I've worked in the community for eleven years. I've helped homeless youth, youth who've been abused or neglected, youth who've become drug addicts, youth who've suffered from a mental illness...on and on.
I live in Chicago.
These statistics are staggering. I feel it in my bones. Two of my boys have witnessed first hand the cruelty of violence and guns and I've spoken with them about the feeling of powerlessness to do anything about it. I had to teach my children to duck when they hear a pop, even if they think it's a car backfiring. Most likely it isn't. I had to teach them how to react if a police officer stops them. I had to teach them that sometimes you just can't fight back. Running or avoiding confrontation is the best thing. A basketball is not worth dying for.
Can you imagine the trauma? The need to become numb to the violence around you in order to survive? And we wonder why kids aren't graduating, why they are turning to violence. When my son experienced his first confrontation he felt hopeless. He wanted to learn to fight. He wanted to feel empowered. I had to talk him down. Working in the community and with my educational background, I was able to make him "see" that revenge or joining an opposite gang to feel safe is not the answer. But other parents may not have that ability. Or the kids may just say fuck it. If I'm going to die it's going to be protected...by a gang if nothing else.
I wish I had a cure all. I wish I could delve deeper and make things better. Should we blame parents? The government? The youth themselves? The "system"?
I have no clue.
I just know that something needs to be done so that our children could live without fear.