Monday, November 27, 2006

Lloyd case holds lesson for young black males: Steer clear of trouble

There is a final word that needs to be said about the Jemelle Lloyd case. It's a word for all young black males.

Stop risking your future by getting caught up in nonsense.

While the Jemelle Lloyd arrest showed how easy it is for police to sweep black males into the criminal justice system, it also showed how young black males often give police the broom.

Here's what I mean.

Lloyd was arrested and charged with five other Chicago Military Academy classmates with beating up and attempting to rob a Hyde Park man three weeks ago.

Last week, a judge dropped the charges against Lloyd and two others, ruling there was no probable cause for their arrest. Three of his classmates are being held in this case.

Too often, black youth are judged guilty by association, and that appears to be what happened in this case.

Just as often, teens silently watch violence unfold. Lloyd claimed he walked away and didn't see what happened.

But two other teens candidly admitted seeing the beating take place.

In a situation where a victim is being attacked by a group of teens, police don't care who punched the victim or who stuck a hand in the victim's pocket.

Everybody's going to jail.

So as cold as it sounds, teens who have managed to keep their records clean need to shun teens who are itching to get into trouble.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that Lloyd and two other teens were exonerated (and are now back at the Chicago Military Academy), this incident will continue to haunt them.

There was also an undeniably innocent victim in this case: the white man who was knocked down, punched and kicked.

As far as I know, no one has apologized to him.

Not a joke
But the wanton act of violence against him disgraces every black parent who has had to defend a son against unfair racial stereotypes.

Worse yet, this kind of crime appears to be part of a disturbing trend.

Young people call it a "beatdown," when a group of teens attack someone and take their cell phone and money. The slang belies the seriousness of the crime.

It's not a joke.

Teens who are caught beating down someone can be charged with attempted robbery and assault, even attempted murder, depending on the victim's injuries.

Parents of students in Chicago Public Schools have complained to me about this kind of violence for a couple of years.

In some instances, upperclassmen are accused of attacking freshmen at bus stops and making them empty their pockets.

The violence doesn't only occur at so-called bad schools. It also happens at schools that have good reputations.

I've heard from parents whose children have been victimized in this way, and these parents have complained that not enough was being done to protect their children.

Lately, whites have also been victimized by the beatdowns.

That's what happened to Ryan Rusch, the 14-year-old Beverly boy who was brutally beaten by three black youths who lived outside of the neighborhood.

More a miracle than a victory
Apparently, Rusch was victimized because he was white and his attackers saw him as an easy target.

In fact, one of the accused attackers allegedly told police that they didn't go to a predominantly black area because they were afraid the victim might pull out a weapon.

The accused teens in that case are facing charges of attempted murder.

The urban street violence made its way to the Hyde Park area last summer, which is why the University of Chicago Police Department had to form a robbery team.

So the random acts of violence aren't so random. These are targeted attacks against people the assailants believe aren't able to defend themselves.

That makes the perpetrators of this violence the worst kind of bullies.

But the young people who engage in this activity also aren't very bright.

They don't seem to realize that attacks against white people in predominantly white neighborhoods aren't going to be tolerated to the degree violence has been tolerated in a lot of black neighborhoods.

I went to bat for Jemelle Lloyd because I believed he was innocent. But a lot of innocent young black males have ended up in jail.

So what happened in this case was more a miracle than a victory.

I pray that Lloyd and the other two innocent students will make the most of that miracle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hmmm, so he walked away? From a gang assault? Kind of like how white people used to walk away when black people were being lynched? Not AS serious perhaps, but the thought is there isn't it? I don't think I'd use the word "innocent" to describe him.