“African-American youth, I mean, to a point where they’ve just about never done more poorly, there’s no spirit, there’s killings on an hourly basis virtually in places like Baltimore and Chicago and many other places. There’s no spirit.”
“I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out onto the street to murder other African-American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens, she didn’t. You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter. Tell the truth. You are defending the people who cause young people to go out and take guns.”
I wanted to share my thoughts on victim blaming regarding African American youth. Black kids, tweens, and teenagers, dare I say, have gotten the most criticism when it comes to the narrative that is “The Black Struggle.” Everything tends to fall back on them. I hear the conversations all of the time within and outside the community. “If that little hoodlum would just pull up his pants and act like he got some sense, he wouldn’t get harassed by the police,” or, “I wish she would stop laying up with every thug that looks at her, she already got 2 kids.”
It’s so easy to past judgement, isn’t it? Especially when you’ve done all that you were supposed to do as an adult and/or community to raise the most upstanding citizens to walk the face of the earth. I mean, it’s always so easy to pass judgement when all of these trouble kids are born and raised in communities with an abundance of opportunities just waiting at their door step. And even though these latchkey kids may have an absentee father and a neglectful mother, there’s no excuse as to why they shouldn’t be Rhodes Scholars, right?
Over the weekend, I got hooked on the A&E Network television series Beyond Scared Straight. Executive produced by Arnold Shapiro — who happened to be the director for the 1978 documentary Scared Straight — this television show follows at-risk teenagers as they go through an intervention program that takes place in prison. The premise of the show is to scare the teenagers away from a life of crime, drugs and promiscuity, all while giving them a reality check to where they will end up if they don’t change their ways. It was a very controversial show; some will say that this tactic is inhumane, while others say that this is exactly what those “chiwren” needed.
Just to give you an idea of what this show is about, take a look at the following clip.
Intense, right? While I was watching these teens and tweens get a healthy dosage of tough love from the inmates and correctional officers, I couldn’t help but ask, “who are their parents?”
Growing up, there was a fine line that I never crossed. Not just due to the love and respect that I had for my parents, but also out of the fear that I had for my parents. Seriously, I might have tried them (just like we all do) but I knew when to shut up, because if I didn’t, I would’ve easily ended up in intensive care. My parents taught me that love, respect, and fear that kept me on the right path. I wouldn’t have been able to figure it out on my own, not without the right guidance. So when I watch these episodes or see kids misbehaving out in public, the first question that I always ask is, “who are their parents?”
I don’t have much sympathy for adults who tend to play the victim role as quickly as I would for children because there’s a certain level of responsibility and accountability that comes with being an adult. If you’re man enough and woman enough to have consensual sex that produces a child, then be man enough and woman enough to raise that child. Yes, it does take a village. But that village isn’t responsible for your son/daughter, you are.
The parent/guardian is responsible for teaching their kids how to love themselves, treat others, respect their elders, place value in education, and etc. Not the kids. So this selfish idea that these young children, tweens, and teenagers are the cause for all of their behavioral problems is just a cop-out from the real reasons: the parents, neglect, abandonment, poverty, abuse. When these young boys and young girls are brought up in situations beyond their control, their innocence taken beyond their control, and their mind/body/soul abused beyond their control, those troubled kids grow up into troubled adults and the likelihood of that cycle continuing remains high.
Capital Preparatory Magnet School Principal, Dr. Steve Perry, made reference to young students overcoming individual struggles and beating the odds in this year’s SAB Black History Month program at Centennial Hall. Perry stated, “too many of us are comfortable with participation trophies. Don’t just show up. It’s about overcoming adversity. The biggest fight champions face is not on the outside, it’s on the inside. True champions fill themselves with images that inspire them.”
There is power in making individual strides to becoming a better person, especially when you’re young. But if young people don’t see that champion-like potential or have at least one positive image to emulate from, then who are we (adults) to pass judgement and just wait for students to do it themselves? Dr. Perry is one of the few within the school system to genuinely care about the progression of minority boys and girls. With overcrowded classrooms, lack of supplies, lack of funding, and an overall “IDGAF” attitude from the faculty within these low-income schools, who are we (adults) to pass judgement as if these students have all of the tools to be successful?
National Certified School Psychologist, Dr. Umar Johnson, makes reference to the war on black boys by arguing that schools deal with perceived “bad behavior” by diagnosing students (mostly black boys) with ADHD, Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. Johnson stated, “97 percent of public school teachers — charter, independent school teachers are female, so you have to look at the female culture of the schoolhouse and how when boys cannot adjust adequately to female expectations, they are marginalized. When you look at the criteria for ADHD, losing things necessary to get your work done, not being able to pay attention, blurting out answers, having excessive energy — that’s normal male childhood behavior, but when you come to school, you’re kind of expected not to engage in traditional male types of behavior and if you do, you become stigmatized. And then in comes the drug companies, manufacturers of all these popular anti-stimulant medications who pay for a lot of the teacher conferences.” So, if the majority of the school teachers are females and young black boys are perceived as “menaces to society” who need medication upon their first outburst, then who are we (adults) to pass judgement as if these boys aren’t targets within a classroom, let alone on the street?
Black youth are not at fault for all or even the majority of the problems that our community has to deal with. Take into consideration the school-to-prison pipeline, systemic racism, and capitalism, you’ll realize that it’s much bigger than them. If we open our eyes, we’ll see it. But if we continue to be divisive and keep pointing the finger at kids (yes, they’re just kids), what do you think other people are going to do.
Don’t know? Here’s a reminder:
Until Next Time…
Now, N. (n.d.). ADHD Wars Against Black Boys: Dr. Umar Johnson Details How To Combat Misdiagnosis Of The Learning Disorder. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://newsone.com/3107853/adhd-misdiagnosis-black-boys-dr-umar-johnson/
Moodley, K. (2015, June 24). Donald Trump says African-American youths ‘have no spirit’ Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/donald-trump-says-african-american-youths-have-no-spirit-10342030.html
Porter, T. (2016, March 3). Dr. Steve Perry remarks on diversity, education in keynote address. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.astateherald.com/news/dr-steve-perry-remarks-on-diversity-education-in-keynote-address/article_460dd48a-e166-11e5-8ec6-330a67fa9ef0.html
Sanders, S. (2016, April 7). Bill Clinton Gets Into Heated Exchange With Black Lives Matter Protester. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/2016/04/07/473428472/bill-clinton-gets-into-heated-exchange-with-black-lives-matter-protester