Youth Are Killed, And Where is the Outrage and Call for Accountability?

In the wake of the death of a five-year-old boy in Oakland, writer and youth worker Hector Gonzalez wonders why youth activism is not holding the community more accountable.

On December 30th, a 5-year-old boy was fatally shot by a stray bullet. The boy was standing next to a taco truck with family members in the city of Oakland. In 2011 alone, three other boys were shot by stray bullets, two of them fatally. Carlos Nava, 3-years-old, was shot back in August and Hiram Lawrence Jr., 1-year-old, was shot in November.  With that said, my question is; Where is the community outcry?

In a harsh, but bold, truth the community (including myself) was there for the death of Oscar Grant, the young African American male who was shot by BART Police back in ‘09. I recall attending vigils and marches in solidarity for Oscar and all victims of police brutality. While living in Berkeley and working in San Francisco, I even remember everyone leaving early from work to catch the BART subway train home since it was rumored that the BART was going to be shut down by protesters and community organizers. That night businesses were burned, windows were shattered, as people flocked in the thousand to demonstrate their rage against the actions of the police.

If anything, people should be rallying up, blocking traffic, and possibly even burning things over the death of these innocent young boys as well. People should have the same attitude as they did when the police officer fatally shot Oscar Grant.

Injustice is injustice, and the community needs to hold itself accountable.

For the record, I’ve been working with gang-involved youth for the past 10 years. Some of the youth I’ve worked with have gone on to do better things, some are facing life sentences in California state prisons, and some are unfortunately no longer with us due to street violence. I have a warm place in my heart for all the youth who ever crossed my path regardless of whatever path they’ve chosen for themselves. Either way, in the case of innocent bystanders being victims of gang violence, the community needs to take a stand.

Having worked in San Jose, San Francisco and now relocated in Los Angeles doing youth non-profit work, I notice that a lot of community leaders lack the ability to hold these youth accountable. The attitude especially in the Bay Area, is a romanticized depiction of how gang members are victims of police harassment and harsh laws such as Proposition 21 that allow youth to be tried as adults as well gang enhancement charges that extend the punishment of crimes when it is alleged that the perpetrator belonged to a gang. And while I do not agree with Proposition 21 or gang enhancements, if the message we are trying to give to the greater society is that law enforcement does not have the capacity to properly nurture these youth, then ultimately the message should also include that we as a community have the capacity to nurture our own. And this means holding young people accountable.

While working with one organization in San Francisco as a case manager back in 2008, the agency I worked for would constantly clash heads with the SFPD. The building I worked out provided a recreational space for young people, and naturally, because of the services provided by the agency the center was constantly filled with gang involved youth, mostly black and brown kids from varies parts of the city. I appreciated the space in a sense that it provided a safe environment where the youth do not have be hassled by cops or be worried about rival gang members. But there was a problem. Outside of the building, in a community mostly composed of Latinos and Filipinos in the Excelsior district of San Francisco, some of our young people would rob innocent bystanders and smoke marijuana in front of neighboring businesses and homes. Fights in front of the building, and even shootings, would regularly break out. Naturally, the community reacted by constantly calling the police and thus a clash between the agencies arose.

The disconnect between the youth and the greater community is that no one held the youth accountable. I noticed how ‘youth advocacy’ sometimes looked a lot like condoning criminal behavior.

As community leaders, many of us will agree that locking up our youth with life sentences is not the answer. All of us will agree that the killers of these three young boys need to be held accountable, as an observer, I’m not sure why Oakland hasn’t responded with the same attitude as it did after the death of Oscar Grant.

About Hector Gonzalez

Hector Gonzalez is a writer, hip hop artist and proud father originally from San Jose, and now is based out of Southern California. He has been published in numerous books and publications and also has performed across the U.S as an emcee by the name of "Hegotistic".

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Participatory democracy clearly includes holding our law enforcers accountable through our right to demonstrate and question. Thank you, Hector, for your call to action, asking us to do the same and to show the same outrage and activism when anyone commits similar acts of violence and mayhem.

that was my little couzin who got killd that wasnt suposed to happen if the law enforsemt was a bit more stricteron criminals like him

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