Friday, October 30, 2009

Dance in the Dark


I suppose it's just a matter of time until something or someone you know well shows up on tabloid TV.  Given so many cable news (?) outlets,  so many versions of "talk" shows, and so many TV personality types looking for something to talk about daily, something close to home will show up eventually.  
So it was with the upsetting news that a 15-year old girl was gang raped outside a dance on the Richmond H.S. campus.  Shocking, no.  Sadly, this event could have happened in a multitude of places. The pathological mentality and group behavior needed are on display in every socioeconomic level.   Having worked, and at one time, lived in this community, I've seen firsthand the conditions that comprise the Richmond area known as The Iron Triangle.  A tough neighborhood is way too lenient.  It's depravity at it's worst.  This is a poor, ill-served, physically deteriorating, extremely violent and therefore dangerous place.  BUT, as such, it is also home to far more hard-working and decent people.  I have known many over the years I spent teaching in a near-by community.  Many of the students I had lived in this area but merely reported a relative's address in order to attend another school in a safer community.  I once opened the school year at Richmond High School.  Back in the 70s it was new, having been rebuilt, and had many qualities of a beautiful campus.  The years have not been kind to Richmond High.
Still, Richmond High School struggled to provide for its students.  Like all poor public schools, programs were constantly cut, turnover in faculty and staff was always high, anyone who could afford to go elsewhere had either left the school or community, usually both, and every year, despite the obstacles, attempts to provide everything from athletic events and dances, drama, and college counseling continue.
CNN couldn't decide precisely what to cover first.  The sensation of the gang rape, a two hour event which drew a crowd but no callers to 911, or the lack of security provided by the school and district.  Certainly, all factors help to create such a disturbing situation.  But what helps explain the group behavior that lacks empathy to continually victimize a vulnerable young woman?  What's behind the victim's willingness to drink half a bottle of brandy with a "friend" so quickly?  What explains the fear of being a snitch, the desire to video or snap pictures of such an event with  cell phone rather than make a call for help.  Is this desensitization?  Uber peer-pressure? Lack of moral emotions?  Lack of empathy?  Why are young sociopaths so easy to produce?
How does this happen? For surely it has.
I've seen the origins of this kind of behavior first hand.  I recall a time when I once caught some kids breaking into a soda machine. (that's another equally as interesting story) Before I could make my way toward them, another swarm  of kids surrounded me like the secret service in action.  I was lucky, merely screened out, while the culprits escaped.  Of course, nobody saw anything or knew anyone.  That experience is nothing compared to an individual being repeatedly assaulted, but I'll never forget how quickly and completely anyone intending to interfere in the ongoing crime was taken out of the picture.  I'll never forget how helpless I became at the mercy of the group.  This latest outrage is the stuff of predators in a predatory environment.  
I'm still sorting it out; waiting for all the details, arrests, eyewitness accounts to come in.  Of course, it'll soon pass, and soon emerge again in another place, in another form.  But I'm not done here.  
I know something's happening, but not sure what it is...Mr. and Ms. Jones

1 comment:

Jill E. Thomas said...

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