Editorial: More violence, more questions

  • Updated: July 17, 2008 - 10:44 AM

Valleyfair beating assaults us all.

What should have been a fun day at the park has left a Twin Cities man and his family recovering from a horrible ordeal. During the July 4th weekend, the 41-year-old was severely beaten at Valleyfair amusement park in Shakopee.

Also in recovery mode is our larger community, shaken to its soul by this assault on its sense of safety and security. If such random, senseless violence can happen at a family park, where can any of us feel safe?

Six young men and one juvenile are accused of taking turns kicking the victim in the head until he was unconscious. The group jumped him after he yelled at them for groping his 12-year-old daughter. Witnesses said some of the attackers punched others randomly as they left the park.

In the big picture, such brutal attacks are relatively rare. Still, that is small consolation to citizens who feel barraged by stories about beaten bus drivers, random shootings and people killed or injured in their homes.

The seven now charged with the vicious assault include one 14-year-old boy and men ranging in age from 18 to 22. All of the accused are African-American.

Thinking people know better, but when blacks commit violent crime, some will predictably use the incident to reinforce their racist views and indict all young black people. Witness the nasty exchanges on talk radio and online comment forums.

But race-based ranting won't solve the problem. Nor will knee-jerk, overly aggressive policing. Increased security at Valleyfair or any other public place should not result in sweeps of black youth just because they're black, or wearing baggy britches and oversized T-shirts.

Youth violence is a major issue for our society, and it transcends questions of race and class. The recent "mean girls" YouTube video demonstrated that young people of various races are savagely beating their peers and recording it for their 15 minutes of fame on the Internet.

Certainly part of the answer lies in law enforcement and the courts, which must do their parts to get the most violent off the streets and deliver swift and just punishment. We wonder, for example, why some of the accused in the Valleyfair incident weren't in jail for previous offenses.

Government and schools can also be part of the solution. At the national NAACP conference this week, presidential candidate Barack Obama repeated his call for increased funding for education, health and antipoverty efforts. And he challenged the black community itself to do more.

"Yes, we have to demand more responsibility from Washington," Obama said. "And yes, we have to demand more responsibility from Wall Street. But we also have to demand more from ourselves.'' That's a call to improve parenting and to support and expand groups like 100 African-American men, MAD DADS and Big Brothers -- organizations that help steer black youth away from violence.

We share the anger and outrage caused by bands of young thugs. No family should have to endure the loss or injury of a loved one in this way. Yet in the search for solutions care must be taken to properly punish offenders and address the root causes of violence -- without giving in to fear, ignorance and racism.

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