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Editorial: Blood on the court

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Once again senseless violence has shattered the night on a basketball court in southeast Queens.

On July 30, Christopher Mitchell, only 20 years old, was gunned down execution-style by four men as he played ball in Fred Cabell Park. A friend of the victim said the four men who shot Mitchell were part of a gang that was out to punish him for dating one of their girlfriends three years ago.

Witnesses say everybody in the neighborhood knows who shot Mitchell. It is only a matter of time until the shooters are arrested. In the end it is likely that all four will eventually be caught and convicted. They will spend most of their adult lives in a maximum-security prison.

Mothers shouldn’t have to worry when their sons go out to play basketball on a warm summer’s night that they might not be coming home. But they do. Although the city has made great strides in the war against crime and drugs, gangs and violence at times still rule the night on the streets of southeast Queens.

Young men looking for a sense of identity and belonging are easily caught up in gangs such as the Bloods or Crips or the Latin Kings. These gangs offer a warped system of values and a distorted sense of what it means to be a man. The hold of these gangs on young men in the inner city is as powerful as any influence that the church or school might have had on their parents’ generation. That influence is supported by the lyrics and imagery of rap music that glorifies street violence, drug abuse and reckless sex.

The influence is compounded when the young man lives in a broken, dysfunctional home.

No one is offering excuses for the four thugs who shot Christopher Mitchell. But someone should start pointing the finger at the music and clothing industry and others who feed off and foster the culture of street violence.

Either something gets done or parents should be advised to keep their young men home after dark.

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