Now, when you see or hear the term "flash mob," a scary image comes to mind: a large group of black teenage boys who appear out of nowhere to commit crimes. Before now, the term had a harmless connotation: it referred to large groups of people who appeared in public places to do something entertaining. But do you think the media are behind this kind of imagery, or could it be that we are ignoring the plight of America's black youth?
On Sunday, Aug. 7, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter took to a pulpit for a special message about the violence taking place in his city. He had some harsh words for flash mob participants and their parents. But I felt a little leery about how he did it. Instead of doing a press conference outside or meeting with at-risk youth, he went inside a black church to scold them in front of the media. It seems like the black church is getting a reputation for having more respect for the middle class than the underclass. I'm not condoning what the teens are doing, but I'm not condoning Mayor Nutter's tactics, either.
My Flash Mob Experience
Last week, I was pumping gas when I saw a group of five shirtless, saggin' teen boys approach the area. I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt because of the frenzy that was caused by our local stations this past spring. (There's nothing more disheartening than being afraid of your own people.) But they seemed to come at me quickly, and then they started whispering something like, "Let's get him."
That's when I forgot that I was a journalist and a Christian. I channeled the inner lion of my Zodiac sign, the Leo, and came up with some F-word combinations that I'm not proud of.
The young teens were petrified and puzzled. It seemed as if they were just waiting outside the station until a friend went in to buy some snacks or something. So, I admit that I overreacted. I had said to myself that I would give them the benefit of the doubt, but I jumped to conclusions and made a fool out of myself.
I could have waited before reacting. It's just that I relied on the stereotypes presented by some local media outlets to choose a method of reaction. Sure, they might have beaten me up if I tried to be Mr. Rogers and ask them to be my neighbor. But we tend to justify mistreating and misunderstanding black youth more than they justify their own reckless behavior.
As adults, we must set the tone for the young people and provide them with more love and less hatred. They already live in bogus conditions where it is damn near impossible to find a good role model. Lil' Wayne, Ace Hood and Rick Ross have the potential to be great role models, but obviously they sold their souls for a record deal. They know these kids listen to the music, emulate their shirtless and saggin' style of fashion and blatant disrespect for women. And when you challenge them about it, they blame the parents -- just like everybody else.
I thought it took a village to raise a child. The reason most of you grew up to be successful was because your mom and dad had help. From my perspective, I owe dozens of people gratitude for making me the man I am today. If I had had only my parents, I would probably be out there looking for myself and trying to do "hoodrat stuff" like Latarian Milton, too. I always say, "There, but for the Grace of God, go I." I wish I had not acted "bourgie" and looked down on my own people. I was wrong for cursing those boys out -- even if they really were gonna attack me.
That leads me to something else that pissed me off. All those folks at the gas station just watched while I made a split-second decision to be quiet or cuss my way out of a beatdown. Then they frowned at me for cussing the kids out. If it were them, they would have been just as mad at me for sitting there and not helping them.
Everybody is a critic until they are placed in a critical situation.
One of Many Solutions
The best way to stop flash mobs is to work tirelessly to keep the idle minds of our youth from becoming devil's workshops. Instead, create workshops like the one run by Enoch Muhammad. "Brother Enoch" runs Hip Hop Detoxx on Chicago's South Side, and he uses the same kind of rap music to help youth decode the negative messages that are subliminally embedded in the melody and lyrics of such songs.
Brother Enoch views "peace" as an acronym for "Positive Energy Always Create Elevation." And one thing our youth need now is an elevated mindset. When you think lowly of yourself, you will do low-life things. So, we must show our young brothers positive examples of positive people reaping the benefits of living that kind of life.
Unfortunately, I'm sure some negative folks will take to the comment boxes below and defeat the entire purpose of what I just tried to write. They will attack what I wrote instead of attacking the problem itself. And those same keyboard "thugs" will go back to their lives of doing nothing about the problem and cheering when the police lock away our future.
Who's the real flash mob: the young boys or those in the media who talk about the problem instead of the solution?
It depends on how you feel when either group approaches you.