Crime & Punishment

One Question: Why?

Here is a post that came in while we were broadcasting from Las Vegas. Our web producer Lee Hill sent it to me and I decided to wait to reply because I thought it deserved a more thoughtful answer than I could deliver amidst the craziness last week.

The post came in response to our segment on the employment prospects of ex-offenders. Andre told us she is an African American woman, married, with two children, one college-bound and one still in high school.

Here's an abbreviated version.

She writes:

I am irritated by the constant focus on black male incarceration rates and the obsession with black male ex-offenders. Its as though we now accept that the black male progression to adulthood includes at least a stint or two in the penitentiary followed by a life of low-wage jobs, drug dependency, violence, or recidivism.
...I would love for your show to tell me more about the following: I want to know why so many black parents are getting away with shirking their responsibilities, especially black men? I want to know why parents are not being held accountable. I want to know why black men, after all of their Million Man March bravado, are missing in action. But I don't want to hear the excuses. None of these excuses explain away the violence, the depravity, and self-annihilation that consumes many black communities.
...I want to hear about college-bound brothers and entrepreneurs. I want to hear about fathers who come home every night, check homework, read bedtime stories, and shoot hoops with their sons.

We had a man like that on the show today. His name is James Harvey and I'm sorry to tell you the reason we had him on. His son, Dashon Harvey, was one of the four children — no, young people ... no, college students — who were gunned down on their knees by five boys and men in a Newark schoolyard last weekend.

When you get some time, here's a tribute to Dashon:

I asked Mr. Harvey if he was ever afraid, as his son was growing up, that that day would come. He told me no, never ... because he had no regrets. He said he'd been there for his son when he was supposed to be there, and his only regret was the many who were not there for their own children.

It seems now that at least three of the assailants were teenagers, one of them possibly as young as 15.

Would somebody please tell me, why?
Why were four young people, on their way to college in the fall, fated to die on their knees at the hands of two or three others?

Let's say you believe evil walks the earth. OK, then what?

Let's say too many parents aren't doing their job. OK, then what?

Let's say it's racism, or the economy, or whatever. OK, then what?

That's why, I say, it's not one or the other. Our conversations cannot be just about thugs (in this case it seems that they were all Latino, but I'm not sure what difference that makes) and their false machismo or upright, do-right men men headed to Ivy covered quads.

The two are linked, if for no other reason than that the world is small, and there is no fence high enough to keep the two apart. This is not to say I don't understand Andre's frustration. I do. But as long as thugs keep do-right young men and women from growing up, then we need to hear their stories, too ... if for no other reason, we need to know why one ends up holding a gun and the other ends up on the other side of it.

Our condolences, once again, to the families of Dashon Harvey, Iofemi Hightower, Terrance Aeriel, who were buried this weekend. Our best wishes for a full recovery to Natasha Aeriel...the only survivor of the Newark attack.

May their deaths and their families' suffering not be in vain.



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Wow that really touched me.

Sent by Addie Whisenant, TMM | 10:04 AM | 8-14-2007

I listened to this interview last night in bed and just cried. What an amazing father (in some ways he reminded me of my late Dad). I pray for him and all of the families involved, and hope that I will learn to forgive and see the positive in all things like Mr. Harvey has.

Sent by JHM | 4:00 PM | 8-15-2007

Dashon's life had to be taken for so many to see and know that there are young African American males not involved in criminal activities. God Bless his family as well as the other victims families.

Sent by SLM | 12:31 AM | 8-16-2007

I would like to dedicate this poem and the song by Be Be Winans "Safe in His Arms" to the memory of Terrance Aeriel, Dashon Harvey and Iofemi Hightower. May those who mourn be comforted.

When the Good Die Young

8/15/07 All Rights Reserved

When the good die young we look to God
In wonder, confusion and pain
To try to understand a tragedy
Our faith somehow we maintain
A life is cut short without warning
A loss felt by those who remain
But count it an honor that this sacrifice
Shows why from evil we should refrain

When the good die young we look at each other
In wonder, confusion and pain
To try to understand the tragedy
We remember Abel and Cain
The sin of one causes another to die
God's infinite grace can sustain
The mourners find comfort that the life sacrificed
Joins with God forever in His domain

Sent by Black Remnant | 10:09 AM | 8-16-2007

The Newark shootings? Why?

Almost all human activity, including your own, is the result of our animal instincts. The vast majority of decisions any individual human being makes in his lifetime are decided on an emotion level, and those emotions are little more than chemicals coursing through the brain, the result of millions of years of evolution, the sole purpose of which is survival. Brutal, efficient, survival.

So young men, who lose hope, and perspective, use their strength to slay others. And society is hurt by this violence, but the hate and desperation of the perpetrators is equal to the sorrow of the populace. Its all just chemicals in the brain. No individual life has any meaning, or direction. No matter what path we walk through life they all lead to the same inevitable conclusion. Death and disintegration.

I dont want you to think that my response is callous, it is not, I am merely expressing the reality of our situation. With a certain repugnance for the wheel of pain that constitutes the natural world.

You ask why senseless violence occurs. Because violence is survival, and your reaction is survival also.

We could change things I suppose. But we are far from ready, our conception of god is unfinished, and our populace is unwilling to shed the instincts that we are born, shackled, with.

If you want to act, then do this:

Kill the fear for your wellbeing, in your heart

Kill all lust, and the desire for progeny

Kill your desire for community, and for acceptance by your fellow humans

And kill your desire for control

When you have done this, you will be ready to begin.

Sent by JS | 1:27 PM | 8-16-2007


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