Yesterday, the nation celebrated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, recognizing his contributions to the African American community and to improving race relations in this nation. According to his niece, Dr. Alveda King, Martin Luther King Jr. was a conservative who believed in the rights of the unborn, family values, and abstinence. He advocated a color blind society where people were judged by the “content of their character” and not by the color of their skin. He was a tremendous orator who inspired large crowds with his soaring rhetoric. Although there was rampant discrimination against African Americans in the 1960’s, King preached the value of non-violent protests. He believed that violence was counter-productive and would only harm the plight of African Americans in this country.
Forty two years after his death, his message rings true today. Unfortunately, criminals in New Orleans and other communities are not heeding his wise words. On a day that was marked by parades and ceremonies to celebrate his life, there were five murders in New Orleans. In previous years, there have been shootings in New Orleans and the surrounding area during parades to mark his holiday.
This deplorable violence is an insult to the memory of Dr. King and his timeless message of non-violence. Criminal behavior on any day is wrong, but it is especially disturbing to have an orgy of murder on the King Holiday. It is time for community and political leaders to vigorously condemn this disgraceful violence.
The murders occurred throughout New Orleans, in the East, Central City, Ninth Ward and Uptown. Violent crime is an epidemic that has terrorized New Orleans for many years. Routinely, New Orleans is the murder capital of the nation. With murder not decreasing, the city will not relinquish the notorious title anytime soon.
Some New Orleans community leaders, like Reverend Raymond Brown, are calling for NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas to be held accountable for this wave of violence.. Brown believes that if Serpas cannot turn the corner on violent crime by May, the anniversary of his hiring, he should be replaced as Police Chief.
Brown’s view is shared by other community leaders in New Orleans. In my view, this position fails to recognize the tremendous strides Serpas is making as Police Chief. He cannot be expected to change a police culture in such a short period of time. Serpas is committed to reform and public accountability, but this progress does not occur over night. Serpas inherited a department beset with problems. It takes time to remove corrupt police and implement new procedures.
Serpas needs help from politicians, community leaders, ministers, schools and most importantly the families of New Orleans. The root cause of this violent crime is the breakdown of the family unit in New Orleans and other urban areas of this country. With no values being taught at home and no discipline being provided, wild youngsters are being unleashed on the community.
Undoubtedly, there are severe problems in New Orleans. Fortunately, there are bright spots in the fight against crime. Although much more work needs to be done, public schools in New Orleans are improving. A new Police Chief and District Attorney are working hard to apprehend and prosecute violent criminals. Sadly, the chief and D.A. are being thwarted by liberal judges who are very concerned about the rights of criminals and not concerned enough about the plight of victims of crime. New Orleans suffers from a revolving door criminal justice system that releases hardened criminals back onto the streets of the city on a daily basis.
Serpas is a main component in this important fight against crime, which is the most critical crisis that New Orleans faces. However, Serpas needs the help of everyone else in the criminal justice system. Unless the community remains vigilant and takes action, such as locking up violent offenders, the NOPD is doomed to failure. The fight to make New Orleans safe on the King holiday and every other day throughout the year is truly a team effort.
Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m.weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected].