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Stop treating Black youth like disposables

Queen Brown | 12/19/2013, 9 a.m.

The shooting death of 10-year old Aaron Vu during the robbery of his parents’ nail salon was brutal and senseless. Aaron’s father was also shot during the robbery — thankfully he survived. The community was in shocked by this brutal crime and anxiously awaited the arrest of this cold blooded killer. When news came that a suspect had been charged both the victim’s family and those living in the community were relieved. We all thought that our streets were safer. I for one hope the monster who committed murder gets what he deserves.

But as details have surfaced about the shooter this case has only confirmed the life altering problems that many of our youth face each day — impacting their lives forever. The shooter, Anthwan Ragan, was arrested on his 19th birthday. He has a criminal record that goes back nine years. Doing the math, that means that this young man who will most certainly tried and convicted of murder, has a criminal record that stretches back to his early days in elementary school. As I learned more about his personal story, he stopped looking like a monster and began to look more like a confused but hardened youth — hardened because of abuse, a broken home and no one to lead him in the right direction. In truth, began to remind me of many of the young men that I know who live in my community.

According to reports, Anthwan was first arrested when he nine because he hit a teacher. How ironic that 10 years later he would stand accused of killing a child nearly the same age as he was when he had his first arrest. Apparently, our country’s leaders knew a lot more about raising responsible law abiding citizens than we do. They recognized that there will always be troubled minors and delinquent teenagers in our society. That’s why more than 100 years ago they created a separate system of justice for juvenile delinquents that focused on rehabilitating the child. In our wisdom we have since sidestepped the process by arresting and direct filing our children into a system that was deemed inappropriate by our forefathers. The outcome has been more juvenile offenders and underage criminals.

I am not condoning juvenile delinquency or lawlessness. But I am opposed to the pipeline to prison process operating within systems and direct filing juveniles as adults. We can do a better job at redirecting troubled youth. But instead of focusing on helping them when they are young and just babies themselves, we put them into a system that guarantees that they will become another number in the prison industrial complex. And while that becomes self-fulfilling prophecy for the majority of our young Black men, it comes as a cost to our community — the loss of innocent lives.

What sense does this really make?

Queen Brown is a freelance writer, a motivational speaker and a trained crime victim’s advocate.