Schoolyard shooting in Hartford CT

Last week, an elementary school in Hartford CT was locked down after Hispanic youths fired on African-American students who tried to take refuge at the school.

IOnHartford, who clearly knows the history, details the years of purposeful neglect, the rise of street gangs, and the poverty that led to this. Their post is titled The roots of a breakdown…

Now let’s tale a look at what happened at Burns School. Violence at Hartford High runs like clockwork. Northenders goto the 3rd floor (where the International students [Latinos] take class) and get beatdown. Southenders, in turn are the victims when they goto the cafeteria. The cafeteria ends up reflecting this tension with both sides, both colors, both oppressed peoples seperating themselves. All the while, the adults who otherwise might be interacting with the youth on a positive scale are made to act like sentries at Attica waiting for the next race riot.

So, before we all go buckwild over whether a principal should or should not let some kids who are running from bullets into safety, or is it the mayor’s fault, or the parent’s fault…stop for a second. Realize that this type of atmopsphere does not happen overnight. We have all contributed to deteriorating conditions in this city.

Hartford has always had severe poverty with the inevitable accompanying violence while surrounding areas can be quite prosperous and placid. During the 60’s-70’s, as I recall, Hartford had a riot / rebellion every summer for over ten years, more than any other city. As IONHartford points out in their post, in the mid-90’s, Hartford had the highest teen pregnancy and per capita murder rates in the country. Yes, Hartford.

Part of this, it occurs to me, is structural. Connecticut is based on townships. While there are counties, they are geographical only with no staff or governing power. Thus, there is little region-wide mobilizing to address problems, whereas in California, for example, counties have serious power, money, and ability to get stuff done. But in Connecticut, you have well-off townships around Hartford that have been sucking the economic base out of Hartford for decades, leaving that city in permanent slow economic collapse. If an insurance company moves from Hartford to next-door Bloomfield (and MetLife doing just that, just one more in a long exodus, this one will cost Hartford another 2,000 jobs) then all the tax revenues go to Bloomfield and not a dime to Hartford. So this, among other things, means less money for Hartford to fund schools, prevention programs, health care, etc.

The Hartford Courant quotes officials saying this shooting isn’t a race war, and really, no one said it was. But the street gangs are generally African-American or Hispanic, so race inescapably becomes part of it, and it’s just PR spin to say it isn’t.

But the real causes are poverty, institutionalized racism and neglect towards both groups, and few opportunities. That doesn’t excuse driving around shooting at people. However if the parents of those involved had good jobs, reasonably priced housing, and the schools were well-funded, well, there would be a lot less such mindless violence.

What can we do? I don’t know…sorry if you were expecting such answers from someone who pours coffee for a living. Maybe that should change too.

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