Friday, October 27, 2006

Knife culture hits home

There is a teenage boy I have known for many years who, last week, admitted to his dad that he carries a flick knife.

This is a boy who snuggled up on my knee aged five years old and affectionately stroked my arm with his hand. Out of nowhere he asked ‘Do you like being white?’ flabbergasted by this from someone so young I stuttered a response ‘Of course’. As I composed myself I was drawn to ask the same, ‘Do you like being black?’ I said. He looked up at me with his beguiling brown eyes and sadly answered ‘no’.

It was ten years ago that this exchange took place yet it has never left me. It pierced my heart that someone so young could already sense the injustices of life. I wanted to hold him and protect him and tell him that everything would be alright. But he had a point, in the scheme of things he was right, my chances were better than his.

I proudly sat in church as I watched him and his bother serve as altar boys for many years. I was there at his confirmation as he stood shyly in his suit. He is a teenager now (and taller than me!) but has never lost that open affection. I am still greeted by an all-embracing hug, even if he only has a grunt to say. He is a boy I love dearly and he is carrying a knife. It breaks my heart and strikes fear inside.

He doesn’t have a great relationship with his dad, he hardly ever sees him in fact. Yet still he was inclined to tell him. Is this because it has become such commonplace? Was he saying it with pride? Or is this just what kids do now?

I can see how it happens, the peer pressure building up. If all your mates do it you will too. They all say they will never use it, but you never know. It only takes a moment, a second of blind panic and someone’s blood could be on your hands.

I am sending his uncles to try and talk some sense into him, but I fear it will take more than that to break the culture that is surrounding him and his friends.