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War among blacks is too easy to ignore

May 15, 2007 by  
Filed under Health, News, Weekly Columns

Stop the killing — before we lose yet another young life

( What are we to do now? That question nagged me every time I thought about the family of Blair Holt. Blair was the 16-year-old Julian High School junior who was killed Thursday when a 16-year-old gang member opened fire on a 103rd Street CTA bus.

Michael “Mario” Pace, an alleged gang member, has been charged with one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder. Kevin Jones, 15, who allegedly gave Pace the gun, faces the same charges.

How in the hell does a 15-year-old boy get his hands on a gun?

As is usually the case, the intended target of Pace’s hatred — which was apparently driven by an ongoing rivalry with another gang member over a girl — walked away without a scratch.

But Blair, an honor student, was shot when he used his body to shield a girl from the gunfire. He died during surgery. Four other teens were wounded in the armed attack.

Even those of us who do not know the Holt family have wept over this tragedy.

Ronald Holt is a Chicago Police gang-crimes officer. Annette Holt is a captain with the Chicago Fire Department. If there is one couple who would have taken steps to protect their only son from the dangers in the street, it had to be this one.

Still, despite teaching their son right from wrong, despite nurturing his dreams, educating him, and undergirding him with moral values, they could not shield him from someone else’s son who had no dreams.

That’s the sad reality of what’s going on in too many black neighborhoods.

No matter what your profession or where you live, if you are an African-American parent of a male child, you cannot shake the dreadful feeling that what happened to the Holt family could happen to you. We are grieved by the thought that maybe the only way to keep our children safe is to never let them out of our sight.

There is never a reasonable explanation for senseless violence. Certainly, the families of the victims who were killed by a mentally deranged student at Virginia Tech last month felt a similar frustration.

Still, those parents could take some comfort in knowing that the shooter was a sick young man who should not have been allowed on the campus in the first place. Many of these parents have turned their sorrow into activism and are demanding changes at the university, as well as in our gun and privacy laws.

What are we going to do now?

Blair’s murder is not an isolated case. According to a recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the black murder rate fuels the nation’s murder surge, and homicide is the leading cause of death among black males ages 16 to 34. Yet, only about a third of the homicides are solved. So, why wouldn’t thugs and gang-bangers believe they can get away with murder?

In a column written this year about the black homicide rate, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, the dean of black analysts and social commentators, blamed the carnage in part on the “accessibility of drugs and guns, and the influence of misogynist, violence-laced rap songs.”

These conditions “also reinforce the deep feeling among many youth that life is cheap and easy to take, and there will be minimal consequences for their action as long as their victims are other young blacks,” Hutchinson wrote.

‘They’re just children’

Blair’s final act of heroism stands in stark contrast to Pace’s alleged wanton act of terrorism, and it is the clearest evidence yet that there is a war going on in the African-American community.

This is a class conflict that pits brothers against brothers and neighbors against neighbors; and because the enemy looks likes us, walks like us and talks like us, it is easy to ignore the battle lines.

But know this: This war has already claimed some of the brightest stars in our families. And many of the future victims of this war will embody all of the hopes we have for the future of the black race.

I look at my 6-year-old grandson and cringe knowing that unless the God-fearing and decent among us find a way to win this war, one day I will be sending him to the front lines against black children who — for whatever reason — have already lost their souls.

They’re just children,” noted Ronald Holt, Blair’s father, when the two suspects were arrested. “You wonder where it comes from. What causes a child to wantonly and blatantly hatch such an ill-conceived plan? To go out and do something like this? What makes them do it?”

We are shell-shocked by what has happened to the Holt family. But it is with them — it is for us — that we must take a stand.

In this war we have to decide which side we’re on: the side of the law, or the side of the gangs. If that means turning our back on a family member, so be it.

We have to make ending gang and gun violence our movement and our cause.


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