There is a rage on the street that cannot be mitigated by appeals for calm or calls to increase the peace. We see it in multiple car windows being smashed on Lafayette Avenue, overhear it in telephone conversations of bus passengers and watch it on the streets of Flatbush. It is a rage rooted in the ever-present fog of racism and fighting it is like fighting the air with fists. It is rooted in the dispair inherent in a school-to-prison pipeline that only runs faster when the unemployment rate for young black men is at 76%. And this on-the-ground rage is not going to get any better by getting “tough”. It is not going to get better by putting more police towers on the street, or beefing up special unit or saturating an area with force or politicians walking around asking for understanding.
This situation will only get better when the city, state and federal governments address the unemployment crisis in the black community as a national emergency and provide the needed disaster relief. What we’re seeing now are crowds of young men and women with no jobs and bleak futures, filling the streets with rage on cold winter nights. What will it be like in July and August? Nobody wants to live in, or even visit, a militarized city where there is on-going conflicts between the have-nots and the forces that protect the haves. But that’s where we’re heading if emergency initiatives are not taken in the areas of police tactics, job creation, small business-building, education, and social services based on building strong families.
And if the thought of helping someone in need or helping a young person achieve their full potential, or simply being fair is not enough to move these initiatives forward, then perhaps the thought that we are all in danger of finding ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and wishing that we had fought harder to make things better and that we, as a city, had done things differently. Had tried building communities up instead of locking them down, had tried educating all the children with a meaningful and exciting curriculum, had tried building families and futures, but by then it will be too late and we will be a city of tears and regrets with no one to blame but ourselves.
By David Mark Greaves