Monday, July 14, 2008

The Herald tackles violence in the 'hood...and fails

The Herald's loving portrayal of a recent candlelight vigil for murdered brothers who were drug dealers and thugs.
This past Sunday the Herald ran a package of stories written by Andrea Robinson titled “Violence Claiming Young Blacks.”

The stories attempted to address the epidemic of violence that afflicts some of Miami’s most downtrodden neighborhoods.

So far this year - according to one story - 50 young blacks have died violently in Miami-Dade County.

At least two of them were drug dealers and thugs.

But most were young men and women and children trying to make it and survive just one more day in a place where the odds are unfairly stacked against them and a short walk to the grocery store can be your last.

The Herald  has done plenty stories like this in the past.

I don’t have a problem with the Herald tackling this subject. Make no mistake about it; there’s a crisis of epic proportions taking place in Overtown, Brownsville and Miami Gardens.

What I have a problem with, is the way the Herald does these stories.

What the Herald offered up this weekend was something they’ve done so many times in the past; a series of maudlin stories that wallow in grief, but in the end, offer no solutions.

The editors at the Herald have a formula and they pretty much stick to it every time they do these kinds of stories.
It goes something like this:

1) Find some victims who've experienced some kind of loss. (If they’re poor and disadvantaged that's even better)

2) Write some stories using lots of words like “victim,” “pain,” “grief,” “coping,” “support groups” and on and on and on.

3) Send a photographer to get lots of pictures of people hugging and crying. For more dramatic pictures, have the photographer pose some of victims in their living room bathed in the light coming in from a single window. A pose that works really well is to pose a couple who have lost a child - embracing - with the wife resting her head on the husband’s shoulder as they hold a large picture of the son or daughter they’ve lost. If you get them with tears rolling down their faces, score bonus points.

4) Have the photographer also attend any candlelight vigils where friends show up with hand painted posters and teddy bears.

5) Devote at least three pages in the paper to the stories and pictures. Make sure that when you post the stories on the website, that you also run the pictures in a slide show with a sappy soundtrack - a sad piano solo works best.
Teddy bears left for murdered brothers who the Herald says were drug dealers.

One of this weekend’s stories - “Bound in grief as violence continues,” - talks about the parents of some of the slain teens organizing support groups and attending anti-violence rallies and vigils. All that’s fine I guess.

But no where in any of the stories does the writer mention the real causes of violence in these neighborhoods or offer solutions to combat the violence.

With a little digging she would have learned that the thugs and bullies who are perpetrating this violence are, in many cases known by lots of people in the neighborhoods where they operate openly. The reason they operate openly is because no one has challenged them. Any 10 year-old in Overtown or Liberty City can tell you who to see if you want some dope.

And anyone can call 911 when someone gets shot in their front yard.

But it takes a bit more initiative to drop a dime on some of these thugs before they shoot someone.

The prevailing attitude in many disadvantaged neighborhoods is that if you call the police you’re a “snitch” or a “rat.” That has to change if any real inroads are to made against the criminals who rule these neighborhoods. Robinson never mentions that.

Robinson also failed to address many other problems such as a lack of real leadership in Miami’s African-American community.

In December of last year, in a tiny Northeast Miami Dade neighborhood that's no bigger than 2 or 3 square blocks and where multi-million dollar homes are the norm, two men showed up at a home armed with an assault weapon.
They never got inside the house but the whole thing was caught on tape.

Within a week, the president of the homeowners association (who just happens to be a wealthy Brickell Avenue attorney) had fired off a letter to his county commissioner and not long after that a Metro Dade Police mobile command post was parked in the neighborhood 24/7.

Keep in mind no one was killed and police were even reluctant to call it an attempted home invasion because they never found the men. I wrote about the incident for Biscayne Times.

It seems to me that the violence and killings in some of the less well-to-do neighborhoods in Miami-Dade is serious enough to warrant the police deploying a mobile command post. These neighborhoods are under siege! If the killing keeps up at the current rate, we will have over 100 young people dead by Christmas.

Just imagine if these killings were taking place in some of the more affluent parts of Coral Gables, Pinecrest or Miami Beach. Picture gangs of drug dealers doing drive-by shootings in broad daylight in neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and $2 million homes. Care to guess what the police response would be?

But they’re not. They’re happening in neighborhoods where the people have no power, no money and no leadership.

And how does the Herald address the problem? They just keep showing up and writing pretty words and taking lots of pictures of teddy bears and candlelight vigils.

A mountain of teddy bears and a thousand candles won’t stop the bullets in Liberty City.

Leadership and real solutions will. Too bad the Herald offered neither this weekend.


  1. "A mountain of teddy bears and a thousand candles won’t stop the bullets in Liberty City."

    Excellent post.


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