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Posted on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 8:45 a.m.

Has life lost its value in Detroit?

By Guest Column

We live in a sick society -- how else to explain this headline: "Baby, 9 months, killed in drive-by shooting on Detroit's West side"?

Nine-month-old Delric Miller IV is dead. Someone fired 37 rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle into his home. Not surprisingly, within 24 hours, police concluded the killing was gang related.

To be honest, don't we know the motive driving the needless taking of human life in Detroit as easily as most would swat a fly? Life comes cheap.


Tom Watkins

How else do you explain the lesser value of human life compared to that of a cell phone when trying to understand the senseless killing and death of beautiful 12-year-old Kadejah Davis, shot to death Jan. 31 when a gunman fired through the front door of the home where she was living with her mother? The reason? A dispute over a cell phone.

These are not simply homicide statistics, these are our children. This is the 43rd homicide in the city in less than two months of the new year.

There may be many sociological rationalizations for killings, but none will bring these babies back.

There are far too many children starting out in life not being hugged, loved and nurtured. Couple that with a lack of education, with nearly half the citizens of Detroit described as "functionally illiterate." For too long, too many public schools operated to benefit adults, not children. Detroit schools are not known as places for learning but rather as "dropout factories".


Dilric Miller was killed early Monday when someone fired 37 rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle into his family's home on Greenview Avenue in Detroit.

There is a sense of moral decay, with babies having babies, the lack of skills to obtain a decent job matched only by the dearth of jobs, resulting in too many children not knowing any adult who gets up, gets dressed and goes to a paying job.

Are Detroit children's view of the future to be drugs, jail, welfare, prison and violent death?

There are those who point to a century's-ago slavery and today's racism as a cause, even as the senseless killings continue to remain too often, black-on-black crime and violence.

There are many decent schools, teachers, adults and children in Detroit but sadly, they are increasingly islands surrounded by a sea of despair.

Detroit police Sgt. Eren Stephens is quoted as saying, "I believe that we as a community have to come together to stop this senseless violence ... It's going to take everyone in this community to say enough is enough."

Amen Sgt. Stephens.

Yet, sadly, this cry of anguish has been heard as often as the decades-old murderous gunfire. Church services will be held, children buried, political speeches will echo, rallies and marches organized and still the senseless killing continues.

What is happening in Detroit is as much a national emergency as any deadly hurricane, tornado, earthquake or terrorist attack. If it was to be described as a disease, it would be an epidemic and the Center for Disease Control would be on the scene.

Sadly, these crazy murders have become the norm, numbing us to the shame and tragedy in our midst.

When will it all end? When will leaders address the root causes of this social decay? When will the people stand up and scream and then act on, "Enough is enough!"

Soon, a 9-month old baby boy, murdered in a drive-by shooting, will be buried and the cycle will continue. Imagine if this were your child or grandchild?

It is past time to save our children. Stop the killing.

Crime is killing us all.

Before the month is out there will likley be more senseless murders.

Will Sgt. Stephens or her counterpart once again be heard saying,"I believe that we as a community have to come together to stop this senseless violence?"

Will we?

Tom Watkins is a former Michigan state superintendent of schools and state mental health deputy and director. He is a U.S./China business and educational consultant. He can be reached at:


Beth Mayhand

Sat, Feb 25, 2012 : 2:08 a.m.

This violence WON'T end but will in fact get much worse. Take time to read: 1 Thessalonians 5 verse 3 "For when they shall say peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." These are the beginning of sorrows warned of in Matthew 24. The Lord is doing to the world ALL that was done to Him! It is no more wrong for children today to be killed as it was when Jesus was picked to be murdered and Barrabbas instead was released by, Herod and Pilate. We have not changed! We are no better than those wicked religious, political and educated folks that CHOSE to torture and then murder Jesus, refusing to believe He was the son of God. Why would we now be surprised by the same kind of evil that takes the life of children....................after all "we are the children of them which killed the prophets" as per Matthew 23:31. We have been warned since the beginning of time and still have not changed our ways. The religious, political and educated world will be destroyed by the Lord as promised. When the two witnesses of Revelation 11 arrive, they aren't coming for peace or rapture, but for the Lord's vengeance and wrath! 3 & 1/2 years of world wide drought, famine, plagues and so much more. The entire world will lose millions of men, women and children everyday at their hands and there won't be a damn thing anyone can do to stop this. God's will, will be done as it has been spoken.


