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Can Social Media Impact Crime?
8/31/2016 12:07:34 PM

By Barney Blakeney 

I recently joined the Facebook community. It’s been an interesting experience. It’s called social media, but it’s much more. and although I’m old school and I’ve got old equipment, I’ve gotten a lot of information surfing through Facebook.

Amidst the garbage (people talking about what’s in their refrigerators and the latest thing to tick them off), I’ve found some pearls. Among them the views of some young folks who are searching for answers. Recently this one brother expressed his frustration at the continuing murders in the Black community. What can we do to stop it, he asked.

I wish I had an answer for the young brother, but I don’t. Still for every problem, there’s a solution. Young folks want quick answers to age-old problems. The issues are too complex. But finding solutions to the problem of murders ion North Charleston - and other communities for that matter - ain’t as hard as it might seem. Implementing those solutions is the hard part.

I grew up in North Charleston at a time when there was just as much poverty and hopelessness as today. I read last week where Melvin Leonard ‘Beans’ Brown died. Me, Leonard, the Dawson boys - Sam and ‘Lijah’ - and the Chisolm boys ran barefoot all over Six Mile. It was a time when .25 cent shots of liquor at Big Jimmie’s might lead to a fight over a card game or dice game. And every now and then someone would get cut, maybe even shot, but everyone usually went home.

We like to think there wasn’t as much killing then as there is now. I believe, truth be told, you could get yourself killed in 1965 just as quick as you can today - regardless of whether you’re black or white! Sure things have changed. I guess that’s really what that young brother on Facebook was lamenting - the changes that have occurred which prevent us from recapturing those values that governed our behavior thus limiting our violent responses.

I remember growing up black folks had a saying that someone was ‘free til he’s fool’. I guess that meant too much freedom could be dangerous. Freedom certainly has been dangerous to the economy in black communities. Ever since black folks won the freedom to spend their money anywhere they want, black business has been killed off just as we’re killing off each other through wanton murder.

My excursions into the world of Facebook has revealed something to me about business as well - black folks like pushing other folks’ businesses! Maybe it’s because I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing, but I get a lot of posts about white folks’ businesses.

I figured Facebook would allow me to share some information like Debbie Myers Matthews’ specialty gift baskets. But I’m seeing more about furnishings from Pawley’s Island than the newly opened Homey’s Teakettle BBQ on Meeting Street Road in Union Heights. And since Facebook is social media, why aren’t black churches using the vehicle to take their message to that community?

After the police shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, social media ignited a surge in the use of black-owned banking organizations. Here in Charleston the C.O. Federal Credit Union saw unprecedented increase in the number of accounts. What would happen if that same dynamic was applied to reaching those who are prone to commit murder?

I know that locally, social media has played a key role in awareness about the effort in North Charleston to establish a police review board. Really?

In North Charleston where in 2014 the police department had 340 sworn officers - 223 white males/57 black males, 40 white females/seven black females and among its executive staff five white males/two black males - we’re talking about a police review board? Of the city’s 90,000 residents some 42,000 are black!

Why are we talking about a police review board when obviously so many other things need to happen? In North Charleston to date, 22 murders have been committed. Nearly all the victims are black males. Ten years ago the city was ranked the nation’s seventh most violent. That hasn’t changed.

In recent weeks North Charleston police have conducted some initiatives to develop better community relations. Sorry, but the thugs committing crimes ain’t coming out to play baseball. Then again, why should black communities plagued by violent crime depend on those outside it to foster relationships that produce positive results in our communities?

I’m thinking maybe social media can play a significant role in addressing homicides in North Charleston. We use it for everything else - telling how long we spent at the hair salon, what our grand baby had for breakfast before her first day at school and how great the last party was - why don’t we use it address homicides.

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