The “Knockout Game” – Outcomes of a Tired and Dissipative Youth and Subculture

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4

Back during the George Zimmerman trial, I conjectured that if and when Zimmerman was acquitted (as I thought he would and should be based on the evidence – I know nothing of his actual guilt) that there would be widespread rioting and violence across inner cities in America. It’s not that I thought there would be riots because “black people are prone to rioting” – but rather that all the necessary elements of riots were there (high unemployment, particularly amongst young males, and a sense of hopelessness for the future) and all that was needed was a catalyst. I felt Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin would be on possible catalyst, and have thus far been thankfully wrong. (There has certainly been violence and retribution, but more in sporadic bursts, not a consistent upheaval.)

(Sidenote: Zimmerman is in the news again, this time apparently pointing a gun at his girlfriend and some other domestic violence issues. It honestly reminds me of OJ Simpson’s behavior after his acquittal. Knowing his guilt, he appeared to be subconsciously looking for a way to suffer punishment, and subsequently committed a number of crimes and did end up serving some jail time. I don’t know George Zimmerman – perhaps he’s always been this way – but his behavior is certainly reminiscent of someone who just can’t get past his inner demons. But I digress.)

While widespread riots have not materialized, I have seen a number of articles popping up over the past few weeks about the so-called “knockout game” – where a young black kid will attempt a one-punch knockout of an unsuspecting passerby, and typically have a friend take video to post on youtube after the fact. A number of the articles will make this out as a new trend, but there are quite a few countervailing voices claiming it is nothing new at all … the only thing new is that the mainstream media is finally reporting it.

It is a telling sign when the lives and well-being of others becomes of absolutely zero value in your eyes; a sign of just how far-gone things are, just how self-indulgent and disaffected you have become.

We hold to the principle that human beings thrive in adversity, that a “trial by fire” removes impurities, that “iron sharpens iron” (Prov 27:17). But we also note that adversity is more than difficulty, it is difficulty with expectation and hope. It is one thing to face hard times – inner city black kids from broken families surely have no lack of that. It is a completely different thing to face hard times when (i) you are expected to behave with a certain level of character and (ii) you have hope that if you press through there are brighter days ahead. I believe both of those ingredients are missing in today’s “knockout game” subculture.

For decades now, political leaders, community organizers, and even some preachers have told these kids (and their parents) that all of the problems in their world (of which there are many) are caused by external forces; “the system” and even “the man” is out to get them. Nothing is expected of them. Having said that, it’s not as though feedback from life has shown them something different. The criminal justice system does treat them different. The job market does treat them different. No expectation, and no hope. It is a bad combination.

I will admit that on more than one occasion I have passed by a group of youths on the sidewalk with a clinched fist, ready to duck and counter-punch if necessary. (At my age you have to be prepared for such things … reaction time isn’t great at nearly 40.) Not just passing by black kids, of course, but any group of young males – especially if they are dressed with a thuggish look. Nothing has ever happened of course, but it is in the back of my mind sometimes.

Is violence on the rise? Are the inner cities headed toward a flare up? I don’t know, but the ingredients are still there: scads of young, unemployed males without a lot of hope for the future and little realized expectation from society or themselves.

Be careful out there.

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