In The News
New York— Police and media outlets are warning about a disturbing trend occurring in several big cities. In the so-called knockout game, teenagers punch strangers, trying to knock them unconscious with one hit. Five people have died as a result, and some cases are being investigated as hate crimes.
Several assaults have been captured on videotape, and authorities are concerned about copycats. Robbery isn’t a motive in the random attacks.
Professor Chuck Williams, an expert on youth violence, said this game is spreading because kids want attention and notoriety. “America loves violence, and so do our kids,” he added. “We market violence to our children and we wonder why they’re violent. It’s because we are.”
Yet some officials say this “game” might be an urban myth—just the sort of random assaults that have always occurred on city streets. “There is no noticeable trend,” said Jeffrey Butts at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. Fear being spread by reports of the knockout game may have racial roots, he added.
Several bloggers say warnings of the knockout game echo previous reports of “wilding,” where bands of poor, black teenagers committed random violence. “Today’s panic over ‘knockout’ is almost certain to become tomorrow’s excuse for justifying our skepticism and fear of black teenagers,” wrote Jamelle Bouie.
Emma Roller noted, “This is precisely the type of story meant to animate the deepest recesses of our lizard brains—‘Danger lurks around every corner! Identify your enemy!’”
Whether the knockout game is a growing trend or a few isolated cases, community leaders insist it’s unacceptable. “Violence like this should not be condoned no matter the age of the offender,” said New York State Assemblyman Jim Tedisco. “Youth should not be an excuse for this kind of behavior.”
Sources: cnn.com, dailybeast.com, slate.com, nytimes.com
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Based on media coverage of the knockout game, what assumptions have you made about it? Do you think it’s happening enough to be considered a trend? Do you think it’s anything different from random violence that has always happened? Explain.
Have you heard buzz about this game among your peers or on social media? Have you taken extra precautions to keep yourself safe? Explain.
Do you agree that Americans—and especially kids—love violence? Why or why not? In what ways is violence marketed to children and teenagers? How might our society make violence seem less appealing to young people?
In your opinion, is the knockout game just another way to reinforce racial stereotypes? Why or why not? Do you ever view people of other races as people to fear? as your enemies? Explain. What are some ways to promote trust and unity among people of different skin colors?
Do you think teenagers often use their age as an excuse for bad behavior? Why or why not? Which do you think is more common among today’s teenagers: random acts of violence or random acts of kindness? Explain.
In your day-to-day life, how fearful are you generally? What things frighten you the most, and how do you cope with your fears?
Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Psalm 34:4; Isaiah 60:18; John 14:27; Galatians 3:26-29; and 2 Timothy 1:7.
Hope you find this helpful with your students,