When I was growing up, 12 was a special age to be. It represented the gateway to becoming a teenager with all the joy and mysteries that those years would bring. Lately in the news, 12 seems to be the victim’s age or the perpetrator’s age. And that is very disconcerting.

Two stories that were in the news recently really stood out because both victims were 12. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Andre Smith II was in child protective services and living with his grandmother. His grandfather, who had been previously incarcerated for beating and killing someone else, is alleged to have beaten his own grandson to death over claims of stolen money.

Then just a couple of days ago, Fallon Harris is alleged to have shot her son, Kaden Ingram, twice in the head over a memory card she took out of her own car.

Both of these cases highlight the absolute need for mental health services in the Black community. It also highlights that people need to be encouraged, and possibly mandated, to seek mental health treatment. No one can come out of prison and revert back to normal life without a struggle. Hell, it’s hard on those of us who haven’t been to jail. And Fallon Harris’ ex-husband says they were worried about her mental health in recent days. As a community and as a society, we do disservice to these children by not having the protections in place that could possibly have saved their lives.

On the flip side of the spectrum, we have a lot of 12-year-olds out here committing crimes. Carjacking is the crime of choice. We need a federal overhaul of the entire Juvenile Justice system. When 12-year-olds are given guns to kill people, we need the sort of intervention that will either take them off the streets for the rest of their lives or truly rehabilitate them if possible. And the solutions should not take “by any means necessary” solutions off the table. There also needs to be parental accountability put in place. If there are no real penalties, how will the behaviors ever change? Those same parents cannot continue to get, for example, unearned income tax credits for children whom they obviously are not raising. 

There are no easy answers to the downfall our society is currently experiencing. We’ve come up with every excuse to not hold them accountable. But the one group of people who should be doing the most, and the ones who should be coming up with the answers, are our politicians. Seeing that COVID has limited their meeting in person, technology exists so they can meet via services like Zoom to work on serious solutions. However, at the local, county, state and federal levels, we’re not hearing or seeing anything. 

Pay attention, voters; when election time comes, these same folks will be asking us to return them to office, but they haven’t done anything to fix the problems that are devastating our society.