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Urgent need for more action to stop the killing of young black males

The recent deaths of more young black men in London and other parts of the country are tragic and disgraceful. Black communities must do more to stop the killing in our neighbourhoods. Society is becoming immune to these outrageous and mindless acts of violence. Distraught and traumatised families are left devastated and heartbroken, and often with no explanation as to why another young person placed no value on their son’s life.

The acts of a tiny minority tarnish the public’s perception of young black people and the media coverage of young black men is overwhelmingly negative. Black pupils have worked extremely hard over the past eight years and the GCSE or equivalent attainment rate (including maths and English) has jumped from 33% to 54%. This is a success story but one which we hear very little about. Of course we all want to see the rates go much higher and reach the highest achieving Indian and Chinese pupils.

We need stronger communities and neighbourhoods where there are alternatives to gangs, drugs and violence. Strong communities depend on strong values and stable families, good schools, fair policing and good employment prospects. One or all of these are often absent for these boys and young men.

The unemployment rate for young black men is 44 per cent and 20 per cent for young white men.

A survey of 1,052 young men aged 15-18 years in custody (59% white 22% Black 11% Mixed and 6%) found that only 12% of black or minority ethnic young men said they had a job to go to on release - much lower than the 25% of white young men who reported this.

Many boys and young men in these areas think they that have no future prospects and therefore nothing to lose. The absence of role models at home and school does not help, and poverty does not sit well with unrealistic material aspirations. The search for status and somewhere to belong can lead to gang allegiance and someone has to be top dog and be in control of the situation. Many of us don’t understand the mindset of these young people; social and technological changes are so rapid that the generation gap between the young and their parents can seem wider than ever before.

All of us must be prepared to listen to these boys and young men and then see how we find solutions together to end this crisis. Too many families are being destroyed by the violence and lack of hope. I think many black people are prepared to listen and do something about it. We can’t have places where people are scared to walk for fear of being killed, but we do.

The Big Society means nothing in many of these areas because we don’t engage with the individuals and organisations that can access and work with these boys and young men. There is an untapped army of black male volunteers willing to give something back and willing to engage. Throwing money at the problem is not the solution but intelligent investment is. There are ex-offenders and ex-gang members working to turn around young people that are following the road to prison or death and ruing the lives of other people in the process. We need to utilise these black men young and old and we also need those men that are doing well across the occupations.

Black voluntary and community groups are disappearing at the very time they are needed most. They are not winning a share of grants from charitable trusts, lottery, private companies or government. The Black Training and Enterprise Group wants to help reverse this situation and we plan to put in place a volunteer force of black male role models who are prepared to go out into communities, into prisons and young offender institutions, schools and pupil referral units and find way to connect with young people so that they can see a way out and a better future. We need more young people to step forward and take responsibility for their actions and their futures but they must be met half way by those that are charged with providing services and local employers that all too often have tended to over look them.

BTEG is conducting a survey to get the views of young males of African, Caribbean or mixed origin because we want them to shape projects and implement them. We can’t rely on the State or the Mayor of London to solve these issues but they do have a role to play and that starts by accepting this problem has been ignored for too long.

I would like to hear your opinions on this subject. Either log in to the comments section on the left, email me at or join the discussion on Twitter #rolemodels4blackmales

Jeremy Crook OBE
Director of Black Training and Enterprise Group


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