A 12-year-old girl was arrested for selling crack. Where's the outrage?
New Yorkers have spent much of this year displaying their fury over everything from the dismal economy to the proposed mosque and cultural center near the World Trade Center site. Some folks even took to the streets to protest against the owners of the Empire State Building for refusing to light the top of the iconic skyscraper in honor of Mother Teresa's 100th birthday. On Wednesday, August 18th, police nabbed a 12-year-old girl as she allegedly sold crack to an undercover cop just steps away from her home. There were no protests or marches. The New York Post was the only local paper that did a comprehensive article called "A New York Tragedy, age 12."
This tragedy hits way too close to home for me. My son is 12. He is obsessed with silly stuff like cartoons and video games. He hardly knows the underworld exists except what he may see on television. But I do not feel like a heroic parent. This young girl's collapse diminishes me as a mother and diminishes our society as a whole. We have all failed this 12-year-old girl.
This accused kid drug dealer lives in the very same neighborhood where I grew up -- Arverne in Queens, New York. A century ago, the Rockaways was like the Hamptons to wealthy New Yorkers who cherished the inlet's sandy shores. Today, it's a far cry from its glory years. When I was 12, I walked the very same streets as this troubled girl and played the same childhood games like double-dutch. But what happened to this young lady on a sweltering summer night is incomprehensible to me. According to the New York Post, she has family and friends who care deeply for her. She attends school like anybody else her age. But the trajectory of her life has undoubtedly changed now. She was charged with felony drug sales and is likely locked in the web of the Administration for Children's Services.
Terrie Williams, activist and author of the groundbreaking book, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting, learned that an astonishing number of troubled young people are suffering from undiagnosed depression and says many young girls are ticking time bombs. According to the National Center for Justice, "the experience of depression during adolescence is hypothesized to be a central pathway through which girls' serious antisocial behavior develops." Williams, who is also the founder of the Stay Strong Foundation, adds, "No one is born bad, mad or evil. We must work to reduce the number of young people undiagnosed and suffering from depression. We must provide new ways for the community to engage in dialogue and become educated about this insipidly silent disease. If we do not begin now to foster a generation of healed, healthier, and better people, there could be many more 12-year-old girls selling crack and worse."
So, one might ask, how much lower will the proverbial bar fall before we are moved to action? Writer Agyei Tyehimba knows a great deal about the drug culture in New York. He's the author of Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler. He spent a lot of time with former drug kingpin Azie Faison and is fully plugged into the cultivation of young dealers. He explains that there is no outrage over allegations of a 12-year-old girl dealing crack because we as a society are "desensitized." Tyehimba, who is working on his doctorate at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, says the bombardment of urban violence and the glorification of underachievement are having a devastating impact not only on young people caught up in a life of crime, but even outsiders who shrug their shoulders at such heinous acts.
But there are looming questions that cannot be readily answered. Wednesday August 18th is when the 12-year-old girl got caught. How old was this girl when she allegedly started selling drugs? 10? 8? 5? Who manipulated her into doing this and what else has happened to her? Rape, alcohol, theft -- all of that comes into play here. There are no easy answers and there are no easy questions. Should her arrest become par for the course, we are all in trouble. There are not enough jails to house a generation of kids who turn to a life of crime before they reach puberty. Soon, those of us who try to run from this expanding netherworld may one day find we have no place to turn.
A 12-year-old girl was arrested for selling crack. Where's the outrage?!