By Barney Blakeney
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey last week fired back at National Action Network officials who charge that the city’s administration is the primary culprit responsible for the unprecedented number of murders in the city. Of the city’s 23 murders to date in 2017, 21 victims are Black. South Carolina NAN Director Elder James Johnson has asked that the city invest $7 million in police and recreational resources for the underserved communities where violent crime runs rampant. Summey responded that municipal government can’t raise Black children. While there are those who chide Summey for the remarks, many also say the assertion is accurate.
NAN contends the city has been inadequate in its appropriation of resources to predominantly Black communities. Without those resources and the deterrents they provide, young Blacks have turned to crime. But Summey challenged that the city offers a shocking number of resources and programs as crime deterrents. North Charleston’s extremely high crime rate comes because some in the community fail to do their part in the process. “The problem is, we can’t raise your children,” he said.
Black community advocate, Kwadjo Campbell said, “The availability of youth programs can be debated, but when he says the city can’t raise our kids- Summey is correct. I was just talking about the difficulty of getting volunteers to help out with our youth activities. Instead of accommodating, we must hold youth accountable for their negative behavior. I think people have a problem with the messenger. But we must love not fear our youth, and raise them accordingly. They are OUR kids!” he emphasized.
North Charleston resident Dot Scott, a frequent critic of the city’s administration, said she feels Summey’s remark was inappropriate, that it paints an entire community of people with a broad brush and that it makes the assumption that Black people expect others to raise their children. She said that parents are the ones initially responsible for raising children. “But that doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” she added.
“There’s no doubt we have issues in terms of violent crime. But so much goes into producing that – the availability of adequate healthcare, quality education and access to nutritious foods – all are factors in raising children. At the end of the day we must be fair about the allocation of resources to different communities and where money is spent. Because the responsibility for raising children extends beyond immediate families, municipalities are not relieved of their responsibility,” she said.
One retired Charleston police major said municipalities can’t be expected to raise Black children, but the detrimental role law enforcement and the judicial system has played in their development is undeniable. The war on crime, whether intentionally or unintentionally, actually has resulted in a war against poor and poorly educated minority males. Discriminatory incarceration takes Black men from their families. That denies young males role models and financial resources. And he pointed to the underfunding of resources such as the Charleston Boxing Club in downtown Charleston. Police and municipalities can’t simply wash their hands of duplicity in the phenomenon, he said.
North Charleston Dist. 10 City Councilman Michael Brown said the ‘village’ approach to raising children is missing. The city provides resources to Black communities and more can be done, he said. But parents in Black communities have to show up. When adults fail to participate in the activities that determine the course of communities, when they fail to direct their children into the activities that encourage positive behavior, we end up with the result we see today, he said.