By now, the entire world has heard of the death of Endia Martin. She was the 14-year-old gunned down by a once-friend who is also 14 years old. That former friend was handed the gun by her 25-year-old uncle, Donnell Flora, who, along with her 32-year-old aunt, Vandetta Redwood, stood by to watch the carnage.
If that isn’t embarrassing enough, the gun was first bought by a 34-year-old, Robert James, who then illegally sold the gun to 43-year-old Floyd Evans, who somehow got the gun into the hands of Flora, who is disabled and took a CTA bus from his house on the Southeast Side to deliver the gun to the eventual crime scene in the 900 block of West Garfield.
If this were a two-bit comedy or a bad movie plot, folks would be complaining about the implausibility of it all. But this is real life. And the ages and mindsets of every “adult” who played a part in Endia Martin’s death ranges from stupid to absolutely moronic, including her parents, who never monitored the very Facebook pages where she can be seen throwing gang signs that the started the controversy.
The black community — and America in general — has a “Houston we got a problem” moment here. And although we can’t “legislate morality,” what we can do is “legislate behavior.” So rather than just report/comment on the problem, I want to offer my version of a solution.
I would like to see a federal law enacted mandating that on April 15, when all the adults file their income tax returns, they must check a box declaring their acknowledged adult responsibility for those individuals they have claimed as dependents. Folks are real quick to take a deduction for a child. They will use that child to claim the “unearned income tax credit” and get an even bigger tax refund. Yet the reality is that those same folks who don’t have a problem using their children to get a bigger tax refund have a problem demonstrating the parental responsibilities that go with having a dependent. So what better reminder than once a year to acknowledge that taking care of children who are dependents includes certain responsibilities. I’ll leave it to lawmakers to find the proper wording.
What if the person doesn’t have dependent children? Well, have a different box to check acknowledging that in a civil society we have a moral obligation to (fill in the blank). Thus every year, adults all over this country — and corporations as well — are reminded that their duty to this country involves more than just lip service and that their behavior will have consequences. The same should apply for getting Social Security benefits, welfare, food stamps, WIC, unemployment, etc. Every year an acknowledgement must be declared. It could be the very “wake-up call” that a lot of folks need.
Next, it is time to make jail time a learning opportunity. Adults who are arrested and charged with a crime must have a GED or high school diploma to be eligible for bail. It is not a crime to be uneducated and unable to read. It is a crime to let someone uneducated and unable to read go through a period of incarceration without that problem being addressed. If “going to jail” began to mean “going to school,” our dropout rate and the number of functional illiterates would decline as our prison population becomes some of the best educated people in town. If folks hate “going to school,” well, they’ll now hate “going to jail.”
For folks arrested who already have their GED or diploma, then have them do their genealogy chart before bail can be set. Every one of us walking this Earth are the direct result of people who came before us. Our eyes, nose, laughter, etc. were given to us by an ancestor who paid a price for us. So whether one is “God-believing” or “God-disbelieving,” we will all one day meet those ancestors.
Doing their genealogy will make an individual confront their past beyond just their limited scope of “grandmother.” Even the most stubborn of individuals who doesn’t want anybody to tell them anything can’t get away when their ancestors speak to them.
Lastly, the propensity of individuals to film a crime must be addressed. Endia’s murder was caught on tape just like Derrion Albert’s murder was filmed. We need legislation about that as well, which I will address next week.