children grow up, get low paying jobs, have their own children, and the cycle continues.
Despite having such a poor education, the students at these schools are by no means stupid. They can see how hard their families struggle and realize that they will probably have to do the same. So what can they do? Some focus harder on education. Others try to pour their energy into their talents, like trying to become a professional athlete or entertainer. Yet all too many take what might be viewed as a more practical approach, a lifestyle they grow up seeing about as much as they see their parents struggle: a life of crime.
For example, let us say that a child lives in a neighborhood that has drug dealers in it. These drug dealers can make a lot of money in a short amount of time. The child sees drug dealers driving around in Cadillac Escalades w/ 28 inch rims and what not and may ask themselves, why not me? So our black male goes out on the block to sell drugs. His income increases, bills are easy to pay, material things are finally in reach. However, dealing drugs, like any other job is a business. So when other dealers move into his territory that cuts in on his profits, so what is he to do? Surely asking his fellow drug dealer to simply choose another block won’t work, so violence erupts. Then he ends up in the trauma bay with bullets in his belly.
One of my favorite professors has a saying: “The choices people make are limited by the choices people have.” One of the issues that I mentioned above was the funding disparity between the schools. One possible solution to this would be to get the community of the underfunded schools active in communicating with the school board. Since the school board approves the budget for the entire school system drawing attention to the issue might change how the funds are allocated. This drawing of attention could also be achieved with some media attention to the issue. In the digital age we live in, you could even skip the news media and start a YouTube or Twitter campaign.
Another solution to this education disparity would be to set up after school tutoring sessions. This could be done in conjunction with community leaders, schools/teachers, churches, the PTA, parents in the neighborhood, etc.
One last idea is to set up a community mentoring program. A mentoring program could pair the youth of the community with another citizen, preferably one in the career path they would like to pursue. This would give the child a positive role model to emulate as well as the ability to receive advice on their career path from their mentor.
So once we tackle the problems with the funding of public schools, helping children outside of school, and giving them positive role models for them to emulate, the situation starts to improve. Until then we just have to do the best we can with the resources we have.