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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, April 02, 2007

Gotta get political again

It's been that kind of week, folks. Sorry for the lack of posting.

But on to business. So we had an interesting article in Sunday's Miami Herald - no I did not write it - about fighting violent crime.

One of my colleagues reported on the creation of the Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys. It's a sort of new panel signed into law by recent-former Gov. Jeb Bush. The council, whose mission is to study the issues negatively impacting the lives of young black men and boys is located in the Florida Attorney General's office, and has an operating budget of $200,000 annually.

Among the issues the council is studying? Rising homicide rates, poverty, low income, breakdown of family structure and rising incarceration rates.

OK, so here's the deal. You know the theory of six degrees of separation? That everyone on Earth is connected to everyone else on Earth via a mere six people. In other words, someone I know knows someone who knows someone who knows someone, etc., who knows someone who knows you.

This issue of negative impact is six degrees of separation. All of these influences are interconnected.

And you can call me insensitive but they all come back to old-fashioned home training and intestinal fortitude.

It's like this. If I have a weak mind, or I am mentally ill, or depressed, or just downtrodden and lacking hope, I am going to be most susceptible to negative influences in my life.

If I have no job and no hopes of finding one soon with which I can reasonably support myself, I am going to be susceptible to negative influences in my life.

If I'm young and I lack adult guidance and leadership IN MY HOME, I am going to be susceptible to negative influences in my life.

If I'm young and the value system shown me by the adults in my life does not put a premium on education, work, and good sense, I am going to be susceptible to negative influences in my life.

Folks, the state does not need to spend $200,000 a year studying this. I would've taken $20,000 and a six pack to tell them what they needed to know to address this problem.

Even if you accept that over the years there has been some institutional racism in place that made it difficult for poor families to break the cycle, certain issues and influences don't have a government component.

If your kid isn't going to school every day or he's not bringing text books home and you don't ask him about it, that's not the government's fault. And it ain't a matter of racism. Forget what you look like. Check your kid, as in get in his face. Ask him why he doesn't have school books at home. Ask him to see his homework. And if he says he has none, call his teachers.

If your kid is, as my Grandma Rosa would say, "actin' a fool," check him. Make him act right. And if he won't act right, try again, and again. Give him alternatives for how to spend his time, anything but lounging with underachieving peers who don't aspire to anything.

If your kid appears to admire his or her friend who just had or helped make a baby, check your kid - especially if you conceived your child at a young age - and break it down for him. Explain that it costs too much in $$$ and emotional stability to try to raise a child when you're still one yourself.

If your kid thinks his favorite musician is the savviest businessman on the planet, explain to him that his top artist does NOT own the cars he drives in music videos. He does not own the houses he sings or rhymes in front of in the videos. That stuff was leased. That video probably cost him almost all of any advance money he received. And when his agents, the record labels, and all the hangers-on are paid, most of the artists are broke as a joke.

If your kid doesn't think jail is a big deal, take him on a field trip to a state prison and have him sit on the other side of the Plexiglas in the visiting room, across from an inmate who has become a designated girlfriend on the inside. If it's death that's not a big deal, don't just take him to visit the morgue. Find someone who looks like him, but is a few years older and headed for a stable life. Make him see that "living" can be quite comfortable if you work hard, don't get screwed, and find a measure of good luck along the way.

If your kid has bought the hype about "the man" reining death and destruction down on the 'hood, firmly but gently point out to him that the vast majority of young black men murdered in the U.S. are killed by other young black men. Exhort him and his friends to stand up and not become a part of those statistics.

If your kid blames "lack of respect" on violence in his neighborhood, explain to him that shooting the person who accidentally stepped on your Nikes won't get you respect. It will get you feared, and scorned, and either locked up or killed in revenge.

I can go on. I won't. Seriously, the state of Florida does not need to spend $200,000 a year studying this. And if they do they can just forward that check to me. This isn't about race. It's about hope, hopelessness, prospects, and expectations. The cycle of depression just has to be broken. I know that's easier said than done. But we're talking about identifying the problem not declaring a solution. The latter is another conversation altogether.

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6 Comments:

  • Well said. I agree with every word.
    I raise my kids in the manner you outline and they are doing fine when so many others by 8 years old are on the road to state prison.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 5:51 PM  

  • Some of my in-laws thought I was a little too strict with my kids when they were little. My kids tell me that they have more freedom now than there friends, whose parents are trying to reign them in. Why? Because they took responsibility, earned respect, and go the freedom that comes with being good, hard-working kids with goals.
    What I find sad is that they seem to feel a need to study this on a racial basis. It isn't nature, it's nurture.

    By Blogger Bob Johnson, at 8:23 PM  

  • I'd suggest you run for governor, but politics can ruin a person.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 8:40 PM  

  • I love this post. Love it.

    The thing that gets me about these studies and their findings is that they eventually lead to the creation of some governmental solution. As if the government is a sound entity to mete out the type of care and rearing that people in family crisis need.

    In my home state we've recently been given the results of a similar study. The proposed solution? Give more money to the public school system to solve the problem.

    In fact, I don't know how it is in other states, but around here the solutions to all the problems you describe in this post are eventually relegated to the realm of our public schools. And when kids drop out, get each other pregnant, fail to meet academic standards, or otherwise screw up their lives it's the schools that get blamed. Not the parents. As if it's a teacher's job to overcome apathetic parenting and the momentum o fbad decision making.

    It makes me sad that there are so many young kids who aren't getting what they need to be succesful, and that there are so many idiot adults willing to continue creating another generation of them.

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 10:44 AM  

  • You hit the nail on the head AGAIN, James. Parenting is not the responsibility of anyone but the parents. However, there is a serious lack of parental concern nowadays, and our youth are suffering.

    Many parents are shocked when they discover what their children are doing online. I let my daughter have a myspace account, only b/c I have the password. I've known what the kids of these "good" parents have been doing and saying all along - the parents are the ones to blame for not being more involved with their children.

    Good topic.

    By Blogger Tiggerlane, at 12:18 PM  

  • Very well said. These truths are well known, and obvious to most.

    By Blogger Fathairybastard, at 6:38 PM  

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