I’m going to take this bullet for Mayor Jim Kenney, a good Irish Catholic man from South Philadelphia who has received significant support from the Black community in his election and subsequent re-election earlier this month.
However, as a white man, Kenney is precluded from saying the bold things that certain Black Philadelphians need to hear — things former Mayor Michael Nutter said clearly, directly and out of absolute necessity back in 2010.
That’s when Nutter, a West Philadelphian, ascended the steps of Mount Carmel Baptist Church and for about 30 minutes condemned the same behavior that disgusted many of us but too often avoid confronting.
Nutter made national news because he was willing to say what needed to be said: that African-American boys were wreaking unprovoked havoc across the city, smashing windows in stores along major thoroughfares and severely beating innocent bystanders (mostly other Black people) within an inch of their lives.
Well, in case you’ve tuned out the world around you — almost an impossibility today considering the reach of digital media and television — we’re once again experiencing a seeming uptick in this type of behavior. It has been more malicious in nature as fewer merchants have suffered, but the human suffering from this behavior seems more noticeable.
What hasn’t changed — unless my eyes are lying to me — is that the demographics of the perpetrators of this barbaric behavior remain the same. They’re predominantly young, Black and male.
It’s difficult for the mayor to address this problem the way Nutter did over his two-terms. The Black thought police, no matter how well-intentioned, would make this racial as opposed to well-meaning. You know, kill the messenger.
There have been no arrests in the horrific beat down of 17-year-old Charm Sullivan, a young African American, while she worked behind the counter of a McDonald’s restaurant at the corner of Broad and Hunting Park on the night of Nov. 21. She absorbed the beating simply because she refused to give her assailants “free food,” which would have resulted in her being fired.
Her beating started when one of the boys jumped the counter. It continued as she fled to the ladies’ room, and it finally, mercifully, ended between the two cars in the parking lot where she was found bloody and unconscious.
There were cameras in the McDonald’s and police have yet to identify the miscreants of the assault. But just as assuredly as the overwhelming number of the more than 300-plus victims of homicide in the city will be Black by New Year’s, is anyone willing to bet that Charm’s assailants were African-American boys?
If they are — and again, I promise you they will be — then they will be no different than the thugs who do their best to reinforce the negative stereotypes of Black men as less than human, a misconception that many of us battle daily.
Just the day before Charm was viciously attacked, a pack of suspected high school students were caught on video savagely kicking and punching a 50-year-old man into unconsciousness near the corner of 15th and Chestnut streets.
I wish I had been there that afternoon and had a chance to reach him before he made his first mistake, exiting his car after one of the students broke off the side view on the driver’s side with a kick.
I would have told him to let it be. There is no reasoning with someone who thinks this as the right thing to do downtown at midday.
What is particularly troubling about all of this is that while this is happening there are plenty of examples of more fitting role models: Black men doing positive things that might influence peers of all ages to be civil.
For instance, rap and entertainment moguls Puff Daddy and 50 Cent have been beefing for years, and at times their fights have been ugly.
But the two put aside their disagreements for the greater good earlier this month and expressed their support for Black media mogul Byron Allen in his $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast.
Allen, whose case was heard last week by the U.S. Supreme Court, is suing the cable TV giant contending that its refusal to carry some of his channels is racially motivated and represents an attack on the the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which guaranteed that former slaves would receive the same business opportunities that whites have always had.
When Puff Daddy told Comcast not to use his name and his REVOLT network as examples of Comcast’s inclusive practices, 50 Cent supported his contention that this is about more than cable programming distribution and that it is about “the civil rights of millions of African Americans and other minorities.”
And football player Colin Kaepernick has been demonstrating that Black Lives Matter in a very public manner — so much so that it might have cost him his lucrative career as an NFL quarterback. He has been trying to prevent police from finding themselves in the position where they have to negotiate whether excessive force is necessary.
The behavior we’ve recently seen, like it or not, puts that sort of negotiation on the table for cops, I hate to tell you.
Past behavior is a predictor of future behavior. There are a basic societal rules that must be adhered to. Beating people senseless with no provocation is unacceptable.
These are not groups of Asians carrying this out. These are not the Irish, the Italians, Jews or anyone else. These are Black males who are mostly preying on Black people. It is incumbent that parents, relatives, friends and neighbors set them back on the the right path — before something more tragic such as a police bullet does.