Statement of NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous On the Murder of Derrion Albert

The cold-blooded murder of Chicago high school student Derrion Albert by a mob of youngsters has shocked the nation.

Like many Americans, I felt horror watching the video of this 16-year-old’s killing. Today, I feel angry. I am horrified at the nature of this crime. I am infuriated that so many witnesses watched this murder without interveningI am outraged that some perpetrators remain at large, protected by individuals in the community that will not fully cooperate with the policeI am disgusted that today—less than a week after the killing—children must continue to walk to the same fearful path home from school, risking their lives to gain an education. 

The NAACP was founded one hundred years ago to put an end to white mobs that chased down and killed blacks, Catholics, Jews, Chinese, Mexicans and others in the streets. Our level of outrage does not change when the color of the mob does. We insist that the witnesses to this heinous crime come forward, that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

This brutal cycle will not end until we arrest and punish the murderers who prey on the innocent among us. In too many of our neighborhoods, killers run free, without fear, enabled both by witnesses and police whose tolerance for growing level of unsolved homicides is bone chilling. 

Chicago has the highest youth homicide rate in the nation, and Derrion Albert was the third teenager killed there in the month of September alone.

There are small things we can do to create a bridge to safety for others like Derrion. His life might have been saved had a proposal been funded to bus young people to school through hostile gang territory. 

However, as someone who has lost a cousin to street violence, I have pondered this dilemma deeply. I know that anyone who is serious about stopping this cycle of violence and murder must ultimately commit to ending the decades of hopelessness and broken families that chronic unemployment, joblessness, sky-high HIV rates, over-incarceration of nonviolent offenders, and growing levels of unsolved homicides have created. 

After 40 years of almost continuous recession in the black community, and degrading conditions throughout many others, we need solutions. Black teen unemployment in America is 36 percent and climbing--and those are just the kids who are looking for jobs. In many Chicago neighborhoods and urban areas across the country that number is far higher, and the total percentage of jobless teens is higher still. We must face up to the implications of the fact that the gangs always have a job for our children, even when society does not.

Tomorrow, I will attend the silent wake for Derrion Albert before driving 90 miles to a rally in Rockford on behalf of the family of Mark Barmore. Mr. Barmore, who was unarmed, was shot to death by police in front of children in the daycare center of his church while seeking counseling. The police were responding to a domestic disturbance call at Mr. Barmore's house. His family has now been intimidated and had a swastika carved into their car apparently because they spoke out.

If Chicago and Rockford have something in common, it is the soul-crushing lack of hope among so many of their working poor, their unemployed, and their jobless. 

Derrion’s death must be a call to action for our country. We cannot remain silent while our young people fall victim to these senseless acts of violence. We must take responsibility for our youth by teaching our children to resist the corrosive diseases of nihilism and violence. We must have the courage to step forward, as our forefathers and foremothers did, to ensure all our children can grow up in safe communities. We must promote policies that both protect our children in the short-term and solve the permanent recession in our communities soon. We must insist that our politicians make job creation their highest priority, and our police make solving homicides job one.

I am tired of burying our young. It's time to stop the funerals.

 

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