Monday, March 3, 2008

Ending inner city youth violence in Rochester

The Rochester D&C today carried an op-ed piece by me on the issue :

Take these steps to help cure violence
Deepak SethGuest essayist
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(March 3, 2008) — The blood on the sidewalk will soon be gone, but the hurt in the victims' families and the community will stay forever.Are we doing enough to break the vicious trend of using violence as the only means of conflict resolution?

The recent performance of the New York Symphony Orchestra in Pyongyang, North Korea, indicates that we as a nation are willing to use culture and diplomacy to deal with conflicts. It is high time similar trends start manifesting themselves on our city streets. Some suggestions:

  • Absence of positive role models is a reason for young people making wrong choices in life. However, today there seems to be no lack of African-American role models. Choose any line of human endeavor — sports, business, music, politics, movies and you will find a multitude of highly talented African Americans at the pinnacle. It seems that many inner-city youths are ignoring these role models and are instead looking up to gang members and drug dealers, and are too readily influenced by the guns, flashy jewelry and shiny cars of these people.
  • The City School District should encourage positive role models closer to home — local minority business people, company executives, newspaper editors, sports people, elected officials, police and fire personnel, artists and down-to-earth successful people from everyday life. Food service workers, construction workers and auto mechanics could visit schools and share their life experiences with kids. No sermonizing but heart-to-heart conversations about how they were able to overcome the tribulations of their own youth to achieve success. If such programs already exist, they should be strengthened.
  • Most parents incentivize (some may call it "bribe'') their kids for achieving the desired school performance. This may not always be possible for economically disadvantaged parents. Getting food on the table will always get priority over buying a reward for the kid for getting good grades. Local businesses could get together with the City School District to institute a well-publicized award program to reward kids exhibiting exemplary performance.
  • Parents and caregivers should monitor and keep tabs on who their kids associate with and the activities they engage in during and after school hours. If a good kid being at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people can result in him/her getting killed, then it is the duty of the parents/relatives to ensure that their kid does not end up in such a situation. It is better to deliver a reprimand to a kid and face sulking behavior than to deliver a eulogy.

There are no easy solutions. But we as a community need to keep looking for answers.

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