Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Ugly Face of Black on Black Crime

You may have heard about the tragic murder of a Chicago high school student in a brutal attack by classmates last week. Derrion Albert, a 16-year-old honor student, was killed after he stopped to watch a fight between two local gangs on his way home from school. Derrion was not involved with either gang but was merely a bystander. On a personal level, I have been to the spot where this murder happened. Our ministry, Campus Crusade, has a youth center located there that serves the Roseland community.

Although the loss of any young person at the hands of another is a tragedy, there is an underlying story behind this murder that often goes unnoticed and is under reported by the mainstream media. It is the troubling issue of black on black crime.

Derrion was African American and so were his assailants. Sadly, this young student with a hopeful future has now had his life snuffed out by others that looked just like him. And he's not the only one. According to national statistics, homicide is the leading cause of death for African American males from the ages of 15-34. Remarkably, 93% of young black men who are victims of homicide die at the hands of another African American.

Had Derrion been viciously punched, kicked and attacked with railroad ties by white youth, his murder would be headlined in all major media. Curiously, his story gets merely a secondary mention in the midst of more pressing headlines like the renaming of Jon & Kate Plus Eight and airlines offering Wi-Fi service.

Our society has gotten so immune to the death of children that murder doesn't seem to phase us much anymore. I'm hoping that African American leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson (who lives in Chicago) would stand up and use Derrion's story as an example of the horror of black-on-black crime. Too many promising lives are ended for careless and senseless reasons. Things like this should shake us up and cause us to examine what we can do to make a difference in the lives of young people. More than that it should cause parents who aren't taking their parental duties seriously to wake up.

Writer Judy Keen of USA Today comments on the story:
"There were 307 homicides in the city from Jan. 1 through the end of August, down from 338 in the same period last year, the Chicago Police Department says. More than half of this year's homicides involved gangs. "Misguided youth need leadership in their life. This is learned behavior," said Tio Hardiman of CeaseFire Illinois, an anti-violence group. "You can put all the police in the world in the city, but that's not enough," he said. CeaseFire intervenes in conflicts and negotiates treaties between rival groups, he said, and is working to prevent a violent reaction to Albert's slaying. Dwayne Overstreet, a minister, went to Fenger to pray for peace. "It's not that these young people don't understand the value of life," he said. "They haven't been taught the value of life."

Overstreet says Albert's death was a reminder of the "chaos" and disregard for life across the city. "It feels sometimes like you're in a war zone," he said.

"I'm praying and hoping that out of this will come something positive," said Martin Watt, a minister from suburban Harvey who came to Fenger to lead a hymn that intoned: I'm feeling so much better since I lay my burden down.

Community leaders held a news conference Monday asking anyone with information to come forward. Albert's relatives were there, wearing T-shirts with his photo and the words: "Gone too soon, too young."
A video of the attack on Derrion, taken on the cell phone of eyewitness, has been posted online. Because of its graphic nature, I have chosen not to post it here out of respect for his family. May God somehow use this senseless attack to demonstrate the preciousness and value in each human life.

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