Understanding is half the battle

I’ve been very fortunate and blessed in my life, raised in a close-knit family with a devoted and intelligent father, a cautiously wise mother and an older brother who offered advice and perspective my parents could not. It’s hard for me to fully comprehend what a lot of other young black men experience.

With his constant presence, my father never had to tell me about “keeping my elbows up” or determining ulterior motives of people. He was an example of how to navigate situations and explained why it was paramountI do likewise.

Despite my white friends’ insistence that my cynicism regarding life isn’t necessary, I find it to be absolutely crucial to living my life as a young, African-American, heterosexual, introverted, articulate, college-educated man.

The collective experiences of young people vary. Science hasn’t gotten the whole transferring-of-consciousness-thing down, so no one can really know what it’s like to live in another person’s shoes.

Even beyond knowing a person’s current circumstances, we need to know what shaped his life before the present predicament. Just as I go through life with the defensive and cautious outlook I inherited from my family, we all approach life based on what we know for ourselves and from our own experiences.

When trying to understand crime for any group of people, one should take into account the subjective experiences that belie those criminal patterns and behavior. Not everyone can be expected to approach moralitythe same way when morality centers on trying to “make ends meet.” We can certainly think of a few laws that may not even be concerned with issues of morality, but the adherence to such laws may be detrimental to you and your loved ones when illicit tactics yield needed benefits.

When I think of young, black men who have not experienced the advantages with which I’ve been blessed, it’s easy to understand how quickly and frequently crime can occur. These are risks many black men are inclined to take, not by nature, but through circumstance.

So I don’t really have an answer to crime. In truth, no entity like government will be able to fix criminal behavior without redefining what is “criminal.” Perhaps being able to understand experiences of black guys like (and unlike) myself could be a start. This is something that would take more than a couple courses in the social sciences or African-American studies.

When we try to understand crime committed by young black men, I suggest we try understanding what is valued and what means are available to obtain it. When society considers the context and experiences that often shape their view of the world, we may start to know what needs to be done to make a lasting change in criminal patterns among young, black males.

Knowing is half the battle.

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