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The Power of Flash Mobs: You Cannot Police Hopelessness and Despair!

The Power of Flash Mobs: You Cannot Police Hopelessness and Despair!

When will Violent Flash Mobs come to your city

or to Canada or the United Kingdom and what can be done to prevent them from forming?
by Phillip Jackson
There are those who are angered and surprised by the violence of  urban “Flash Mobs” (quickly forming groups of young people using technology to organize), especially crowds of young Black men, descending on mostly White, affluent downtown American cities.  However, if we analyze this phenomenon, it is not so surprising.  In fact, it is highly predictable.  While there is no justification for young Black men to rob and beat people of any race, the activities of flash mobs are easily predictable in the context of recent social history and current economic conditions.
Most of these young men are poor, desperate and hopeless.  They come from broken families and broken communities.  They have been failed by their  schools and by social and faith organizations in their communities.  They don’t have jobs and many of them will never have jobs.  They live at the bottom rung of society.  The kind of havoc they wreak among us through “flash mobbing” is the kind of havoc they have lived with their entire young lives.  For them, there is a perverse kind of justice and sense of fairness in their ability to create flash mobs that breathe terror into the hearts of other Americans.
Predictive factors for young Black males participating in the activities of violent flash mobs in Chicago are shown by recent data:
■This summer, 90% of young Black men in Chicago between 16 and 19 years old are unemployed.
■Only 44% of Black males graduate with a high school diploma from Chicago public schools.
■Only three out of 100 Black boys who start kindergarten in the Chicago Public Schools earn a bachelors degree by age 25.
■70% of Black children in America are born into and live in single, female-headed households that are usually impoverished.
■Black males are 6% of Illinois’ population but they represent 60% of the state’s prison population.
The power and strength of a flash mob are in its large number of congregants and in its ability to assemble quickly and to disband equally as fast.  The word “flash” is an allusion to social media – texting, smart phones, Twitter and Facebook.  Flash media, an effective tool for organizing a social cause, is the same media that brought down the government of Egypt.  Now inner-city youth are using this same media, but instead of toppling governments, they “topple” Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Old Navy, and they steal IPads and IPhones from defenseless citizens.
The message from the flash mob to us is even more threatening than the mob itself.  That message is, “You can’t control us!  You don’t scare us!  Your police don’t scare us!  Your prisons don’t scare us! We are mightier than you! We will take what you have because you have given us few other options in life for earning similar things.  And most importantly, we will take your peace of mind.  Just as we in our communities cannot ever feel secure, now neither can you!  We are more afraid of continuing to live our lives as they are than we are of you locking us up.  What do we have to lose? For once, we are more powerful than you!”
Flash mobs are not new.  In Black communities across America for the past 30 years, large groups of Black males have attacked others.   In the past few years, jobless, desperate, hopeless youth have rioted in France, Greece, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Tunisia, and Egypt in efforts eerily similar to America’s flash mobs, but on a much larger scale and with politically clear motives and demands.  These youth have taken over business districts, cities and countries and they have destroyed billions of dollars in property while toppling governments.  The same root causes for these youth riots and disturbances in Europe and Northern Africa are producing similar actions, and possibly similar politically conscious attitudes, in the youth of  Chicago, New York City, Charlotte, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and other American cities.
Politicians and the police are working under the false and dangerous assumption that  hopelessness and despair can be policed.  The police are out-numbered and out-maneuvered in this battle of minds, spirits, bodies and technology.   Even as thirty-three flash mobbers were arrested in Chicago this past week, the communities in Chicago were producing a thousand more potential flash mobbers to replace them.  When Black boys are not reading at grade level by the third grade, we are creating conditions for a flash mob.  When Black teenagers cannot find meaningful work, we are creating conditions for a flash mob.  When young Black boys do not have suitable role models and mentors, we are creating conditions for a flash mob.
The best way to deter a violent flash mob is to stop it from forming.  The best time to stop it from forming is when the potential congregants are 2 and 3 years old, not when they are 16, 20 and 30 years old.  The best weapons against flash mobs are jobs, not police with guns; education, not incarceration; and positive guidance and direction, not threats or curses.  Can flash mobs be stopped? Absolutely.  Is America working properly to stop them? Absolutely not.
Welcome to the year 2011 where ethics, sociology, economics, criminology, politics and technology cross!  The flash mobbers are trying to tell us, “You can’t stop us, but with your help, we can stop ourselves!”

That is what I said.  This is what others say about what I said….


Phillip Jackson says:
June 14, 2011 at 7:33 pm
I thank all who responded to my editorial, “The Power of Flash Mobs”. It obviously has stimulated discussion on this issue and other issues that are important to America.
It seems that some people are taking portions of this editorial as a justification for unjustifiable behavior. No one has the right to do hurt other people whether it is Black on White or White on Black or Asian on Latino, or Latino on Native American.
If you read this article as a justification for violence or if you think this article supports wanton, random violence, that is something you brought to this article with you for which you must take responsibility.
This article is an explanation of why these “flash mob” behaviors are taking place. Explaining behavior is not supporting behavior. Rather than simply disagree with my explanation, most of the comments have taken to name-calling and threats of violence. That was not my intention. My intention was opening minds and solving problems. It seems as if I am on the wrong planet or at the very least in the wrong country for those kinds of positive, humanistic motives.
That being the case, there is very little difference between young Black boys who perform random acts of violence in downtown Chicago for social and economic reasons and, I believe, young and middle-aged White men who threaten specific acts of violence for philosophical and ideological reasons. They are both wrong. They should both be treated the same.
There are some racist people in America who have been waiting for reasons to “lynch or kill young Black men”. And with the flash mobbing issue, they now have their reason.  Now killing young Black men can be justified. These people, so quick to pull the trigger, are as dangerous to America or maybe are more dangerous to America than flash mobbers.
I have probably done more to stop young Black males from committing crimes then 1,000 of your angriest readers will ever be able to with their shotguns and machine guns (see comments above). Even with their threats and curses, I will continue my work.
I thank your readers for their responses. It helps me to see what I am up against. Now I see that I will have to work as hard to save them (your angry readers) from their hate and anger as I am working to save the young Black flash mobbers from theirs.
I don’t know which is worse. Let me get back to work.
Phillip Jackson


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