It’s Friday, 5:00 p.m. sharp. The work week is finally over and not a moment too soon. Thanks God its Friday. From Monday morning when she arrived at work to now, the week has been a bear. It’s been one emergency after another. Helping people isn’t easy, especially those in crisis.
But now it’s the weekend and she couldn’t be happier. She’s got big plans for the next few days, shopping, the game, a picnic, maybe a party and possibly more shopping. But for tonight her intention is to put on her favorite p.j’s, and just chill in front of the T.V. wrapped in her favorite blanket with a bowl of buttered popcorn and a good book. Tomorrow can wait.
She fairly skips down the steps from her second story cubicle, pushing her way through the revolving doors to the world outside. The brisk air of the November evening is a welcome respite to the stale ventilation of her stuffy office.
As she walks to the corner to catch her bus, she passes a group of young men. They look kind of dodgy but she thinks nothing of it. Don’t let the business suit fool you. She’s from the hood and has handled fools like these all her life.
She anticipates the usual “hey baby, you look good, what’s your name, ya got a man, can I have your number” nonsense they normally spout. She can even deal with the potential, “the hell with you bitch, you ain’t nobody” as she ignores them, switching a pair of fine ass hips they will never know.
What she doesn’t expect is what happens next. Just as she is about to pass the last hooligan, there is a blurred movement, followed by a sudden white light and a great nothingness.
Four hours later she awakes in a white bed in a sterile room, with needles in her arms, which are attached to tubes that are connected to machines. As the fog lifts from her addled brain, through the haze of medication and the searing pain of her swollen right temple, she realizes that she is in the hospital. “What the hell happened” she says. “How did I wind up here?’ Where is my purse, my money, my identification” she ask the attending nurse who supplies no answers but nevertheless tends to her wounds.
As friends and family pile into the room, she learns that one of the young men she passed on the street physically assaulted her, knocking her cold with a single punch. What she may never understand is why.
There is a new game in town. It’s called “Knockout. The goal is straightforward. Simply knock out someone with one punch and you are a winner. The woman is the scenario above is one of the victims of “Knockout”. She’s lucky to be alive. Some are not so fortunate.
There are no rules to this competition and sports related courage, toughness, determination and fortitude are not required. Pugilistic skills and martial arts so typical of other warlike contest are noticeably absent. More significantly, it is a game of chance only to the victim.
Typically, the assailant is accompanied by a retinue of fellow thugs. No warning of the assault is given and there are no referees to ensure fair play. Striking the victim from behind or when their guard is down is perfectly permissible and neither gender nor weight class is observed. Women are fair game, to be knocked out by males who typically outweigh them by 50 to 100 pounds.
What is to be gained by this sordid affair? What prize is to be won for this sick display of false manhood? No belt, trophy, medal or prize money is earned for knocking out a helpless victim. A new dinette set or vacation to Cozumel lies not behind some numbered door and there are no consolation prizes. Is it the respect of their equally stupid yet barbaric peers the participants seek or is the satisfaction of knocking someone insensate for no reason its own reward? Each possibility is more disturbing than the act itself.
So what should we do here? What public policy both macro and micro, should we adopt to prevent and arrest this heinous practice? Let Blackacre suggest the following public policy recommendations.
First, we must find and prosecute these “Knockout” artists to the fullest extent of the law. And once convicted throw their sorry, trifling asses not in but under the jail.
Secondly, African Americans in particular, must be the first to condemn this as well as all other acts of criminal behavior. While “Knockout” participants span racial and ethnic groups, all too frequently, the practitioners of this blood sport are young black males. As such, said conduct harms not only the participants but the entirety of the African American community.
“Knockout” reinforces the worst racial stereotypes of African American men in particular and African American society in general. Many who see video tapes of young black men knocking out helpless victims and then running away laughing will not care that other races do it too. Nor will they consider that not all black men are bad. They will instead conclude that black men are animals who must be put down immediately and by any means necessary. If they have even the slightest concerns about the young black men they encounter they will shoot first and ask questions later. Witness the case of Trayvon Martin.
The worst thing we can do is to engage in a pattern of excuse by explanation, either explicitly or implicitly, overtly or covertly. We realize that many “knockout” participants come from broken homes, their families and communities are dysfunctional and that they lack positive male role models. We appreciate the fact that they may be homeless, unemployed, uneducated and may not have been taught any better.
We are also quite aware of the legacy of slavery and racism. We know only too well that we are besieged by a criminal justice system that targets us, a political structure that ignores us, an economic system that exploits us and a media that typecasts and marginalizes us. As a black male I get all this and more.
However, despite the challenges they face, the “Knockout” adherents are still responsible for their own conduct. We all are. And as a society, we simply cannot tolerate anyone, whether black, white or any shade in between engaging in such brutal acts of wanton depravity.
It is often said that as a people, African Americans do not stick together? This adage may or may not be true. However, African Americans should not support violent criminals merely because they are black. There is simply no excuse for “Knockout” or any derivative thereof. No excuse whatsoever.
Leo Barron Hicks, CEO and Founder of Blackacre Policy Forum, LLC,