Too little too late?

Posted October 28, 2007 8:39 pm (about 4474 days ago)

Another tragedy in the Bay area and who's to blame? Plus California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a bonehead statement.

It was a busy week at school so I finally took some time to catch up on the news. My mind spun as I read articles from around the globe. I’ve often been told that I’m slow to form opinions, but when possible I try to get as much info as possible. For example, on the hip-hop side I don’t know if T.I. was set up by the government for his increasing activism or was he just stupid. There just isn’t enough info out there beyond people’s opinions. However, for a few stories a couple of lines stood out to me that sum up some the same old problems we’ve been experiencing since who know when.

Recently a high school student from San Leandro High in California, Greg Ballard, Jr., was killed by an associate for no apparent reason; although my students thought that there was more to the story. On a quick side note, every article that I read about this incident made it a point to say that he was a football player. Unless he was highly recruited, I’m not sure why this was his defining characteristic. At any rate, in response to the question of why he was killed, his shooter said he didn’t have a reason. As disturbing as that quote was, I was also disturbed by the line that the alleged shooter’s father, a San Leandro police officer, was distraught. That makes sense, but what really caught my attention was that in the very next line the article states that the father does not live with, nor maintain contact with his son.

I know that two families are suffering, but isn’t it a bit late for the father to feel bad? What I mean is, we as a society are so reactionary that we often want to cry and wring our hands AFTER young people get themselves into trouble. It’s much harder to do the day-to-day guidance and mentoring that helps young people make better decisions. I don’t have children of my own, but I can’t imagine having no influence in their lives, except in the most extreme conditions such as their mother kidnapping them or if I was a worker who left the country to make more money FOR THEM. I don’t care how much I may not get along with their mother; my kids would have a daddy. I've been working in education for the past seven years and I've seen the dedication that many adults make to the kids who aren't biologically theirs so I don't have a lot of patience for those who don't take care of their own kids. There's no guarantee that this incident wouldn't have still happened but having a strong father figure certainly couldn't have hurt.

When I hear people say “somebody should do something” I usually hear “somebody besides me should do something.” Except for young children, or those with cognitive issues, I don’t excuse people from the personal responsibility. However, to merely express disgust and anger at the shooter and not look at the greater context means that nothing will change. Two more young Black lives lost; and for what?

Incidentally, while reading about this case I came across an old article about Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums’ son who has been locked up for several years on a murder charge. Yeah, Dellums and Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente should not be held responsible for their son’s actions (De La Fuente’s son was recently found guilty of multiple rapes), but what I found interesting was Dellums’ apparent lack of willingness to support his son. Dellums often speaks of supporting Black males and helping felons, so this is particularly striking. I don’t know enough about Dellums’ current efforts, nor his personal business, to whole-heartedly dismiss or support him, but at least on the surface it adds fuel to my belief that people are very supportive of general, abstract ideas of helping others, yet not always able to support those real live people in their face. Even as a teacher, you realize that you can't help those who aren't ready to help themselves or accept help.

I write none of this to attack families dealing with real, traumatizing issues. Nor do I want to politicize about their losses. I merely hope that we can all get reminded of the need to be proactive in dealing with these issues so that these tragedies will not be in vain.

Finally, I won’t take up too much more space, but I read a disturbing quote by Arnold Schwarzenegger during a recent visit to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego where people fleeing the massive fires were finding refuge. He apparently said “these people are happy. They have everything they need.” I know there was some good food and music, but does he really think that people wouldn’t rather be in the safety and security of their own homes? As disturbing as that quote was I don’t want to read too much into it, but it definitely shows a lack of sensitivity. At a broader level, it’s interesting to compare the response to this tragedy and that of Katrina. It’s an oversimplification to say it’s merely a case of rich White people (San Diego) versus poor Black people (New Orleans), but there are some compelling differences. There’s some interesting commentary here.
You have to sort through some ignorant posts, but there’s some good stuff.


1. Shatika S. said at June 11, 2008 10:54 pm:

This article reminds me of the whole Jena 6 incident. I said that because I remember how everyone felt bad for them and was protesting the government about letting them out of jail and that they were innocent, but nobody had any stories about the multiple times they had been to jail. I guess since they were black they tried to pull the ‘racist’ card which I don’t know was accurate or not but I don’t think racism was to blame. But I think that the guy who shot the dude at San Leandro High was ….well that word isn’t appropriate. But honestly why get on national TV and announce that you shot someone for no reason?? Some people just need to get it together. But I know it’s a lot more behind most stories.

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