FAGAN: What City Leaders Refuse To Admit About Out Of Control Violence In New Orleans

No, it is not gun violence making New Orleans one of the most dangerous places on the planet to live. Guns play a role but they certainly are not the cause. Of course, why not blame an inanimate object? That way it’s no one’s fault.

And no, New Orleans does not have a gun violence problem. It has a gang violence problem.

And no, the gang violence problem is not caused because government isn’t allocating enough resources to poorer neighborhoods.

And no, the gang violence problem is not caused by a racist “white privilege” society keeping the black man down.

If you read the story published Friday in the failing Times Picayune you would think gang violence is caused by a city more interested in tourism than the safety of its citizens.

The story, headlined “Why Can’t We Get This Right? Solving New Orleans Culture Of Violence,” interviewed Willie Muhammad, with Peacekeepers, a volunteer organization that specializes in conflict mediation.

“We’re finding people lack the necessary skills that help them resolve simple misunderstandings,”  Muhammad said.

Credit Mr. Muhammad with getting involved and working with young people in some of the city’s most violent neighborhoods, but teaching a gang member who has a Glock stuffed in his back pocket conflict resolution skills seems a bit foolish. Violence is all these kids have ever known.

The Nola.com story also talked with Lisa Fitzpatrick, founder of the Apex Youth Center in Central City. Fitzpatrick said,“Their work points to an emotional undercurrent among young people, a feeling that their lives don’t matter, that they have no futures, and that they live in a city that prioritizes its visitors over its residents.”

Again, credit Fitzpatrick for getting involved but to say violent neighborhoods in New Orleans are caused by a focus on visitors instead of poor neighborhoods also seems a bit misguided.

This past weekend Mayor Mitch Landrieu weighed in on the cost of controlling violence saying, “We’re going to have to change who we are, how we are, and how we act.”

Mr. Landrieu went on to say,  “There are deep underlying problems that have produced this level of violence in the city of New Orleans since the beginning of our time until today.”

It is true New Orleans was a violent city long before Mr. Landrieu came along but there is also no disputing his hiring freeze of police when first elected has intensified the gang violence.

But the mayor correctly admitted there was a deep underlying problem causing the gang violence. He just didn’t have the courage to say what it is. In fact no one seems to want to address the elephant in the room when it comes to gang violence in New Orleans.

It is this: Fathers refusing to be fathers.

Consider for a minute what it is like to be born and raised in a violent neighborhood where drug dealers reign as kings. Think about that 12, 13, 14-year old kid who has never known a dad. He’s never seen a man be a man. A man treating his mother with respect, paying his bills, going to work and building a life with his family. In fact the only men our young teen knows are his running buddies or powerful drug dealers.

If we are ever to solve the systemic, long-term, never-ending gang violence problem in New Orleans it will have to start with a shift in the black culture with its men.

Currently almost two-thirds of black babies are born without a dad living in the home. Kids without dads are seven times more likely to live in poverty than are children in intact married families. Nearly two-thirds of all poor children live in single-parent families.

By the way this also applies to white kids born out of wedlock. In fact black kids raised by married couples are almost as unlikely to be poor as whites raised in the same manner.  It’s not about race. it’s about dads being dads.

Why is it our leaders refuse to speak out on the dereliction of dads being the root cause of gang violence in our cities? I guess it’s easier to blame guns or a lack of your tax dollars.

Bottom line is until dads start acting like dads New Orleans will have a gang violence problem. It’s time our city leaders have the courage to say so.

Dan Fagan is a former television news reporter, journalism professor, newspaper columnist, and radio talk show host. He grew up in New Orleans and currently lives there. He is a regular contributor for The Hayride. If you have a news tip for Mr. Fagan you can reach him at [email protected] or 504-458-2542.

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