Residents of Shelby County apparently either want half-a-dozen school districts or one ("Man of the Moment," June 28th issue). But the real issue is that no one, black or white, wants to face reality: There are 20,000-plus gang members in the county. Most of these are young black males. There are no stats on how many of those young men come from a home where there is no father present.
The latest well-publicized black-on-black crime was a savage gang beating that was videotaped. The victim is 16, and the young savages who beat him are 17. We do not know if the two gang members have fathers in the home. We do know the victim does not — yet he is a father of a 6-month-old child. Are we getting the picture yet?
Children having children in single-parent homes, with no means of support, now or in the future, is a path to the continued destruction of our children and our county, no matter what we decide to do about our schools.
We like to blame anyone involved in our school system, from the bus drivers to the school board, for the failures we read about every day. No one seems to have the guts to ask why so many young girls are having babies. No one asks why they have any number of children by different men. How many gang members that are in our schools come from a single-parent home?
The truth is, it's in the black community where the largest part of the problem exists. It's where most of the 20,000-plus gang members are. It's where most of the teens and pre-teens having babies are. African-American leaders and churches are failing to say "enough is enough." Yes, I am an old white guy, but I refuse to take the blame for the failure of too many "missing in action" black leaders. If these problems are fixed, many of our divisive school issues will go away.
I'm glad to see John Branston has "come to Jesus" on the Harahan Bridge project (City Beat, June 28th issue). It was just a few weeks back, I believe, when he predicted in his column that the project would never happen. In fact, I think he "guaranteed" it.
I, for one, am glad Branston writes better than he prognosticates, and I enjoyed his latest take on the project, especially now that it's funded and about to become reality. Maybe we should rename it the "Bridge to Broadway."
John Branston replies: I have not come to Jesus in any sense. And what I said in my March 21st column was "A $30 million bicycle and pedestrian path from Main Street Mall over the Harahan Bridge to Broadway in West Memphis is not going to happen anytime soon." The hoped-for completion is some time in 2014. I stand by my statement.
Hold that thought
I agree with Bruce VanWyngarden's Letter From the Editor column (June 28th issue). Public criticism, nationally and locally, is getting more hostile and uncivil and, often, just plain crazy.
The criticism from commenters, for example, of the great new Harahan Bridge project is the bridge will become a center for criminal activity brought on by our increasing hot weather, or something like that.
Similarly, I think a lot of the criticism of the Bass Pro project in the Pyramid stems from an ignorance of what the project will be. Readers and commenters make fun of the project, while obviously not understanding (or not caring) what the project will actually look like and do for downtown. I believe that this criticism will transform to open approval once the projects are actually realized. I have a friend who used to criticize everything the city did until he started riding his bike with friends on the Shelby Farms Greenline last year. Now you would think he is with the chamber of commerce.
I remember when the bluff walk was in the process of being built downtown, years ago. Some critics were so against the project that they chained themselves to trees in the path of the proposed walkway to prevent its construction, having to be removed by police. Yet most of these same protesters became huge supporters of the bluff walk once it was open.
Those criticizing things via the internet feel comfortable and smug in their anonymity. They feel free to say any nasty thing about anything or anyone as long as no one knows who they really are. At least when I send in a comment, critical or otherwise, readers know who is saying it.
Which leads me to put on my Dr. Phil face and say what has to be said: It's time for Memphis and Shelby County to start seeing other people. We've tried for years to patch things up, to come to some sort of mutual understanding, but we need to admit that we have irreconcilable differences. We don't even know each other any more ...