By Malcolm Strachan
THE police-involved killing of a young man who was a suspect in a bank robbery last week has likely already fallen off everyone’s radar. And why not – isn’t it just another young thug - just like the rest of them? A bunch of lawless young bandits driving up the crime rate and making our communities less safe? Sure, that’s one way to look at it.
But what about the fact these are Bahamian young men, who at some point or another lost their way?
Far too often, we as a nation toss away so many of our youths. In particular, society moves on from those who grow up in impoverished circumstances. Those young men grew up, in many cases, without a father, or surrounded by a plethora of unhealthy relationships – these all contribute to why the country is the way it is.
But what about the part we play as a society?
The fact of the matter is we all have to live and co-exist in our little country. Especially those of us who live on the nation’s most populous island of New Providence – our little seven by 21 stretch of land has turned into a “gangster factory”. They’re growing up unloved and unvalued in areas where a violent culture is pervasive and mental health issues are a sign of weakness. Who is supposed to make it out of there unscathed?
Have any of you who have been so quick to judge ever thought about who you would have become had you grown up in their neighbourhoods, or were living their lives?
I have also been guilty of forgetting the plight of our young men. But somehow, the words of Shawn Adderley, the father of Nashorn Adderley – the young man killed by the police in a botched bank robbery attempt – struck a chord.
When the grieving father was interviewed by the media after his son’s death, he said: “Listen to me, I talk to my son. I don’t cloak my son. If he’s wrong, I let him know he’s wrong. But if you live that life, or you choose that life to live, that’s what you choose.
“[B]ut right now the system needs to try give these youths a chance, man. Need to try find some way to help these youths, man. Try help them.
“Because all they’re doing is fighting them down, that’s why they’re retaliating. No one’s trying to help them.”
Sure, we can take our typical approach and dismiss Mr Adderley’s plea. We can judge him and his wife’s parenting, or lack thereof. Or we can be a community and really try to get to the root of some of our problems as a country.
Nashorn Adderley was one of us – a Bahamian. Despite whatever decisions he made, that does not change the fact he was born and educated in this country, and for whatever reason, made decisions that unfortunately resulted in his demise. But rest assured, if we continue to dismiss this culture that has taken over our youths, the results will continue to be fatal for many – criminals and civilians alike.
Something we should all consider is that when a young person dies, we only view it as an issue of national security. However, should we not also be trying to intervene with what is happening with our youth?
Perhaps a more meaningful question we can ask is what is the status of our country’s youth policy? That certainly would serve as a compass and guide this conversation.
Aside from the fact its current iteration began under the former administration, there’s not much updated information available. This reflects poorly on the government and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Lanisha Rolle, who for all intents and purposes, has been silent in the area of youth violence.
Make no mistake, this is not an attack on the minister. Rather, this is merely a demand to see more from her. Harnessing and developing the athletic abilities of our young people is no doubt important. Yes. So is cultural appreciation. However, the one area of her portfolio that requires immediate attention has, as far as the Bahamian people can touch and feel, left much to be desired.
With so many young men dying under the age of 25, so many young women becoming pregnant in their teens, so many children not graduating from school or are unemployed, we have to begin asking ourselves how our lack of policy is perpetuating the cycle.
Far too often, when government changes, policies that can improve the country are left to gather dust. But I beseech the Bahamian people - this is not a yellow, red or green issue. Rather, it is an aquamarine, black and yellow issue.
These young men are our sons.
Many of us were wayward ourselves or know someone that was – and can attest to the value of having an adult focus on them.
That said, we know what doesn’t work. We know that throwing a youth away when they are still young and malleable can result in that same youth sticking a gun in your face. We know that left to their own devices they may end up in the Bahamas Department of Corrections or dead on our streets.
But have we seen what their potential outcomes can be under a bipartisan youth policy with an action plan and a budget to support it?
If we want a different result, it will require us to make some radical investments in our nation’s youth. This should be the thrust we want to see from the government.
Otherwise, many more young people are going to grow up misguided, hurt, lost and lacking in empathy for their fellow man.
Who wants to live in a nation like that?
I surely don’t. You shouldn’t either.