Jewish World Review Oct. 9, 2002 / 3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Tresa McBee

Tresa McBee
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Consumer Reports

Little monsters | Here are some of the answers.

One boy's father says kids are just kids. A mother of three of the boys doesn't believe they did anything. A sister of two suspects blamed the brain-dead, now all-the-way dead victim.

Truancy rules.

Like I said, just some of the answers. A story like this, and you start to think there's no point in even looking. Which is part of the problem.

So far, almost a dozen 10- to 18-year-old males in Milwaukee have been or will be charged for beating Charlie Young Jr. to death with whatever was handy. A mop, a shovel, a tree limb. Bats, folding chairs, a rake. About 50 to 60 times.

Young was unconscious during much of it. At the end, every inch was covered in blood, and his left ear dangled. Two days later, life support was ended.

Young was big. Six foot, 2 inches and 200 pounds. But he couldn't fight off a mob estimated at 20 strong. A 16-year-old described how he jumped back each time he banged Young with a shovel to avoid blood-staining his clothes. But he couldn't protect his shoes. Those he dumped in a sewer.

One, an 18-year-old ninth-grader who can barely write, went home and ate fried chicken. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calls his criminal record "extensive." Another boy, a 16-year-old, put Young in a "cripple cross face hold" wrestling move he'd seen on TV for easier beating.

The melee started when the 10-year-old gave another boy an egg, which that boy threw at 36-year-old Young, who then chased him. A 14-year-old stepped between them, and Young punched him, knocking a tooth out. Young ran away, and the pursuit began.

The area is called Little Beirut, thus named after a teenager laid in wait to kill a cop in 1994 not far from last week's attack.

After Young died, the Journal Sentinel went in to speak with residents, some of whom defended Young's killers. They're more angry at authorities. One hates cops and says everyone is against him 'cause he's black. Another says everyone throws money away from Little Beirut.

Money, of course, doesn't solve complete societal breakdown that produces juvenile sociopaths. But you see that young man's point: One-third of households are headed by single mothers; only half of residents have at least a high school diploma; unemployment is more than three times that of the rest of Milwaukee; and over half live below poverty.

Little Beirut is the worst of America, where kids drop out of school to hang idle in their battle zone. Just about everyone has been touched by murder. Supervision is nil. The attack happened at 11 p.m. on a school night.

Many of the boys who killed Young already have criminal records, and many are illiterate. One, the youngest of his single mother's nine children, says he's in eighth grade but doesn't know his school's name. That boy's brother, also involved, is 16 but dropped out of school after eighth grade, because he says his mother didn't know what school to send him to.

A 14-year-old, who was arrested at 8 or 9 for burglary, has a baby girl. His 13-year-old brother also participated. Their father was stabbed to death last year.

The 10-year-old has been smoking pot since summer. The 16-year-old who employed the wrestling hold took part, because he didn't want friends to talk bad about him.

It's a brutal code. Attack or be attacked. The 14-year-old father only realized the danger to Young after the fact. He told police he "felt kind of bad," because he didn't know 20 people beating on one man could actually kill. Spattered blood and torn flesh weren't a clue.

This is what we allow in America. So-called black leaders are more interested in blaming white oppression than demanding life-altering change. Authorities are lost. Cops can't be everywhere, and they can't be substitute parents. Milwaukee's mayor said he thought Young's beating was one incident, not a pattern of problems. Tell that to Little Beirut residents who've complained about juvenile thugs taking over their streets. Murder isn't necessary for terror.

Of the many issues Young's beating reveals, perhaps the least popular is how we've lost control of children because we're not there. For whatever reason. And not just among the impoverished.

Last November, 15-year-old Deanna Maran was pinned down and fatally stabbed by a 17-year-old girl in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood. At a party, surrounded by teenagers who didn't stop the assault but instead watched. No one called 911. Alcohol flowed. The parents weren't home. Parents of the party goers, estimated at 100, were no doubt equally clueless and removed from their children's activities. One teacher who spoke at a memorial service told the students who did nothing to save Deanna that they shouldn't be burdened by guilt.

We're not raising monsters. The monsters are here. Left alone, they've created their own rules devoid of compassion or consequence or remorse.

A witness to Young's murder told the Journal Sentinel, "There was no reason for this. Kids -- they have no respect for older people. No morals. They don't care."

No, they don't. But there is a reason. Children, regardless of background, can't raise themselves.

Look what happens when they do.

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JWR contributor Tresa McBee is a columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Times. Comment by clicking here.

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09/18/02: Hey, Bill: Time to enter the No Ego Zone
09/11/02: Reliving 9/11 again and again and ...
09/04/02: The price of success: When being a responsible father is not enough
08/28/02: When separate can be equal --- and better
08/22/02: Egypt and Saudi Arabia: Curious inconsistencies
08/15/02: Hey, fellas: Beware the fairer sex ain't always fair
08/08/02: Why women will remain the at-risk gender
08/01/02: Girl: The new four-letter word?

© 2002, Northwest Arkansas Times