shooting there occurred within the logic of the local culture, hence “made sense.” Put another way, the East New York shootings were not “crazy.”
Khalil gave a great deal of thought to the issue. When we first talked, he was keenly aware of differences but pointed out a possible similarity. He commented, “I don’t think [school violence] is anything to do with the area where the kids are living, whether it’s upper class areas or inner city ghettos. There’s pent up anger and pain which gets vented at the cost of somebody’s life. A kid should have no problems coming to an adult and asking how they would handle it. It’s good if you have people like that. But that’s not always the case. Kids get into a certain age group when the values instilled by the parents, all that is out the window. A kid will react according to the laws of the peers. I don’t think the areas have a lot to do with the situation. Some situations might be related to jealousy over a pair of sneakers. It’s the situation that the kid is trying to handle on his own that leads to the violence.”
After reading a draft of the case study, he wrote us a letter. He felt that he had expressed himself poorly in the interview and wanted us to have a clearer version of his opinion on this important matter:
My situation was based on my belief that my life was in danger. I really don’t know all the details of the other incidents but I will say this. Communication and expression comes in infinite forms. Some people do so in the form of casual conversation, some in the form of music and art, and unfortunately, some people in my generation choose to express themselves in the form of violence. The result in some instances can be fatal. In East New York there was an unwritten set of rules or codes that many people abided by, young black men in particular. I didn’t make any of these codes, for lack of a better term, but the way of thinking for most young men was either abide by these laws or become consumed by them. As stupid as these laws are, that was the norm at the time. I guess in a nutshell people in inner-city ghettoes respect violence, so as a result people become it. It doesn’t always take the form of a violent act. But people become potentially violent by carrying guns or living by these laws. We live in an age where youth find comfort among youth instead of adults, and where peers have the greatest influence among peers, i.e., sex drugs and dialect. Until there’s a comfort zone where adults can feel what youth go through or understand their concerns or insecurities, youth will continue to express themselves in a violent nature. I sincerely hope that people learn from my experience. My reality is very ugly but hopefully it can give people insight as to what’s going on in the minds of America’s youth. I wouldn’t want anybody to face what I went through and what I’m going through. The mantra of many young men is that you have to “stand on your own two,” as quoted in your report. But eventually you get tired of standing on your own two.