Commentary: Tyranny of crime in minority communities

Crime is the modern tyrant in poorer minority communities. It routinely deprives citizens of life, liberty and due process. It destroys their economic and educational opportunities. It controls too many streets and leaves fatherless families, run-down neighborhoods and abject poverty in its wide, rippling wake.

At its tipping point, crime is poison to any community, regardless of race. Once the criminals take over in an area, quality of life is over. Schools are over. Jobs are over. Property values, prosperity and progress are all over.

One of the unifying goals we should be able to come together on is ridding Black society of the scourge of crime and violence, and replacing it with a renewed emphasis - in the spirit of Booker T. Washington - on grass-roots economics.

Distractions are plentiful, however, and focusing on skin color blinds us to character development innovations. Rather than removing Aunt Jemima from a syrup label, which will have zero effect on the crushing crime in cities across the country, Quaker Oats could redirect those repackaging costs into a national Nancy Green education fund for elementary children. Green, born into slavery, was the original model for the 130-year-old brand. Why not turn her famous visage into the face of an urban mentoring program for Black children of single moms?

That's one area public education simply has not evolved to address. Modern schools were conceived more than a century ago, based on the norms of that time which included nuclear families with strong father figures and stay-at-home moms who spent time preparing their children for kindergarten or first grade.

In many metro school districts, families are headed by single women, and male role models are notoriously scarce. Amid this sea change of social structure, the primary education model has been modified only slightly.

The biggest city schools still follow the old agrarian calendar, for heaven's sake, which allowed summer months off for rural children to work on their family farms. If most children in some urban areas are arriving at first grade without ever having had a father in their home, talking to and guiding them, maybe a male mentoring class should become part of their district's curricula. Maybe police officers are always well-represented in early mentoring programs to foster productive, trusting relationships.

Pepsico, which owns Quaker Oats, has proudly touted its "Journey to Racial Equality," published in 11 points under three categories couched in a lengthy letter from its CEO, followed with a by-the-numbers breakdown. It's an impressive tribute to diversity initiatives, and it ends with the standard echo of "standing with" the Black Lives Matter movement.

In all that, crime isn't mentioned once. Neither are fatherless families or single motherhood. Or awful inner-city schools. Other large corporations have similar initiatives, with the same glaring omissions.

Hiring more Blacks in management is laudable, but the only segment of the Black community that aids are those with college degrees (fewer than one in five) and qualifying resumes (even fewer).

And while $80 million a year sounds like a lot, it's pocket change for Pepsico ($67 billion in annual revenue). The equivalent cost for a household with $50,000 income would be a $5 per month contribution.

Symptomatic treatment doesn't cure the root cause. For any population segment of any racial composition incurring high levels of violent crime and four out of five children born to unwed mothers, their lives will suffer at a disproportionate rate to the American standard.

Right now, and for too long, that situation has troubled too many Black communities. The daily threats to the lives and livelihoods of poor, law-abiding Blacks in America's more desolate neighborhoods are almost never interracial. The local criminals preying on them couldn't care less about corporate diversity initiatives, or toothless changes in the penal code, or better-funded social programs.

It'd be nice to see Pepsico and other big-spending corporations commit to lavishly underwriting the crime victims' fund, which currently tops out around $25,000 on average (a pittance against wrecked lives and the staggering waste and cost of crime).

Or extravagantly financing school choice for trapped families held down by uncompromising politicized interest groups. Few things have the power to positively alter the trajectory of a life more than exceptional learning experiences in the early grades.

What everyone recognizes is that a moment is at hand. But given even a few inches, the political powers-that-be will hijack the opportunity for real racial progress and push toward miles of detours that sound good but don't move any needles in the lives of people in need.

Instead we should collectively demand another emancipation event: to free Blacks from the tyranny of cyclical crime and social strife.

Old policies that haven't produced results, or that produced unintended negative outcomes, need chunking. Transformative actions require uncomfortable new thinking about how to make serving and protecting the rights of lawful citizens living in the most lawless areas a public priority for all.

That'll take more law enforcement, not less. It'll upset the education establishment's apple cart. It'll threaten entrenched so-called "civil rights" agendas that count everything by political gain only.

But it'll be worth it.

Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro, Arkansas.