Violence in Indy, what’s a white guy to do?

Indianapolis had a string of murders again this weekend. That’s not entirely unusual for a metro area, and we’re a long way from being Chicago, but it’s still alarming.

Except it isn’t. You don’t get to be surprised when an economically depressed (oppressed?) population starts turning to crime. As with most murders in Indy, these are almost always black-on-black male crimes, and they’re almost always young black males.

The headlines are things like, “Haven’t we had enough?” and the answer is, “Probably not.”

We as Americans, and fellow Indy residents, really have to admit that if we’re not interested in hefty gun control, it’s because we really don’t care about the people who shoot, or get shot at, in the streets. “That’s their problem, they can’t be tamed, but they could stop if they want to.” And even though that sounds outlandish, there is a grain of truth to that.

For the most part these cases are in the ghettos, and in midwestern cities that are racially segregated like Indianapolis, there’s not much that’s going to convince (white, voting, money-toting) people elsewhere to care about it. Short of fallout from a nuclear detonation on east 38th street, this is mostly the reason why people left or leave in the first place. And if they don’t, it’s why we all know, “You don’t go there, there, or there.”

Indeed, there’s a lot I admittedly don’t understand about all of this. Experts say we have to do things like re-entry programs, rehab, corrections, education, etc.

As a pretty white guy, I think I speak for a lot of white people when I say: “Okay?”

It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around this because it seems like, “Just be nice, don’t shoot people” ought to be a pretty simple rule to follow. In fact, it is a simple rule. I haven’t shot anyone today. And there are a bunch of people in really rural, impoverished, areas that also have not shot people. Just like there are a lot of people in ghettos that have not shot people today. But inner-cities have a problem that rural areas do not.

It’s probably not right to compare, but it seems logical to compare, say, east 10th street, with a rural county like Washington County (my childhood home).

Drugs are rampant in both, albeit different kinds. Both are often deeply religious. There are plenty of guns in both places. Both lack economic growth opportunities.

Except one place has access to high speed Internet (if, at least, just the infrastructure for it), transit and the ability to get places cheaply (including places where there are jobs), access to every book ever printed via libraries, and schools and universities and museums within walking distance or a short ride. Some of these are free, some are cheap, and some are certainly not. But the opportunities are at least sorta there.

So it’s hard not to at least look at the notion that this is an “odd” problem. What makes a group of teens on east 10th street likely to commit a crime, but a similar group in Washington County not really do anything illegal? Gangs, I guess, but that begs the question of why one group starts a gang and another doesn’t. Is it access to money, presumably drug money? But shouldn’t that be easily replicated anywhere and everywhere?

It’s also really hard for me to look at a story of a 19 year old gang member and say, “Well, if he’d just gone to pre-K, this wouldn’t have happened.” Maybe if it were part of an over-arching set of supports, but not by itself. And that makes it a harder sell cost-wise. Because if we’re going to agree we have to do X, Y, and Z, but we’re really only going to pay for X, then why bother doing anything at all? In my mind, if we’re not going to do something right, then we shouldn’t do it at all. That’s why when I look at a road, for example, and it doesn’t have a sidewalk and a curb and some lights and maybe some aesthetics, I figure, “Well why even bother having a road at all?” I’m kind of all-or-nothing like that.

Regardless, it seems pretty evident to me, as something of an outsider, that not much about this will get done. Because there’s clearly not much the government can reasonably or willingly do. We throw money at this all the time and get low returns. This is a time I’m solidly in the “personal responsibility” camp. We’ve built an infrastructure the likes of which this country has never seen in 200 years. I can’t force a person to read a book or teach themselves a skill, but it’s not like we don’t know how a person can get ahead. This feels like a matter of wants and desires, and some people want and desire things a majority of people don’t like.

And there’s evidently not much parents or adults are doing beyond praying. The Indy Ten-Point Coalition, a church group, shows up at shootings and I honestly don’t know what that does. Counseling, maybe? Which makes sense. My understanding from news reports is they work to disarm further violence in those areas. Which is good, obviously. But it’s a far cry from the prevention we seek from the start.

I get that there are “differing circumstances” where a kid can be abused, or malnourished, or have bad experiences in school, or any number of things. But again, isn’t that replicable in any number of places, even outside of inner-cities? I also get that I’m probably a prime target of someone yelling “white privilege!” at me, and I’ve practically fallen all over myself to yell it at myself in this post.

It’s hard, too, not to cynically think the only way this would become a “real” problem is if people started walking up to Carmel or Brownsburg or wherever to do their drive-bys.

Until then, more of the same.

And if you’re wondering what my solution would be if I were Dictator of the Universe: longer school days.

Stick the kids in class from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. where they’d be fed three meals a day, they’d have some class time, some dedicated study time, and activity time (sports, art, music, etc.). Ensure the teachers are top-quality and respected for their expertise by giving generous salaries and bonuses requisite with the work. Allow building principals to make determinations on teacher performance through enhanced evaluation techniques (interviews with students, other faculty, plus a ranking of grades, scores, and averages across classes, and all longer than a 5 minute “looks good!”).

Drop the high school diploma in favor of Associates Degree-level work. Make every effort to transport problem children (either discipline or academic) to specialists before “abandoning” them like we do now. I am, however, not a believer that “every child can be reached”. Some people are just sorta there. We all know who those folks are.

Give the kids just enough time to run home at night before they come back the next day. Keeps them out of broken homes, abuse, and malnourishment situations longer.

Expensive? Yep. But that’s probably “Y” and “Z” I alluded to earlier, where “X” is “prison”.

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Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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