I watched in horror, as did many, the video that captured a young girl nearly beaten to death by other teenage girls while a crowd stood by and watch. My first instinct was to wonder what happened to cause such depravity in my community. But this is not just an issue in communities of more color. I watched other recent videos where similar brutality occurred– one in Long Island– by kids who looked nothing like the ones in the Flatbush Avenue McDonald’s, but was just as vicious. However, one difference I believe is that many of the young people in the Long Island attack have a social network and fabric that can catch them before they fall any further. Many young people in Flatbush and similar communities do not.
I also thought about growing up in New York City and witnessing and hearing about horrific fights and violence. It seems that our young women are more and more involved in these acts, so we must become “Our Sister’s Keeper,” as well.
Just as disgusting in that 3 minute long video is how long people, including adults, stood by and did nothing. Absolutely nothing. We cannot ignore the disturbing reality that the crowd filmed the scene without intervening, and must address this need to video violence then post it to social media. Our obsession with social media only encourages and increases the penchant for violence, and desensitizes us even more.
Whether this type of youth violence has increased or technology has brought it more to the forefront is almost irrelevant to the need for immediate action. My prayers are with the young woman who became the victim of this brutal, barbaric assault. The young women who participated in the assault must be held fully accountable for their actions. Still I pray for them as well, that they learn why this is unacceptable before their shameful, violent behavior leads to death; someone else’s or their own.
While our police have to be involved, we must resist the knee-jerk reaction to believe that their involvement will solve this deeply rooted issue. If more police were the answer, the violence I remember growing up with would have ceased. It is not the police who stood by and did nothing in that McDonald’s. No one in the crowd even thought to call 911. Police did not close after school programs and centers so that kids hangout at McDonald’s instead of a supervised environment after school. Police don’t upload these videos to sites like World Star and help them go viral.
This type of youth brutality only proves the need for increased funding for violence interrupter programs and others that would further engage students in extra-curricular activities, especially those let out of school in highly populated transit corridors. It is also my hope that parents discuss this tragedy with their children to educate them on the myriad of things that went wrong.
The fact is we know what we need to do. We know what’s missing in these kids life’s and in the communities in which they reside. We just have to do it and fix it. And yes, that includes people being held responsible. Personal responsibility and structural social change are not separate but intersect and are helplessly intertwined. There is no excuse to justify such behavior, at the same time these are issues that must be addressed immediately.