Report on Radio 4 Today, and splashed across the front page of The Guardian something that's been around for a while, but I guess the power of the press release, timing and political pressure [ a year long government study] means oxygen of publicity: Black boys need role models beyond pop stars and bling rappers.
Circa 1993, on my last leg in SA, the same feeling prevailed. I even did the occasional mentoring talk, But South Africa is a vast country with role models a plenty, and while they are not free of social problems, the strata, the visible presence of middle class professionals will have done much to suggest alternative lifestyles for wavering youth.
In the UK you could argue that as a visible minority, the challenge is convincing a young un, that black doctors, lawyers, academics do exist. I know it sounds a naive thing to say. Working for BBC Reportage, I reported on this. The group I found were around 13 years old with guns (they wouldn't show their faces on cameras prefering to hide behind scarfs, so the editor had me drop them for something else). That was 15 years ago.
What's happening now is a generation of neglect boiling over the pot.
Recently, a group of black youngsters gathered around an editor friend of mine, amazed at what he did and that he could make a living. He drives a new model jag; their immediate thought was he was in the music business.
Where we are now is a deep seated problem and one that politically has been ignored to the point of a festering social disease. And yes it does cut both ways: parents and authorities, many believe to blame.
Politically you could choose, as has been done, to ignore it. And by that I mean not give it the full weight of attention it deserves. "Its a constricted problem. Doesn't affect the surburbs". Successive governments have done so.
The starkest most brutal comment I heard comes from a film: "Let them shoot one another". But the realisation is quickening that it's societal. Do nothing and Blade Runner's murky outlook will look like Sesame Street: no go areas and locked off areas of society.
We're not near to South Africa's model where violence has led to whole streets being walled off with security guards. What was fascinatig for me during my reporting days was how localised violence was. A side issue: Soweto was almost cheek by jowl to the Joberg and the affluence of say, Sandton but Sandton remained unblighted by the rage.
This is not exclusively a problem to do with young black boys. It exists around social, as well as class and ethnic lines - all connected in a complex but easy-to-judge matrix.
At the point that someone shoots someone else because they want that badge as a gangster; they want to do time to show how "hard" they are, you know you have a problem, and that's not a colour issue.
It's life, respect, and what the hell has gone wrong. More importantly, what's the solution?