Wanna-be thugs and fake gangsters take note: Just a few miles from the White House, where the first black president lives, folks are getting a lesson on what happens when the concept of an "eye for an eye" is taken to its inevitably ugly and destructive conclusion.
Police believe a missing bracelet has sparked a series of back-and-forth shootings that has left five people dead, several people wounded and an entire city shaken. When you hear that a crowd of people were sprayed with an AK-47 and that one of those bullets pierced the temple of a 16-year-old girl, you can't help but think that our young people are lost, wandering in a desert of despair, nihilism and self-hate.
"My child barely weighed 100 pounds...shot in the temple with an AK-47... bullets all in her body. It's senseless," Nardyne Jefferies, mother of Brishell Jones, told the Washington Post.
"I saw him breathe his last breath," William Cheek said about his grandson, one of the shooting victims, a tear running down his face. "He was shot in the head."
According to the Post, the violence is a part of a cycle that began after the possible theft of a bracelet. A 14-year-old is believed to have been at the wheel, or at least in the vehicle, for the drive-by shooting that killed four people and injured five others.
Investigators said they think the mass shooting in the 4000 block of South Capitol Street in the Washington Highlands neighborhood is linked to the fatal shooting of Jordan Howe, 20, in Southeast Washington a week earlier. That incident was prompted by a man's anger over his missing gold-colored bracelet, according to investigators and court documents. At least some of the victims Tuesday had just attended Howe's funeral, law enforcement officials said. Police theorize that Howe's killing, early March 22, led to more gunfire a day later, ultimately resulting in Tuesday night's shootings. Besides Jones, DaVaughn Boyd, 18, and William Jones III, 19, have been identified as victims. Late Wednesday night, police identified the fourth victim as Tavon Nelson, 17.
"Everybody knows what a tragedy this is in our city," said Mayor Adrian Fenty. He also described the parents of the murder victims as "deeply broken."
I say that sentiment reflects the relationship between children and their parents in our community, the attitude of young people toward their peers and the value that they place on life.
After a video of Derrion Albert being beaten to death emerged in Chicago, his mother said that parents were afraid of their children. I think she's right. For this petty beef to escalate to this level shows that adults simply did not know what was going on in their children's lives or did not have the power to intervene. That must change if this senseless violence is ever going to stop.
Young people seem to think of their peers simply as rivals rather than as part of a community, a community with a future and a responsibility to the next generation. Instead of being the kid that they went to school with, played basketball with and grew up with, they're are seeing one another as only colors in a gang or rivals who need to be dealt with first. That's the same attitude that soldiers in the midst of a war use to survive. Why do our children, especially the young boys, have the mentality of soldiers at war by the age of 14? Someone persuaded a 14-year-old boy to be involved in the most egregious and irreparable act that one human can do to another: murder.
And to gun people down who you see every day, who look like you, whose families you probably know, shows that our young people have lost all sense that life is valuable. I have a friend who doesn't let his children partake of much television or Internet usage. He tells me that he wants his kids to have a sense of wonder and discovery about the world. Instead, he says, children today seemed bored with life by the time they are 8 years old.
To kill another person shows a boredom and disregard for what life has to offer. As a teenager, life should be filled with possibility and hope, not despair, recklessness and violence. We need to restore our children's sense of hope about the future. What can we do to make this happen?