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Teaching values to a new generation

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Hollis Wormsby, Jr

By Hollis Wormsby, Jr. 

When I read about some of the crime that goes on in our community one question that stands out to me is, “Is anyone teaching some of these kids values?” A week ago there was a crime in Bessemer where a young black male got into a confrontation with another male.

The confrontation is said to have been ongoing, but on this particular day the one male sees the other male in a convenience store and takes out a gun and starts firing at him, but also at everyone else in the store. But according to his value system this didn’t even whatever score in question, so he walks across the street and starts shooting into a house, because the person he was shooting at sometimes hangs out there.

A 6-year-old, that had nothing to do with the dispute, was struck in the back by one of the bullets fired into the home and was taken to the hospital in critical condition. But what value does her life have compared to the need to get even, or gain respect or whatever the excuse is these days.

I was talking to a law enforcement officer about why so many shootings take place at convenience stores, and he told me that the reason was that many of the parking lots of convenience stores are known drug markets and that in many cases the owner of the convenience store was either directly in on the deal, or being compensated in some way on the side.

This made sense, but it still didn’t explain why there are so many shootings. The law enforcement officer said that what happens is that someone calls someone they know and say they want to buy a quantity of drugs. A price is established and a meeting point agreed upon. The trouble is that one or the other party knows they don’t have the drugs or the money to complete the transaction. Their intent is to rob the other person of what they bring to the deal. Since this happens often, both sides come to the transaction prepared for a gun fight, all too often a gun fight happens.

A non funny joke that I remember about street shootings goes something like, “If two drug dealers are shooting at each other in a crowded room, who are the safest people in the room? The answer, the two drug dealers.” But we tolerate this kind of behavior in our communities, and for that matter in our families as well.

We used to try and teach children basic values in life. As a young child growing up in a Missionary Baptist Family, we were taught that our entire lifetime, even if we lived to be 100 years old, would be but a moment in our eternity. And then the question would be asked, is any short term pleasure or indulgence worth your entire eternity. And not losing your eternity was reason enough not to do some things.

Today we still have children who are being raised in Christian homes and with Christian guidance. And actually, as I write this, I realize it would be better to say in spiritual homes with spiritual guidance, because while I may have learned basic values from the Christian church in my youth, those same values were being taught by Islam, by Judaism or many other spiritual organizations. But somehow, particularly in low income communities, the institutions that previously made sure that values were taught have been decimated.

We can start with the black family. When I was a child it looked like everybody had a mommy and a daddy; today there are statistics that claim as many as 80 percent of black children are being raised in single parent households. The impact of the decline of the manufacturing jobs, the number of illegal aliens doing work that black people once did, and of poverty programs literally taking people out of productive life, has been decimating for the health of the black
family, and I would postulate that black families were at the heart of the value teaching system.

We can look further at the decline in activities for youth in troubling communities. We can look at the impact of the evolution of the hip hop culture. We can look at the fact that men are disappearing from a place of prominence in our community.

We look at all of these key changes and they tell us more about what the problem is, but the challenge is to find a solution. I think the solution has to begin with a mechanism to help insure that when we evaluate the needs that need to be provided for by our poverty programs, that value education be one of those needs.

Or at least that’s the way I see it.

Hollis Wormsby has served as a featured columnist for the Birmingham Times for more than 27 years. He is the former host of Talkback on 98.7 KISS FM and of Real Talk on WAGG AM. If you would like to comment on this column you can go to Facebook.com/holliswormsby or email him at hjwormsby@aol.com.