By MARK GUNN
Your Voice Contributor
As a black man living in Louisville, Iâ€™m way past tired of the face of crime being young and black. Nerves are still raw and emotions are running high in light of the disgraceful actions of a roaming group of teenagers in downtown Louisville this past weekend. Whatâ€™s even more disgraceful is the seemingly tepid response from city leaders. Itâ€™s not enough to say, â€œYou know thatâ€™s not how youâ€™re supposed to act.â€ There has to be concrete action in order to keep this from happening again.
A 61-year-old grandfather was among those injured, and heâ€™s becoming the symbol of community anger. When this happened a couple of years ago and a mentally challenged man was one of the victims, the overall reaction was one of helplessness. These days? Not so much. Just check out the conversations on any social media website. â€œOh my Gosh! What will we do?â€ has been replaced by â€œIâ€™m taking my gun with me if I go downtown.â€ Given todayâ€™s gun-happy climate and some feeling emboldened to â€œstand your groundâ€ as a result of the George Zimmerman trial, does the city really want to take the chance of someone with a concealed carry permit taking the law into their own hands?
Perception is reality, and the reality being seen by some Louisvillians is that the city is trying to downplay this incident and others like it because of the potential harm to revenue. If people donâ€™t feel safe, that moneyâ€™s gone – period.
Another part of that perception is a fear of coming down too harshly on these â€œpoor black childrenâ€ because of the possible racial implications.
Letâ€™s face it: Louisville has always had a racial problem, and if arresting, prosecuting and then jailing those guilty of these assaults causes a bit of discomfort, so be it. Itâ€™s past time that we had an honest conversation on race.
There are those that will be apologists for these criminals. And they are criminals. (See the definition of the word â€œcrimeâ€). There are those who, while not justifying it, will cite growing up in the wrong kind of environment and seeing only the worst that life has to offer. Violence in their own neighborhoods on almost a daily basis, substandard housing, education, lack of jobs, etc. – all of the societal ills that plague portions of Black America. All of this leads to a need to unleash pent-up anger, and you see the end result: innocent people hurt and property damaged.
In the Mayorâ€™s effort to make Louisville a more â€œCompassionate City,â€ incidents like this only serve to harden the hearts of those who once might have given a damn about the plight of their black brothers and sisters and reinforce stereotypes long held by those that never cared about us in the first place. When little kids are traumatized by heinous acts like this, I canâ€™t say that I blame them. Thereâ€™s a reasonable expectation of being able to safely take your family to a city-owned park – or anywhere, for that matter.
On the other side of the â€œCompassionate Cityâ€ coin, there must be more of an effort to improve the standard of living in the impoverished areas of Louisville. Rebuilding old housing projects and bringing a Wal-Mart to the neighborhood donâ€™t quite cut it. Where are the jobs? Where is the investment that will help these teens become positive contributors to the Louisville economy and not contributors to a profit margin for privately-owned prisons?
The black community shoulders the majority of blame in this. This will not endear me to my brothers and sisters, but the truth is the truth. To the parents of the teens involved: where were you? How is it that troublemakers have more influence over your kids than you do? Other than Christopher 2X, why havenâ€™t we heard from any of you? What will it take before you stand up and speak out? Because when one your â€œgood boysâ€ ends up with a bullet in his chest for assaulting the wrong person, the cries over your dead child will largely go ignored. Howâ€™s that for a â€œCompassionate Cityâ€?
The majority of our kids donâ€™t get into this kind of trouble. However, itâ€™s the actions of a few that make us all look bad. There are so many grassroots organizations trying to help, but some of you arenâ€™t doing what you need to do to make it work.
Itâ€™s bad enough that black kids are already seen as being older than they really are. But will you or your child be prepared for the grown-folks consequences when he or she steps to someone, trying to be grown? Your childâ€™s future is in your hands, and if you donâ€™t care enough to move them in right direction, donâ€™t expect the rest of us to, either.
Louisville has the potential to become a truly great city. We have a lot going for us. However, we have the same problems that most major cities have when it comes to its citizens of color. A severe case of neglect and lack of economic opportunity. The other problem is that some of our citizens of color are blowing the few opportunities out there out of a misguided sense of loyalty to those that bring only negativity to the very neighborhoods in which they live.
Somehow, there has to be a meeting of the minds that says that Louisvillians regardless of race or economic status agree that a zero-tolerance mindset must be shared by everyone. We must stand together as Louisvillians against those that would bring harm to anyone in our city. A pipe dream, I know. Itâ€™s ironic that we can all get along when it comes to cheering the Cards or the Cats, but we canâ€™t seem to get it together for the overall good of our city. Compassionate City?
Louisville, you tell me.
Mark Gunn is a 35-year radio and television broadcast veteran and owner & president of Mark Gunn Media Inc., a multimedia marketing company specializing in voice-over, photography, public relations, strategic marketing and more. Find out more at www.MarkGunnMedia.com.