Sat, Feb 25, 2012 : 12:01 a.m.

I'm afraid Sgt. Stephens will need far more than "the community coming together to say enough is enough". It's too sad for words what has happened to Detroit. There really is no "community" in Detroit. Those who live in Detroit who are law abiding citizens with jobs and families probably can't afford to move out so they stay. Some are probably fearful of the gang related activity that goes on continuously and may be too afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation. It's so sad. Why does it have to be that way? others have said, it starts in the home with a FATHER figure to help instill morals and values...the value of life! These supposed "men" need to take responsibility for the children they help conceive. It's cowardly to walk away from a biological child and continue to "hang out" with their gang. GO HOME TO YOUR FAMILY AND BE A FATHER AND HUSBAND!!!!!!!! MAN UP!!!!


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

My answer is YES! Unless someone can give me multiple examples of life having meaning there. And I'm not talking about suburban crusaders coming in trying to make things better.

rusty shackelford

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

OK, a few things. Yes, these deaths are tragic, especially innocent bystanders and especially children. Ultimately the person responsible for a murder is the one who pulls the trigger. That said, this article is a travesty of shallow analysis and rhetorical questions. The whole "killed over a dirty look, a cellphone, blah blah blah" is silly. That's the reason you hear as an outsider. There may have been a dirty look or whatever involved at some point, but the overwhelming majority of these killings are about turf disputes, either gangs or hustlers killing each other over drug and (sometimes) extortion turf. People don't say this to cops and reporters because if they did they'd be killed for snitching. Most of the time the community and even the cops know who did this but don't talk out of fright or the desire to exact vengeance themselves, and ostensibly without eyewitness testimony it's too hard to prosecute. Absolutely a cultural change is needed in these communities. But I'll note one interesting juxtaposition. The cops were able to effectively destroy the Black Panthers in about 5 years. This was a group of intelligent activists that had wide (not universal) support amongst urban African Americans because they offered a vision of positivity and strength. But apparently getting rid of small bands of uneducated and divisive criminals who've made countless enemies in their own communities is just too hard? It's all a matter of priorities. When they're killing "their own" rather than questioning white privilege, it just isn't that important.

Matt Pegouskie

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 9:38 p.m.

Rusty, it's the difference between fighting an opponent that has everything to lose (houses, families, jobs, etc) vs fighting an opponent who has nothing to lose. It's always much more difficult to tackle those with nothing to lose.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

To answer the headline - Yes


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

I keep saying it and I will keep saying it. Detroit is a third world country war zone. No other major city in this country can compare to the violence and corruption of Detroit. I have friends who go to Detroit and say it is safe and I laugh at them and say you wanna bet. You could not pay me or my family to go there. Should of relocated the major sports complex's from there years ago. Detroit is to far gone and will never recover or prosper again. You can say I am negative and I say open your eyes to the facts. Crime, drugs, killings are running rampant there. Detroit city officials are constantly fighting letting an emergency manager come in and possibly helping them. Detroit will be bankrupt before this year is out. When children and babies are not safe you know there is a major major problem. Crimes like this are typical of third world country's.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

The downtown area is safe, it is the neighborhoods where you need to have a heightened sense of awareness.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

"sick society"...." Life comes cheap"....."lack of education"..... "functionally illiterate."....."dropout factories"......."moral decay", "Tom Watkins is a former Michigan state superintendent of schools and state mental health deputy and director. " I guess its a good thing your job's weren't performance/outcome based.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

