Throwaway children

Sikivu Hutchinson | 1/26/2011, 5 p.m.

All of these factors are of course relevant, but if they were the primary answers, then why are girls, who live in the same environment, not responding in the same way? With Columbine there was tacit mainstream understanding that these boys' acts were symptomatic of an imperiled national heritage. Conversely, any time violence erupts in a Black or Latino context it's a racial indictment, an indictment of a community, not a nation. Thus, on the other side of the spectrum, the Gardena student was uniformly dismissed as a juvenile delinquent.

Suffice it to say, there will be no strenuous editorializing or earnest psychoanalysis of his motives for bringing the gun in mainstream media. He, after all, is a central casting Black boy criminal from a "bad" school. Similarly, there will be no assessment of urgently needed mental health resources for young people of color who have lost friends and relatives to gun violence. By contrast, media coverage of Jared Loughner's psychological profile has reopened debate on the sorry state of American mental health care. After the Columbine shootings similar appeals for gun control, improved mental health services, and proactive parenting were made. Suspects from the "ghetto" only inspire a sense of deterministic inevitability.

On a KCRW "Which Way L.A.?" segment about the Gardena shooting, a 1991 alum of the school boldly proclaimed that "the smart kids don't go to Gardena." This belief drove the bootstraps mythology of generations of White flight South L.A. alums. And it has been inherited by the Black and Latino middle class. Only expendable lives are wasted at public schools "ravaged" by White flight and urban "brain drain." My talented, ferociously analytical students can break down the racist assumptions of meritocracy. But this smear resounds in a national climate dominated by the charter school tsunami and the demonization of so-called inner city schools and teachers. Here, it is tacit that time and progress left these schools behind. Brilliant youth of color are automatically condemned to second-class citizenship and social pathology. The real epidemic of violence lies in this false indictment.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars (Infidel Books, February 2011).

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