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Friday, June 14, 2024

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Time to come together in Memphis about the ‘insanity’ of crime

TSD education columnist Curtis Weathers.

It is impossible these days to turn on your television and not see or hear about people being assaulted, robbed or, worse, murdered in our community.

Crime is clearly on the rise in Memphis and other urban communities throughout our nation. We cannot ignore or turn a blind eye to the impact it has on the education, growth and development of our children.

In 2010 there were 93 murders in the Memphis, 258 in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, 332 homicides in 2020, and a mind-boggling 346 homicides in 2021.

To put these numbers in perspective, the city of Los Angeles, which has six times the population of Memphis, reported 397 homicides in 2021.

Last year, a life was taken in Memphis an average of once every 25 hours.

Let that sink in a little.

According to a 24/7 Wall St. study using FBI statistics, Memphis is considered the most dangerous city in the United States. We are, in fact, the murder capital of the nation.

The folks at the Greater Memphis Chamber must be pulling their hair out.

Source: Memphis Shelby Crime Commission.

I realize there are multiple reasons for this crime wave sweeping our community.

The pandemic has caused major economic disruptions and left millions of people out of work.

In Tennessee, our state legislature, in its infinite wisdom, made guns more accessible and sparked record-breaking firearm sales across the entire state.

But we forget all too often the impact all the violence is having on the growth and development of our children. They are the silent casualties of the violence that surrounds them daily.

Studies show students’ and their parents’ aspirations and attitudes towards education are affected by the violence that engulfs our community.

Exposure to violence in and around our schools leads to a significant deterioration in the educational performance of our children, particularly our boys.

Memphis-Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray sounded the alarm last October in a letter to parents and the community about gun violence in our schools and community.

And while MSCS is doing all it can to combat the onslaught of violence, our children continue to be at risk.

But let’s stop kidding ourselves. The socioeconomic impact of this situation is enormous. Exposure to violence at this level negatively affects educational outcomes and increases disruptive or unfocused classroom behavior for children.

That’s a proven fact.

Source: Memphis Crime Commission

We must come to grips, however, with some of the uncomfortable realities of the situation here in Memphis at some point.

I know there are people out there who will vehemently disagree with my view on this issue, but the face of crime in our community is a Black face.

There seems to be no sense of pride in our communities anymore. We rob, assault and kill each other indiscriminately.

I know there are those who will say that any conversations about violent crime in Memphis that focus on the issue of “Black-on-Black crime” are a waste of time.

I respectfully disagree, of course.

Instead, I think we need to turn up the volume. Things are getting beyond ridiculous. We need to call it for what it is — insanity.

And the mental and psychological state of our children should be counted among the casualties.

While I understand all the sociological implications of this issue, we still must address the fact that we as Black people continue to rob, assault and kill each other at an alarming rate.

We are both the perpetrators and the victims.

Former Mayor Willie Herenton in 2016 shared these same concerns. He said the crime problem in Memphis “…is a Black problem…that uniquely impacts the fabric of the Black community.”

Crime … by what name?

But he went on to say, “What I see is a lack of a sense of urgency. I don’t see the Black community embracing this as being our challenge. What we need in Memphis is a massive community engagement initiative like we’ve never seen before.”

He was 100 percent correct. We have lost our sense of community, and our children are paying the price.

We need to rally as a community, make this issue our highest priority, and work together to change the trajectory of the situation. We are spiraling out of control, Memphis, and we have run out of other people to blame.

I appreciate the efforts of some community leaders, who are trying to rally the community and craft solutions to this problem. But they need our help.

Again, as Dr. Herenton pointed out, we need a MASSIVE community engagement effort to address these issues.

The operative word here is “Massive.”  We need all of Memphis involved — the Greater Memphis Chamber, the nonprofit community, corporate Memphis, our sports and faith communities, our school system and others.

We no longer can tinker around the edges and rely on just a handful of leaders and organizations to carry this incredibly heavy load.

Why can’t Memphis be an example for the rest of the world of how to solve these problems?

I’m ready. Let’s do this, Memphis. But not without the collective resources of everyone affected by these issues.

Please, let’s come together for the sake of our children and our community.

(Follow TSD education columnist Curtis Weathers on Twitter (@curtisweathers); email: curtislweathers@gmail.com.)


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