What gets me is that per news reports this was clearly a gang-related shooting, people in the house (the targets) either know or have a pretty good idea about who did the shooting but won't tell the police. The police know this, but they can't get them to tell them whom to interview and/or charge. So they appear to want to take care of it by themselves... "street justice" as they say. You shoot one of ours, we shoot two of yours, and the cycle repeats. It has to stop! Nobody wins in this scenario. I've known Detroit police officers... they're not the bad guys! You gotta be tough to work that job and take no gruff, but when you're dealing with people who refuse to work with you (or worse)... hey, it isn't pretty. But forming gangs and dishing out street justice, not the answer. I don't care what their grievances are they're destroying their own city by doing that. Until that changes there will be no renaissance in Detroit. /And, before the politicians come out with the usual... it isn't a lack of gun control that lead to this. We have the same gun laws all over the state, but these things tend to only happen in certain areas where there are gangs. The GANGS are the problem, not the guns! My gun has never been used to kill anyone, nor will it be unless someone threatens me or my family. And if it is used my first call would be to the POLICE, not my homey!


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

Kids with no dads. That is the biggest problem. And hey, who needs contraception? God wants us to procreate as much as possible.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

And here's a link for you, alarictoo (and everybody else, of course): <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Top Cat

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

I was watching the news after Delric's tragic death. I saw Delric's Mother and Grandmother. I asked my wife, &quot;Where's his father?&quot;


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

Almost forgot... Here is a link to some actual facts about that case: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

@Peter - Let's be fair and not forget the murder of 17-year-old Je'Rean Blake. He was killed by Chauncey Owens, who was hiding out in Ayana's family's home. Why did he kill Je'Rean? For giving him a &quot;dirty look&quot;. Yes, Ayana's death is tragic. So is Je'Rean's. It is too bad that Ayana's dad was a thug who provided Chauncey with the gun, then allowed him to try to hide from police in his home.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Well-written article. The issues in Detroit are the same as the issues around the country in other inner cities. Detroit's are magnified due to population changes that have left the city decimated coupled with lack of resources and city government corruption. The US is sinking into 3rd world status with it's increasing income disparity and corporatocracy at the federal level, and Detroit is the poster child for rampant crime, gangs, drugs and an urban downward spiral. Why have auto companies, for example, been allowed to leave miles and miles of decaying factories in the city and not be forced to at least tear them down? There are some 90,000 abandoned structures in the city of Detroit, and some of those are owned by auto companies. The structural decay is only one part of the overall urban decay of a city such as Detroit, but federal and state government policies do not support a serious effort at restoring the inner city of cities such as Detroit. It would take a massive infusion of resources, with drug rehab, job training, building affordable housing (vs housing projects), and on and on. Not likely to happen.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

No matter how you look at it, Detroit is in a state of crisis, yet, there is little in the way of leadership to help this town out of of its crisis. Charles Pugh, in the middle of his term announces that he will not be seeking reelection to cit y council, yet he continues act like he is in charge. When all else fail, the leadership blame racism. Unless and until Detroiters adopt a new leadership paradigm this problem will continue into the forseable future.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

The sexual revolution has eroded the foundation of our society - the traditional family unit. In Detroit, over 70% of children are born out of wedlock and most fathers abandon both their children and the mothers of the children. Detroit will not recover until its citizens get married, stay married, and care for their children together. The family unit is where societal stability begins and ends. Sex and relationships are not a game, but we treat them as such these days. We are now paying for it.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

@cat. Yes, education starts AT HOME. The education is there if they want it and work for it, and the jobs are there if they get that education...


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

Right. It's all family values that is eroding society. It's not lack of education or lack of jobs...


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

Statistically speaking, they are all very highly correlated. So, quite possibly yes.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

Right, because poverty, crime, drug epidemics, failed industry and government corruption are all the fault of the sexual revolution and subsequent breakdown of the traditional family unit.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

@Peter: You forgot to mention that the police were after the murderer they were letting live upstairs.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

So it's okay to kill a 7 year old, as long as you're after a murderer upstairs?


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

When will it end? Leader? Until Detroit and cities like them stop following their self proclaimed leaders like Al and Jesse who do nothing but blame everyone north of 8 mile for their problems nothing is going to change. People in Detroit need to look in the mirror and convince themselves that they are responsible for their future. It's their little gang banging hood rat kids doing this, do something about it. Stop blaming everyone else, stop waiting for Obama to solve your problems, get off your own fat back side and do something about the problem.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

Speaking of buried in the news cycle, don't forget Ayana Jones, the little girl killed by the police to make a better TV show.