Listening to Trayvon Martin’s extended terrorized screams for help that can be heard in the background of a 911 caller, as Zimmerman tracked him and cornered him, or Ramarley Graham cowering in a corner of the bathroom while a policeman stood and shot him, made real the understanding that even now, in 2012, an African-American man can find himself “Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot” as Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay, described in his epic “If We Must Die”.
These killings touch all of us because they are at the end of the continuum that includes stop-and-frisk, voter-suppression and the rules and regulations that together create a Jim Crow world that doesn’t need signage to close a door and put you in your place. This shooter must be brought to justice because that end of the continuum has an evil magnetism and it must be cut off.
Regarding Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s call for suggestions in curbing crime, here are three:
1. Education – Properly shape young minds. The blueprint is already there: Follow the recommendations of the 1994 Commission on Students of African Descent, authorized by the New York City Board of Education. Allow confident, creative and interested young people to emerge.
2. Economic Development – Follow the example of the Hassidic daycare just up the street. Their waste pickup is by a Hassidic hauler, their food comes from Hassidic suppliers, the busses are Hassidic owned and driven, and the entire institution, no doubt mirroring others, becomes an economic engine that keep dollars circulating in the community empowering everyone.
So let it be with the educational, child and senior care institutions in the African-American community. Have all of those institutions use African-American suppliers and watch the scramble as small businesses, a community’s greatest job creators, grow and stabilizing families and create opportunities.
3. Prison Reform. Since 75% of the prison populations come from New York City counties, and will be released back into our communities, then intensify education and training for those incarcerated, and upon their release, help them transition back into a productive and safe community, with jobs provided, see above.
These three ideas are either very simple to do or absolutely impossible, depending on the political power in hand and the will to use it.