Newell: After Devante Bryant killed, where's the motivation to make things better?

Newell Normand
July 14, 2020 - 3:39 pm

You’ve heard me talk a lot about leadership in this country, both in our elected officials and in our communities. You’ve also heard me say that what goes on in Washington DC doesn’t affect us here. It’s what we do here in New Orleans and in Louisiana that will affect us here. 

Five people were shot in three separate incidents last night. Tragically, 9-year-old Devante Bryan was killed dead in the street. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Bryant family. No-one, no-one, no-one should lose their child this way. Another two teenagers were shot in the stomach and the leg.

Chief Ferguson said this is unacceptable and he’s right. Credit is due to those who have consumed political capital by going to the forefront and looking within instead of placing blame on Washington DC, or saying that hunger is driving these crime rates. That’s ludicrous. But I will remind you that it was not so long ago that a number of New Orleans leaders stood up together and said “we do not have a juvenile crime problem in this city, and in fact, we are too tough in trying to hold people accountable. We need to worry more about disproportionate impact, disproportionate incarceration and things like that, and not worry about accountability.”

It’s going to be interesting to see where the political leaders in the city are when there’s an election for District Attorney this fall. This is about a progressive DA versus everybody else. The progressive DA wants to take office and unilaterally decide which laws he or she is going to prosecute, based on disproportionate impacts and disproportionate outcomes. The Nashville prosecutor announced the other day that he’s not going to prosecute certain crimes because communities of color are disproportionately impacted. Really? 

Because offenders decide to offend, and they may be of a race that is disproportionately impacted, we’re not going to prosecute those cases? You have got to be kidding me. Does anybody believe for a second that what these progressive leaders across this country are talking about led to this shooting or any other?

Where’s the outrage here? New York, Chicago, and now New Orleans…. we’ve had so many children killed in the last week. It’s totally unacceptable. You’re hearing from the families, hearing the emotions, hearing the disgust, hearing the pleas for help. They’re looking to their leaders to provide that assistance. They’re making the observation that if this was a child from a different neighborhood that was killed, there’d be a human cry in the streets, but in certain neighborhoods, he’s dispensable. 

Your participation in the election for District Attorney this fall, no matter who is running, is going to set the course, the tenor and the tone of how we hold people accountable for criminal acts in this city for a long time to come. And mostly what we have heard so far from leaders in this city are thoughts and prayers for the Bryant family. Where’s the outrage? Where’s the change? Where’s the motivation to make things better than they are right now?

We need to look at what we are allegedly doing as alternatives to incarceration and juvenile justice reform, and whether or not any of it is even meaningful. It’s rare that we look at an individual two years post-majority and see if any of these programs that we set up in the juvenile justice system are working. What good is it, if within six months of reaching the age of majority, they’re in trouble again and going to jail? We don’t look at it that way. All we’re doing is moving them through the system, and not looking to see if we are affecting systemic change in the outcomes.

Ferguson said it well - we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and account for our own despicable conduct that’s leading to this kind of shooting. We need not look anywhere else. 


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