On Shattered Dreams

“Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings.” ~ Robert Kennedy

Searching for a bit of inspiration on Saturday night, I popped in the film “Bobby,” the film that tells a story about the day of the day the senator was killed.

I’ve seen it a few times, so I didn’t really pay attention to all of it. But my ears perked up when it got to the end of the film, when the senator is shot. It’s in that moment that the film then tracks fragments of the remarks Kennedy gave the day after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed (“On The Mindless Menace of Violence”).

That’s where the above quote comes from and obviously leads into what is on the minds of many today. I watched the video clip that shows the murder of Derrion Albert late last night. I read plenty during the last 24 hours as the young man’s name has made national news because of the video and because of the promising life he led that met an unfortunate end. I haven’t quite been able to get it off of my head.

Of course, I wondered if the story would be as prominent as it has become had the video not surfaced. Two other Chicago teens have been killed this month and seven others shot and a similar tale played out in Kansas City earlier this month as a 22-year-old youth pastor was gunned down after accidentally cutting pff another driver. National headlines haven’t followed those recent events, though there have been several other incidents of national prominence in recent years and little seems to have changed for the better.

I thought about the young men who’ve been charged with Albert’s murder, and how their lives are now forever altered, now void of direction and much hope. I’ve wondered about the different things their parents have said in regards to the incident, one even going so far as to say that she doesn’t believe her son did such a thing, and wonder what roles those parents have played in their sons’ lives.

But more than anything, I’ve been wondering what must go through a person’s mind to carry out such senseless behavior, what purpose is there and what good one could possibly see coming from such an incident. If you watch the video, and I don’t recommend it, there’s a point where you can tell that everyone realizes that they’ve done something terribly wrong. And you just wonder, what they’re thinking in the moments leading upto the incident.

All this and I keep coming back to these words by RFK, words I hadn’t paid much attention to previously, but a set of thoughts that resonate 40-plus years after the fact. If you haven’t read them, I encourage you to do so (“On The Mindless Menace of Violence”). I wish these words would permeate the minds of our young people in a manner that would force them to think before they choose to act so recklessly. And maybe, just maybe there would be fewer stories like this.

But I don’t know. All I know is that I have no concrete answers. Just questions and a desire to not have to hear about  stories of shattered dreams, like this one, littering the news.

Rest in peace, Derrion Albert.

“We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force.” ~ RFK


17 responses to “On Shattered Dreams

  1. That video is one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen in a long time. I couldn’t do anything but cry after watching it. My younger cousin had his life stolen from him in the same manner a few years ago. Beaten to death by a group of older boys, he was 16 years old and just trying to make it through high-school. He wasn’t involved with gangs or drugs, so what do you say to kids like him and Derrion that are trying to live right and better themselves when they have to be afraid for their lives every single day?

    I don’t know, I don’t have anything close to a solution as to how to stop us from killing us. If I had an idea then I’d do everything in my power to make it a reality but right now I’m lost.

  2. There was a deafening eeriness after the teens realized the severity of the situation. It almost made me cry as I watched and listened to them all of a sudden get scared of the feeling that death was surrounding them. It was such a senseless situation but hopefully will be a wake up call to these stupid idiot wanna be thugs that a life is a delicate and precious thing. Unfortunately for the ones already too far in the game, they won’t give a damn and the cycle will continue…smh…

  3. Terrible. I’ve read about this. Don’t think I’ll look for the video.

    RFK’s speech is very poignant. Moving. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears then and we’ve lost more of our sense of hearing since then.

  4. This problem is only coming to a head now as it was always an issue. How do you teach young disenfranchised black boys the value of human life when dont even value their own lives.

    Taking the life of another becomes much easier when you think you’re going to die. There are studies that show how black boys feel that they will die young. I felt that way and I wasnt into drugs or gangs.

    • Do you know why you felt that way?

      • I really that know b/c there are so many conflicting thoughts. How can you have an air of entitlement yet feel you’re going to die early? The sh!t is bananas. And its been going way back to my pop’s age. He wrote his will at 24!!

        • @peyso:

          I’m just curious to understand it better… where it comes from.

          I can pull the sense of entitlement and chauvinistic bit as a cover for the fear that’s really there. But… where does that fear come from? Why is it embedded there for so many.

