Searching for Solutions and Culprits in Chicago School Killings

Top-down plans intended to thwart violence have many pundits asking whether it's the culture that needs to change

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In the last school year alone, over 37 Chicago students were murdered, many by their peers, but it wasn't until Derrion Albert's brutal killing was videotaped on September 24 that Chicago's violence began to receive national attention. On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder headed to Chicago to meet with officials and formulate a plan to end the violence. While many pundits applaud the gesture, they doubt that policy alone would be effective. Instead, a surprisingly diverse group of commentators--from conservative blogger Michelle Malkin to rapper Nas--are saying that killings won't stop until the culture changes.

  • 'Before Society Can Value These Children, They Have to Value Themselves,' writes Mary C. Curtis at Politics Daily. "Derrion Albert's very existence repudiated the choices his attackers made. One of Derrion Albert's friends, quoted just after his murder, told an interviewer: 'He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.' The idea that somehow walking down a city street to a bus makes you a target -- collateral damage in a senseless domestic war -- shows that making society value these children is just part of the battle. They first have to value themselves."
  • More Money Isn't Going to Solve the Problem, Michelle Malkin says. "Decades of 'community organizing' and welfare state spending have not saved Chicago's children, but Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is clamoring for mo' money, mo' money, mo' money to throw at the problem."
  • Political Correctness Is Killing These Kids, Ethel C. Fenig writes at The American Thinker. "An Obama initiative on youth crime, along with the flashy Duncan-Holder trip to Chicago, will be a grandiose but empty and meaningless tax consuming gesture. And the youths will continue killing themselves and others until the issues of family and communal breakdown, especially among certain populations, are honestly confronted. And honestly dealt with." At The Root, a site for African American news and commentary, Jozen Cummings agrees. "In 2009, many of us need to see the video of 16-year-old Derrion Albert being beat to death at least once to understand it's no longer just the police and white people of whom we need to be afraid. It's also each other."
  • 'The Cultural Decay of the Black Community is to Blame,' Rod Dreher writes. "Middle-class people of all races want to move far away from poor black people because they're afraid of violence, which is itself a result of familial, moral and cultural decay endemic in the black community in this country."

But Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jesse Jackson believe that government intervention could help:

  • 'Protect Young Boys Who Are Trying to Live Right,' Ta-Nehisi Coates urges at The Atlantic. "I am aware of all the socio-economic forces at work they make black communities more subject to violence. I'm in all for trying to ameliorate those forces. In the meantime, I'm all for doing whatever it takes to protect the rest of us--particularly young black kids--from hooliganism."
  • 'Children Should Be Able to Go to School Without Fearing for Their Lives,' Jesse Jackson writes at The Chicago Sun-Times. "We need concerted anti-violence intervention that will guarantee children and parents safe passage to school."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.