It’s been a roller coaster of a week for Charles E Jordan High School in Durham, North Carolina. (Wikipedia history here).
As we noted earlier this week, Jordan’s Shivani Sud took first prize in the Intel Science Talent Search for her work on biochemical markers of stage II colon cancer. The Intel (formerly Westinghouse) Science Talent prize is referred to often as the “junior Nobel prize.”
Two and three days later, we learned the identities of the suspects apprehended in the murder of Eve Carson, student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Both young men, Demario James Atwater, 21, and Laurence Alvin Lovette, Jr., 17, dropped out of Jordan in 2002 and 2007, respectively. Adding to the shock of the community of the Research Triangle’s 14 colleges and universities was that Lovette was also charged in the murder last month of Duke engineering graduate student, Abhijit Mahato, in his apartment bordering the Duke campus.
When arrested for the Carson murder, Lovette was found to be in possession of a phone and iPod stolen from Mahato’s apartment. Two days prior to the Mahato murder, Lovette was convicted of breaking into a house and stealing credit cards and received a sentence of 24 months probation. Atwater was also on probation for breaking and entering, felonious larceny and, later, possession of a firearm (a .40 semiautomatic handgun) by a felon and was in court two days before the Carson murder. Not surprisingly, there is currently an internal investigation of the system by the NC Department of Correction.
Indeed, the social and economic resources available to the three students may have differed, but they each had the same opportunities in attending the same high school.
However, the suspected murderers were dropouts.
Are we doing enough to keep our disenfranchised young people in the educational system? We should certainly do more, but how?
I’ve followed local television and newspaper comment threads and have seen a tremendous degree of disturbing racist vitriol being spewed by individuals sitting on their couches with their laptops. The ranting about the problems of these young men and what should be done with them while perhaps understandable is turning my stomach because the comments avoid the real problems.
My valued correspondent, columnist Barry Saunders of the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer wrote this week in his well-crafted essay, “Don’t let the evil divide us,”:
The people suspected in her death are black, but they represent all black people about as much as Timothy McVeigh or those Columbine killers represent all white people — which is to say not at all.
Evil is not race-specific. . .
. . .If they represent anything, they represent our failure as a society, but mostly as a black society, to adequately address the problem of young black dudes who’ve seemingly bought into the predatory gangsta lifestyle romanticized in some rap music and videos.
Don’t look at me like that. It’s no secret that a disproportionately high percentage of crimes is committed by young black males. That’s something we all have an obligation to address because, guess what, they sometimes venture forth from their own blighted neighborhoods into idealized slices of heaven such as Chapel Hill. . .
. . .Eve Carson won’t get to fulfill the promise her past only hinted at, but her legacy would be tarnished if ultimate blame for her death were attributed to anyone but the misanthrope who actually pulled the trigger.
Indeed, Mr Saunders, “their” problems are everybody’s problems.