Mitchell: Absence of concern is killing African-American youth

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De’Kayla Dansberry was a freshman at Johnson College Prep. | Facebook

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The fatal stabbing of De’Kayla Dansberry, 16, is a tragic reminder that youth violence isn’t all about guns.

Many of us would like to believe if only the gun laws were stricter and the judges would enforce those guns laws more consistently, we could stop the violence.

I agree that it is too easy for a gun to make its way into a killer’s hand.

But Dansberry did not die from a gunshot wound.

Someone stabbed her to death during a street brawl outside Parkway Gardens apartments near 64th and South King Drive.

Dansberry is being memorialized as an “honor student,” which suggests that something so horrible shouldn’t have happened to her.

The truth is, the loss of any young person to street violence is a vile act. But the very fact that someone like Dansberry, who was doing well in school and was involved in positive activities, could get caught up in a street fight shows the pervasive nature of violence.


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I happened to drive past the Parkway Gardens housing development last week on my way to drop off my sister at Midway Airport.

Growing up in public housing in what was then called the “low-end” but is now called Bronzeville, I thought the complex was for middle-class African-Americans.

But the development was actually built as affordable housing for African-Americans, many of whom had left the South during the second wave of the Great Migration, only to land in one of the city’s segregated ghettos.

“Look,” I said as we rolled past, “there’s one of the places where first lady Michelle Obama once lived.”

I don’t know why that thought came to mind.

Perhaps because Parkway Gardens, one of the first housing complexes to be cooperatively owned by African-Americans, is now associated with the violent crime that destroyed the quality of life in public housing.

Over time, the same negative influences that made it more difficult for families to focus on their futures — gangs and drugs — crept into Parkway Gardens.

What makes the Dansberry killing particularly chilling is in times past such a fight would have ended with a few scratches. The scratches would have heeled, and by summer’s end everyone would have forgotten the fight ever happened.

Many of us can still remember how easily our friends could egg us on until we physically confronted an enemy.

But those were the days when beefs were settled with fists and fingernails and not box-cutters, knives, locks-in-socks and guns.

The immaturity and lack of self-control that drove these fights may be the same, but the weapons are deadly.

I had hoped the senseless shooting of 14-year-old Endia Martin in 2014 would wake up black girls.

Martin was killed after a Facebook fight over a boy. The alleged shooter is awaiting trial.

No boy is ever worth fighting over. As any grown woman would tell you, a couple of years down the road, neither of these teens would have cared.

While a suspect will surely be arrested for Dansberry’s murder, it is egregious that a large crowd gathered to watch the mayhem but no one intervened to stop the violence.

It is likely to turn out that Dansberry was killed over something trivial.

It is not just the gun that is killing African-American youth.

It is an absence of concern.

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