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Chuck E. Cheese Shootout Is The Last Straw
10/15/2014 5:19:06 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Okay, maybe this will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, maybe not. But if Black folks in this community aren’t ready to stop the rhetoric and start some action to stymie the violence in our communities our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will pay a horrible price.

Last night I got an unexpected phone call from a friend who’s always in my case because I’m technologically challenged. I’m computer illiterate and don’t have a flip phone, slide phone whatever it is 6 phone or any of that stuff. If you want to communicate with me, call me.

My friend called a few minutes before the late night news to tell me of the Saturday shooting at a West Ashley Chuck E Cheese kids’ restaurant which left two people wounded after an argument. She figured the story probably wouldn’t on the late news. With no more than that information I guaranteed her the shooting had erupted between two young Black males. After reading the next day’s newspaper I learned I was right.

It’s occurred to me in the past few weeks, almost any time there’s a gathering of young Black males shooting erupts. We can play that game about painting all our young Black males with the same brush, and I’m sure there are gatherings where shooting always isn’t the end result. But more times than I care to think of, you put our boys together in almost any setting and the fireworks will begin. They settle most conflicts with guns. Now that’s become the reality at the Chuck E Cheese?! It’s a miracle none of the babies were hurt.

Earlier that day I was talking with another friend from Walterboro. The rate of gun violence over there has gone through the roof. This sister is good people and she’s long been a strong advocate for young Black people. She taught school and lost a job advocating for her students. But the sister sometimes surprises me.

During our conversation, she remarked that today’s young Black males have no alternative to violent behavior. Duh! Okay, so there’s the influence of violence all around them. But are there other ways to respond to conflicts beyond violence? I think so.

I’m convinced our kids emulate the violence they see because we facilitate it. Through our lack of responsibility as diligent parents that’s existed at least the last two generations, we allow them to be raised on violence. Here’s a novel idea - maybe we shouldn’t financially support industries that promote violence - music, video games, movies, television - perhaps even boycott them.

My friend said “Barn, that’s harder than it seems.” And wha? Is anything too hard if it prevents shootouts at birthday parties? A lot of jobs are tough. Don’t mean they ain’t gotta get done.

Writing about the problem is easy. Writing about solutions not so much, right? But hey, we ain’t talking rocket science here. In fact, most of us know the solutions. It’s tough telling your 22-year-old son he can’t stay with you and sell drugs. But it’s more tough being thrown to the ground and/or getting shot by cops or home invaders looking for cash. Two weeks ago two families very dear to me experienced just that.

As we argue about how tough it is to turn things around in the Black community, here’s some of what’s at stake. Our young men and women are being slaughtered as a result of the wanton violence. And as we experience that tragedy, other folks are going to the bank.

Last week I read a newspaper account of a 35-year-old Black man sentenced to 25 years in prison for illegal drug trafficking. Twenty-five years, ya’ll, for a nonviolent crime! According to the report, the guy is a car thief who sells and smokes dope. Okay, not a good career choice, but 25 years?!!!

Last week I also ran across an article by some guy, Rep. Reggie Fullwood printed in Ms. Perry’s Free Press, who wrote about the new slavery being perpetrated in the U.S. penal system. One that permits privatized prison corporations to use inmates to perform work for other companies at slave wages. Some inmates who refuse to work get thrown into solitary confinement, Fullwood wrote.

I looked up the for-profit prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) which operates over 60 penal institutions around the country. It is the nation’s largest private corrections company managing more that 67 facilities with a designed capacity of over 92,000 beds.

One 1990s financial investors report on the company noted, “ ... Low occupancy is a drag on profits ... company earnings would be strong if CCA succeeded in ramping up population levels in its new facilities.” In 2012 CCA sent letters to prison officials in 48 states offering to buy prisons in exchange for a 20-year management contract and a guaranteed occupancy rate of 90 percent.

My friends, there are folks out there who plan to influence our young to commit genocide while simultaneously incarcerating, for profit, millions of young Blacks. How many straws will we permit them to pile on our community camel’s back? I say the shootout at Chuck E Cheese should be the last.

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