Our inner cities have been awash in violence for decades now. For some reason, when you cram that many people in together, some are going to act out violently. Back in the day, it was punks with knives and chains. These days, they have guns and a complete lack of respect for human life.
A lot of people out there are trying to find something to do to reduce violent crime. That’s why many supporters of gun control started down that path, even though that doesn’t work as advertised.
Others try to find a different way.
It was after dark when Jonathan De La Cruz entered a homemade backyard fighting ring behind the tall fences of a landscape contractor’s yard in Adelphi, Maryland on a chilly Sunday, October night.
Despite the darkness, a raucous crowd of about 75 spectators and fighters was still gathered in the yard off of an unpaved alley off Riggs Road. A DJ kept throbbing beats going into the night.
It was to be the final showdown after a full card of 11 other sometimes-savage amateur fights that had been staged that afternoon. Now, car headlights lit the makeshift ring and the rowdy crowd held up cell phone cameras to provide more light for the final match.
De La Cruz bumped gloves with his opponent Troy Addison Jr. Only now did the gravity of the moment strike some in the crowd. Unlike all the other fighters that afternoon, both of these men were in wheelchairs.
Both are survivors of shootings. Both are part of a new home-grown movement called “The Thumpyard.”
The movement’s motto is “Guns Down, Gloves Up” and “Thump for a Cause”.
This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about things like this. There have been a lot of fight clubs that sprung up in an attempt to stop violent firearm-related crime.
And the truth is, these kinds of things have a better chance of working short-term than many realize, particularly in our inner cities. Particularly with the shootings we’ve been seeing over the last year or so.
See, in order to understand why, we have to get into why these shootings seem to be happening.
Many of the most deadly shootings aren’t related to robbery or other crimes. They are, instead, personal. Someone wronged another and the score needed to be settled.
Our inner cities are an example of an honor culture.
What’s an honor culture? I’m glad you asked.
An honor culture is basically a culture where one’s personal and/or family honor is treated as almost sacrosanct and any insult to that honor must be answered for.
The idea isn’t alien to most of us. We’ve all heard of dueling, which was the final step in answering for an insult in western honor cultures until somewhat recently. In some places, that’s still the case. “Let’s step outside,” is a rather crude but effective challenge for individual combat; basically a duel without the choice of weapons and less formalistic rules.
But our inner-city cultures do things differently. Insults to one’s honor in the form of not paying proper respect–sometimes called “dissing”–must be answered for, so the wronged party hunts down the other and shoots at them.
What things like the Thumpyard do is not so much trying to change the culture, but channel that cultural need for satisfying one’s honor into a direction that’s less likely to result in death.
Now, some will argue that changing the culture so as to eliminate the desire for violent retribution is the superior solution, and maybe it is. However, having grown up in an honor culture myself–the Deep South is a prime example of another honor culture–I’m not so sure that you actually can do it.
Instead, you can contain the violence to something more controllable and ultimately safer for all parties.
If there’s a downside to these kinds of programs, it’s that they don’t have the resources to really get the reach they need to make an appreciable difference in the violent crime rates of their home cities.