          That’s what I’m trying to understand…

    • @peyso

      Interesting, my fiance said he felt the same way as a teenager and had no definite reason as to why he felt that way. He thought about suicide and had other morbid images and didn’t see himself living past 23. He tells me now that he doesn’t know why he felt that way at all…

    • i believe this feeling shared by most young black men is a spiritual thing, and if it takes root and festers, the outcome can be very unpredictable yet still the same: death.
      my homeboy was confessing how in his case, black boys are discarded in a sort. from when they are young they are rarely encouraged/positively supported outside their nuclear family (if it even happens there). then you have the constant images of what they have a strong possibility of becoming, it’s a fear of sorts. one can only think to the level they are exposed to.

  5. Pittsburgh’s G-20 story: Take an expressway from town and disappear into desolate ‘hoods and encounter the civilization of menace. Pittsburgh, a dual city! The glass wonder of PPG Place and/or the G-20 Summit is a faded memory. Here in the ‘hood lives lie abandoned as far as the eye can see.

    That is: For the most part, African-American Pittsburgh seems to be invisible, not only to the public relations hucksters who tout Pittsburgh’s successes, but we are equally invisible to the protesters.

    Certainly, black Pittsburgh is as proud as anybody in that the black President we worked so hard to elect has selected Pittsburgh as the host of the G-20 Summit. We even enjoy the re-invention of Pittsburgh from a dirty, smoky steel-churning history to the bright, clean, green financial success that the business leaders and politicians boast about so loudly. Nobody is more proud of the Super Bowl winning African-American coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin. But none of that feel-good stuff erases the pain of the stubbornly high unemployment among African American young adults and the staggering dropout rate for young black males from the public school system.

  6. Hey, y’all.

    @Damon: Good post & great quotes. Bobby is a good film. I like the Aretha Franklin & MJB song at the end too.

    My prayers & thoughts are with Derrion’s family. The video is highly disturbing and upsetting. It is awful and senseless and unfortunately, will most likely be forgotten in a couple of weeks. What I found even more disturbing is how some of the media outlets could only harp on how this story making the national circuit will do nothing to help the Obamas & Oprah win the bid to bring the Olympics to Chicago in 2016…what? Seriously? In the midst, of reporting this story the reporters found it necessary to offer their own commentary about something that has no bearing on this case? Maybe it was just me and I was extra sensitive at that moment, but I thought it was in poor taste to mention the Olympics bid at that precise moment…as a tie in to the Derrion Albert story.

    • It’s desensitization, unfortunately, because it’s so common in the areas like that… i don’t think too many consider that a life was lost senselessly … and they want to find perspective in a broader sense that has little to do with what actually happened. idk…

  7. I want to muster some sympathy for Derrion’s attackers. I want to feel bad for their plight as young black males in America, but right now I can’t. That may make me insensitive, but for right now I can deal with that.

    Here was Derrion Albert, just trying to go home; on a larger scale, just trying to succeed and this is what happens to him. They probably didn’t kill him because he was an honor roll student and despite early reports, I doubt they were upset because he didn’t want to join a gang. In fact, he was probably just another guy in the wrong place at the wrong time as far as they were concerned.

    But how do you look a teen in the face and ask them to excel when excelling seemingly gets you nothing? We can point to President Obama and First Lady Obama all we want, and they are great models to point to, but teens need here, now, today… and what are we to give them?

    It’s probably because I’m not a black male in America…

    I’m sorta all over the place with this mentally. I just finished writing a personal statement for my grad school apps on why I have a passion for working with teens and I highlighted the awareness I have of how difficult working with teens can be, but that I was ready for the challenge. I’m ready, but really, I’m concerned that with today’s happenings I have nothint o offer them.

    • see A.Smith, the “wrong place, wrong time” argument leaves me perplexed because derrion was at school!! he’s a teenager leaving school on his way home, so how is that wrong? what is wrong is the other children feeling the need to bring such anger to a school yard. it’s madness. we’re being robbed of our future leaders, and we’re doing it to ourselves. every time i hear someone say a father is not needed to raise a man i think of the victims and culprits whose lives are not forever changed.

      • @nn:
        You’re absolutely right. There was nothing wrong about what he was doing or where he was going. That only exacerbates the concern, here. If you can’t freaking go to school, then what the hell can you do? Oh, I know. Stand on a corner and trap, or beat innocent kids with 2x4s… that’s what you do.

        “Every time i hear someone say a father is not needed to raise a man i think of the victims and culprits whose lives are now forever changed.”

        You touched my spirit with that one. I just did a blog post on how I think people who choose to have a child alone are selfish individuals. Kids need fathers, they need THEIR fathers. All kids, all fathers. Period.

        ‘Scuse my shameless plug…

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