Blacks have made great strides during the years in spite of a society that was not originally designed for that to happen. With the revisions and deletions of many old Jim Crow laws and the additions of laws at all levels of government protecting the rights of all individuals, blacks have a great opportunity to realize the much spoken about American Dream.
It is rather sad that with such a future available for young blacks to develop their own talents and skills, black-on-black crime among youth is increasing at such an alarming rate in black communities.
It has caused and continues to cause many solid citizens to pack up and leave their communities in search of a place they feel is safe. Crime breeds mistrust, uncertainty, fear and anxiety, and can totally destroy a viable community.
There are many theories on why black-on-black crime is so high: Some theorists believe that black-on-black high crime stems from slavery when black slaves were pitted against each other by slave masters as a control mechanism.
There are others who theorize that black-on-black crimes occur, for the most part, because blacks involved are seeking to become a part of the white mainstream with desired material possessions. If at some point they feel they are not going to become successful, they resort to brutality and petty crimes against one another.
Still, it is the opinion of others that the criminal justice system has a double standard of justice, which lessens the fear of blacks committing crimes against blacks.
While there might be some merits to those theories, I believe that crime is rooted in concrete social and economic conditions -- in deprivation, joblessness, poverty and social marginality.
It is good to know and understand the various theories on why crimes are being committed but they are of no value to those persons affected if they are not accompanied with practical solutions. People who live in high crime areas need immediate help, and there is little reason to believe that the unemployment picture will get better for everyone any time soon or that meaningful social policies aimed at improving the quality of life in black communities are forthcoming any time soon.
The problem is waiting for those unsavory conditions to change and waiting for the assistance recently promised by President Obama.
One way to get immediate help is through community involvement -- in short, protecting each other. This is not to suggest some kind of vigilante group, which is not only illegal but would perpetuate crime.
Community involvement in a broad sense includes not only local elected and appointed officials but the social institutions that are located in the community and impact heavily on the community, such as the family, school and church. This kind of involvement and cooperation in the abatement of crime can result as follows:
* Effective neighborhood crime watch clubs wherein the Police Department is informed of its activities.
* Parents affecting more control over their children and knowing their whereabouts.
* Teachers and parents recognizing the symptoms of drug use and teaching the ill effects of drugs.
* Parents being selective in the television programs their children watch so that they don't learn methods of crime.
* Cooperation with the Police Department and community anti-crime programs.
* Parents stressing and demonstrating religious morals and values to their children.
Only when black-on-black crime and crime in the black community is brought under control will people feel safe and young people will be able to use their energies to progress and upgrade themselves and others rather than go down into the criminal spiral from which they seldom return.
William E. Mason Sr., Ph.D., is president of Institutional Research and Associates, of East St. Louis, and president of the Metro East Black Contractors Organization.