Op-ed submission by Project 21
There were reports of babies out in the cold for hours in Houston. In Indianapolis, two dozen police officers used pepper spray to control an unruly crowd that pried shopping center doors off their hinges.
These were just a few of the scenes caught on video across America as people tried to get their hands on a pair of sneakers.
These instances point to a moral breakdown of our society, especially among young people with misguided priorities who are not held accountable for their actions. Morals have seemingly taken a back seat to things that are thought to be worth more than respect.
“These shoes have always had a place of value in black life,” said one young black male in response to the frenzy surrounding the release of the limited edition Air Jordan XI Concord sneakers by Nike.
Named after the legendary basketball player Michael Jordan, these prized kicks retail for over $200 a pair. Demand is so high that some pairs of these sneakers were sold on the black market for over $500. And getting them was considered worth the risk of freezing or getting arrested.
The sneaker riot, which was caught on video, is deplorable. The looting of mall kiosks, robbing of shoppers, forced entry into stores and trampling of shoppers are disturbing to watch.
How did America get here?
Young adults imitate what they see, and what they see is bad behavior being glorified, on reality television, in movies, in music videos, in video games and on the Internet. These mediums are rife with demeaning language and behavior, violence and examples of blatant disrespect towards others, yet some of the rawest and craziest acts on video are not derided for their incivility but lauded for how many “thumbs up” they get on YouTube.
Misbehavior is so prevalent that, in some households, it seems to be accepted as normal behavior.
The Occupy Wall Street movement provides another example of contemporary bad behavior. While claiming to support a middle class that, allegedly, can’t win playing by the rules, youthful Occupiers are nonetheless preoccupied with the forgiveness of their own school loans (often for useless degrees) and credit card debt and seem more interested in growing big government than helping anyone succeed. The entire Occupy movement seems like yet another instance of the take-what-you-want decline of society.
What’s worse is that Occupy efforts receive support and sympathy from President Barack Obama, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other prominent leftist leaders and celebrities. Their support for the Occupiers sends a message that it’s fine to be disruptive and not expect to be held accountable. Just last week, in fact, former Obama administration official Van Jones proclaimed that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was “the original Occupier” and warned that 2012 would be a “turbulent” year.
In the wake of the sneaker riots, several ministers and activists in Houston held a press conference to blame others for the action of the mob. They called for Nike and Michael Jordan to “do something,” giving those who actually caused the chaos a pass.
There is no excuse for this behavior. Individuals should be held accountable for their actions. Nike and Michael Jordan did nothing wrong and are not accountable for the misbehavior of others.
Why are black leaders largely mute about this bad behavior? Where were the voices of black leaders standing up against the “flash mobs” in 2011? Why isn’t the White House decrying its former colleague for publicly preparing for what he refers to, and one must assume, is hoping to help instigate, a “turbulent” year?
Actions have consequences. To continue on this destructive path will result in a bleak future that for many will include violent acts, incarceration and even early death. Our country is in vital need of a morality surge in which parents, grandparents, church members and lawmakers all play a role.
There are thousands of misguided youths who desperately need love, guidance and discipline on a consistent basis. This would help put them on a path towards personal responsibility and success.
A New Visions Commentary paper by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Deneen Borelli is a fellow for the Project 21 black leadership network.