I cringed while watching a video of 300 black teenagers wilding their way through a Walmart in Jacksonville, Florida.
Police called the trashing of Walmart a “flashmob” that stole snacks and sodas, turned over shopping carts, scared customers, and fired gunshots into the air outside the store.
Watch video below.
It was inexcusable and disgraceful behavior.
When police broke up a weekend house party, many of the teens headed to the nearby Walmart where they took over the store and pocketed merchandise like they were living lawlessly in the Old West.
There were no arrests in last week’s chaos, but police are reviewing the surveillance tapes and, hopefully, some of these teens will be held responsible for their crimes.
All of the teens – male and female – were African-American.
The video of the flashmob went viral within hours and the racist feedback was relentless:
In a common nickname, some whites call Jacksonville– “Blacksonville.”
“I officially hate black people….legit retards. 300 retards probably coming from 10 fathers,” one commenter wrote on a right-wing website.
“Negroes: An American embarrassment,” another Florida resident wrote. “We should have picked our own cotton.”
“Disgusting. Thank you, Obama…..this is what you have done to America!” wrote another.
“You'd think "the good blacks" would be embarrassed by this,” another person wrote.
Ironically, while the black teenage mob rumbled through Walmart and whites weighed in with racist comments, Walter L. Sutton Jr., Walmart’s top lawyer, will be honored by the American Bar Association for his racial diversity efforts in corporate America.
Sutton, an associate general counsel at Wal-Mart Stores, was the first African-American to receive a doctorate from the University of Texas at Dallas; the first African-American in Tenneco Oil Co.’s legal department; and the first African-American to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency Regional Counsel’s office in Dallas.
Sutton is a role model for black teenagers, an accomplished African-American Walmart executive who is probably unknown to most of the young people who were in the mob at Walmart.
Last week, I heard several black professionals suggest that the flashmob behavior can be blamed on unemployment; that if these teenagers had jobs, they wouldn’t be trying to tear up Walmart on a Saturday night.
That’s nonsense. Wrong is wrong. This incident is not about Jacksonville’s black unemployment rate, it’s about bad parenting.
Somewhere along the way we’ve lost our collective commitment to raising our young people in a way that would make them productive members of society and make us proud. Somehow, we’ve let our young people down by not enforcing the tough love they need.
And this is also about personal responsibility. Every one of those teenagers at Walmart knew what they were doing was wrong and criminal – but still they went rouge anyway.
Where is the outrage in our community? And how do we change this mindset? Perhaps in church.
The incident last week comes as a new poll shows that more Americans say they have no religious affiliations and do not attend church.
The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found in its tracking poll last year that 19 percent described themselves as unaffiliated, USA Today reported.
"Young people are resistant to the authority of institutional religion, older people are turned off by the politicization of religion, and people are simply less into theology than ever before," Barry Kosmin of Pew told USA Today.
But Pew research has also found that African-Americans are also most likely to be part of a formal religion, with 85 percent being Christians. According to the Barna Research Group, a Christian research firm based in Ventura, Calif., more than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and 5 out of 6 call themselves Christian. But only 2 out of 6 attend church on any given Sunday.
While I see many black teens represented in all areas of my church, there are still far too many young black Americans who have no spiritual base, no moral compass.
But last year, The National Black Church Initiative, a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches, began an ambitious seven-year initiative called “bring the black men back to the church.”
It’s a bold but much-needed social project that Rev. Anthony Evans said is critical.
“There is something missing from the heart of the black church – the presence of our black brothers,” Evans said. “Given the serious issues facing African-American men, including rising levels of incarceration, drug use and unwed fatherhood, we can no longer stand by while our men openly defy God’s word.”
Evans’ seven-year initiative is on point. Church won’t save every black teenager in crisis, but it may help some who need spiritual uplifting, even those young people who trashed Walmart.