In a recent televised wildlife documentary about a life-or-death confrontation between lions and a pack of hyenas battling for supremacy in the bush of an African game preserve, the narrator described how the advantage favored the big cats due to their strategy of killing the youngest members of the hyena clan. To mitigate the impending larger threat the hyenas would pose were they allowed to grow into maturity, becoming strong and formidable future foes of the lions, the narrator interpreted the lions’ tactic by observing: “the best way to kill a dynasty is to destroy their young.”
This lesson from nature on how to eliminate others perceived as competition, or perhaps in the case of humans, simply as undesirables, is a metaphor for what is currently happening, intentionally or not, to African American young people in Baltimore. Unfortunately, four centuries of United States history is rife with episodes of powerful elements within American society whose agenda has been to exploit, marginalize, suppress, and in some cases terminate African American ascendance through lynching, mass military conscription into war zones, mass incarceration, mass narcotization, assassinations, economic deprivation and miseducation.
A well-documented case in point is the FBI’s COINTELPRO scheme under J. Edgar Hoover from the 1950s into the ‘70s. COINTELPRO, Counter-Intelligence Program, was an espionage campaign conceived by FBI director Hoover designed to emasculate the burgeoning civil rights movement, especially the leaders and financial backers, whom he equated as dangerous subversives simply because they opposed the Jim Crow status quo.
Mr. Hoover was very clear about his motives: “it should…be a goal of the Counterintelligence Program to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them…” However, like the lions described by the narrator of the wildlife documentary who destroyed the hyena’s young so they would never mature to become a more powerful menace, J. Edgar Hoover considered the biggest threat to the nation to be young Blacks.
In an official memo detailing the goals of COINTELPRO personally dictated by Director Hoover to FBI field offices nationwide, Mr. Hoover stated: “A final goal should be to prevent the long-range GROWTH of militant black organizations, especially among youth. Specific tactics to prevent these groups from converting young people must be developed.” Despite Mr. Hoover’s death 51 years ago, there are still elements in high positions of power and authority in America who continue to share his sentiments as they relate to Black people in general and Black youth in particular.
This doesn’t mean that everyone who doesn’t subscribe to an agenda that most Black people might view as in our best interests is necessarily against us. America is a nation of diverse, competing interests. The goal of Democracy is to seek common ground and consensus wherever possible. However, there are very vocal cohorts who vehemently oppose any degree of equity for African Americans, period. It is not hyperbole to submit that there are those who would celebrate our demise.
This is why the current state-of-affairs in Baltimore City relating to juveniles and young adults, besides the obvious malpractice of the system to adequately educate them, is so devastating. Baltimore City Public Schools is an unwitting enabler of the school-to-prison-pipeline by miseducating tens of thousands of students per year that statistics clearly demonstrate will mostly become ensnared in the criminal justice system or otherwise lives of poverty and subsistence.
According to operating budgets adopted by the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners for the public school system covering eight fiscal years, 2015 through 2022, the citizens of Baltimore have gotten a worthless return-on-investment for the nearly $10.5 billion spent, when currently only 7% and 16%, respectively, of BCPS students are proficient in math and reading.
Is the failure with the students or the educators? The ramification of this abysmal educational performance is clear. Untold thousands of education-deprived Baltimore students who passed through city public schools in recent years when ten billion dollars was being spent on their educations are continuing to feed the mass incarceration beast. Another generation is repeating the cycle. The cause and effect of Baltimore City’s crime and violence epidemic is viscerally apparent.
If Baltimore’s youth is its future, youth who are grossly impoverished, traumatized and undereducated, then what is the outlook for Baltimore City’s future. Are leadership at City Hall and North Avenue consuming this disturbing trending data?
According to published reports it is costing less than $20,000 annually to educate a Baltimore youth and more than $200,000 a year to incarcerate one at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center (nearly doubling to $400,000 per bed at a State of Maryland-sponsored facility) based on a 2021 study by former president Barack Obama’s foundation, My Brother’s Keeper.
The best way to kill a dynasty is to destroy their young.