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A People on the Precipice?

The recent news of the savage gang rape of a 15-year-old girl in Richmond, Calif., broke my heart. Again.

I have thought of little else since hearing the gruesome details of the child’s ordeal, as others stood by-watching, cheering, filming, or partaking – for over two and ½ hours. For the second time in recent weeks, I found myself wondering, “What is wrong with these children?”

The first was upon learning of the animalistic beating of young Derrion Albert. I sat aghast as I watched the attackers beat down the young Chicago honor student with wooden railroad ties. And after he had fallen to the ground, as he lay dying, they stomped his head, for good measure.

Shortly after that, in Florida, five teenage boys allegedly doused a classmate with rubbing alcohol and set fire to him. What prompted this unspeakable act? The victim owed one of the aggressors $40 for a video game. When he did not come up with the money, the other young man devised a plan to steal an expensive bicycle belonging to the victim’s father.

The soon-to-be victim “snitched” about the planned theft, and now he is lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life-with burns covering 65 percent of his body.

And these are just some of the stories that we hear about.

Clearly, our young people are in trouble. And that means, by extension, we’re all under the gun-no pun intended. Unless, we move quickly to arrest the decaying moral fiber of our youth-our future-this society, I submit, is doomed. I know this may seem a bit hyperbolic, but where does it end?

During a current events discussions in my African American Literature class-in the immediate aftermath of the Chicago beating- my students told me that I was exaggerating when I told them that our people are standing on the edge of the proverbial cliff.

Am I?

In the coming weeks, I will look at the state of American culture and how it is affecting our most precious treasure, our youth. It is time to take stock of our schools, families, traditions, and all that make us who we are.

I want to try to answer the question I posed at the onset of this piece: What is wrong with our children? How have we failed them so miserably? And more importantly, what can we do to right our ship?

I have some ideas, relative to our history in this place called America, but I want to flesh them out a bit further. Right now, I want to hear what you have to say about this alarming state of affairs. For, we must put our collective heads together, lest we all perish together.

Or perhaps, my students are right. Maybe I am blowing this escalating depravity out of proportion. Help a sista out…

Dr. Reed is a diversity consultant and assistant professor of English and African-American literature at Virginia State University.



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