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Los Angeles County, CA March 4, 2003 Election
Smart Voter

Kids Find Ways to Lash Out

By Madison Shockley, II

Candidate for Council Member; City of Los Angeles; District 10

This information is provided by the candidate
Los Angeles Times March 28th 2001 Commentary

'Hoods as in 'Burbs, Kids Find Ways to Lash Out

Author: MADISON SHOCKLEY; Madison Shockley is a member of the board of directors of the Southern Christian Leadership

One thing that doesn't get talked about in the rash of school shootings: Why are they happening in mostly white and suburban or rural schools? Why aren't they happening in inner-city schools?

There's no question that violence is just as pervasive, if not more so, in the 'hood as in the 'burbs. However, there is a different social matrix in the inner city.

Let's begin by calling these school shootings exactly what they are: suicides. With the exception of the two boys in Jonesboro, Ark., there was no attempt or even intent to escape. They either kill themselves (Columbine), expect to be killed or give themselves up, with life imprisonment awaiting them.

These "suicides" are accompanied by the desire to kill as many others as possible on the way out. This pattern of suicide could be called "the Samson syndrome."

At the end of the biblical story of Samson, we find him betrayed and weakened, his eyes gouged out and subjected to humiliation for the entertainment of the Philistines. As he stands between the pillars of the temple, in one final, desperate act, he pulls the pillars down, killing himself and 3,000 Philistines.

For the boys in today's school shootings, the bullies, the athletes, the homecoming queen, the BMOC--all are pillars of the school temple that they must destroy. So, in one final desperate act, they are destroying as many Philistines as they can.

But what else can we say about the children who commit these acts? Can we identify them in advance? According to psychologist Bryan Nichols, who works with the L.A. Bridges gang diversion program, in almost every case the perpetrator is a child who has suffered a significant narcissistic injury. That is, "their sense of self, already fragile due to weaknesses born of physical frailty, biological limitations and/or parental inattention, becomes annihilated by assault from an outside agency" such as the bully, a girlfriend, parent or other enemy. They then feel compelled to end their lives with the satisfaction of an inordinate and overwhelming display of power.

To get back to the mystery of why these events happen in suburban and rural schools and not (so far) in inner-city schools, we have to examine the social matrix of the inner city. The same psychological problems exist but find a different outlet there. In the inner city, some of these weak and bullied kids find protection and a degree of acceptance in a gang.

Being a member of a gang allows them to insulate themselves from the raw and seemingly relentless assaults on their ego that they would otherwise have to endure. As gang members, they are vicariously empowered by the fearful respect given to the group. Even the bullies are at bay because, in the inner city, the bullies are more typically the gang leaders.

The violence of the gang is often random, but it is not suicidal. Gang members always plan to get away. Which explains the drive-by. They may spray the front of a school or a house in a rival's territory, but they don't stay long enough for the body count to climb into the dozens. Neither have they engaged the technology of the bomb.

Another reason the Samson syndrome doesn't happen in the inner city is because children there who have the most potential for violence are in gangs, so they are easily identified. This allows the community to respond with gang diversion and prevention programs.

In the suburban-rural setting, these weak and damaged kids add isolation to their predicament. While acting in tandem at times, this arrangement does not rise to the level of a gang. They are basically loners who live on the margins of their culture, noses pressed up against the glass of the hated mainstream society. They live isolated lives, even in their own homes, where parents do not even bother to enter their rooms. But by entering their parents' rooms, many of these children find the weapons they need for their deadly acts.

Until we admit that these events, wherever they happen, are a product of our overall culture and our social condition and not unpredictable acts of sociopathic kids, they will continue to happen. These kids will walk by our sides, sit in our classrooms and live in our shadows. Then, in one final act of desperation, they will take the temple down, leaving us only with our now familiar and still pathetic refrain: "I never thought it could happen here."

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