Portland, Oregon, like so many other communities, is seeing a surge in violent crime. It’s happening all over the place, to be sure, but for folks who live there, that’s not exactly comforting information.
I get that.
Luckily for them, activists have a solution. They’re going to hope really, really hard that bad guys will stop.
Alright, that’s not actually what they’re saying, but that’s what it amounts to.
City leaders are spending millions on gun violence prevention and community members are also rolling up their sleeves to target the gun violence crisis.
“Our whole focus is that our young men make it home at night,” said Lionel Irving, founder, and director of Love is Stronger, “gun violence, if you’re a black man in Portland, since these last few months, we have not stopped feeling it. I’m sad right now.”
This event was held to ask the community to “put down the guns” this weekend.
Yeah, because that works.
Look, I’m not ambivalent about what’s going on there. I have my issues with Portland, sure, but I wouldn’t wish that level of violent crime on anyone.
But this isn’t a useful way to address it.
Holding a big event asking criminals to just stop being criminals–which is really what this is all about–allows activists to feel like they’re doing something and gives community leaders an opportunity to try and make people believe they’re doing something, all without actually having to do anything.
In all my life, I’ve known a number of people who went down the dark road, only to turn their lives around. It’s kind of inspirational, really, when you get right down to it.
Yet not a single one of them recounts their return to the straight and narrow as being because of a community event that asked them nicely to stop killing folks.
What do they think is going to happen? Some gangbanger is going to see this event and say, “Wait, shooting people is bad? I had absolutely no idea, but since the community is asking me so nicely, I just have to stop being a criminal right this instant,” or something like that?
If so, they’re deluding themselves.
Look, I get that they want to do something about the violence plaguing their city. I respect that, too. Lots of people will complain about the problem, but few will actually be willing to get their hands dirty.
This ain’t it, though. This isn’t going to do anything except show off that you’re a good person without having to do anything to actually address the issue.
Maybe instead, they should save some of that energy to delve into options that might actually work. Look at things that have produced verifiable results elsewhere and follow that lead instead of this one.
Baltimore tried this a while back. It didn’t work.
That’s because those who represent a problem aren’t going to be swayed by community activism. They’re not going to see that the folks in Portland want the violence to end and have a change of heart. That’s not how this works.
So maybe instead, folks there should try something that will.