Posts tagged gangs violence
I’ve been talking a lot to some friends about Miguel Villalba, the 15 yr old boy that was killed last Sunday night in Cicero. Maybe it’s because I once knew him personally, or maybe it’s because he is, sadly, just the first youth in a string of more to come and lose their lives to gang violence this summer. Whatever the reason, I haven’t been able to shake off his death. During one of these conversations, someone said that she hoped the killer would be found so that there would be closure to Miguel’s murder. At the time, I agreed. But that comment got me thinking, will we really get closure? Based on media reports, Miguel was arguing with the shooter moments before his death. Because of this, I imagine the assailant was around Miguel’s age. If he is arrested and prosecuted, we didn’t just lose Miguel’s life to a senseless act of gang violence, we lost his as well.
As adults, we normally find easier to punish the bad child. Maybe it’s my bleeding liberal heart, but I don’t believe there are genuinely bad people in the world, simply misguided people. Yes, that means I don’t consider even racists, sexists, transphobes, homophobes and xenophobes to be bad. Our youth are in transition. Everything that will happen to us as adults — love, friendship, pain, stress, sex, violence — is happening to them in a very intense and compressed manner. But instead of guiding them, we dismiss their problems as petty. I know, because I’ve done it.
I’m guilty of assuming that, because they are young, the problems and feelings they are experiencing aren’t real. The truth is, while their problems may feel unimportant or small to me, to them they are much bigger and very real. Yet when whenever they act up, I simply punish them for it, often not bothering to know why they are behaving that way. Yes, we could find Miguel’s killer. We can arrest him, prosecute him, and throw him in jail. But did we really accomplish anything? I don’t think we did. All we succeeded in doing was losing two more youths to gangs.
So what are we to do? First, we as youth service agencies need to encourage parents to become a part of their children’s lives. We need to encourage healthy dialogue. This is especially true for us in the Latino community. Our parents (usually) come from a culture where complete respect for the authority of the parents was unquestioned. While this may have worked for our parents back home, it doesn’t make sense here. Life is different in the US. The way we shape our families needs to not only take into consideration our culture but also our current surroundings. Secondly, we as youth service agencies need to follow our own advice. Yes, it’s often easier to just discipline the child; but fundamentally understanding gets us much farther. If our youth feel welcomed within our doors, they won’t go looking for the false acceptance gangs give them. If we are their second family, gangs will not be able to compete. We lose too many of youth to gangs, both buried and jailed. It’s not easy raising a child. But in the world we currently live in, it’s not easy being a child either.