Crime in Chicago has already reached epidemic proportions, but our hearts still ache every time we hear of a new incident that has occurred. This past weekend, 2 people were injured and 19 teens were arrested at the Ford City mall where the group, Mindless Behavior, was making an appearance. Officials were forced to shut down the mall but the chaotic scene continued outside where police found nearly 200 teens damaging vehicles in the parking lot.
I’ve seen many responses to this terrible occurrence and the most common is, ‘Where are the parents?’ Our black youth in Chicago seem to be on some sort of rampage. We hear reports of shootings and killings on an almost daily basis and yet, somehow, we have to wrap our minds around having to send our own sons out there every day to go to school. As a mother of 3 sons, I have to say that there are many more causes to our problem with violence than just parenting issues. I keep hearing people say that it starts at home and I know that it does. But I have also learned from my own experiences with my sons that it doesn’t end there. My sons were raised in a loving, 2 parent household where work ethics and education were emphasized continuously. Both of their parents were educated and went to work every day and I made sure that in addition to discipline and guidance, they experienced fun, dinner together every night, family vacations and an environment that was loving and open. We also made sure that they had chores, curfews and that they read for an hour every night before bed. I thought that their father and I did a great job in preparing them for life and helping them to become good responsible men.
My sons are now 16, 19 and 21 and each of them has come to me on separate occasions to tell me things that went on in their lives that I didn’t know about. All of them have expressed that they feel depressed and often hopeless. One of my sons struggles with anger issues and has for a long time. He ended up getting kicked out of one high school, and was about to be expelled from the second one, when I decided to enroll him into Jobs Corp. He completed his program and is now in college. My other son was fired from a job for stealing…and 2 other jobs for no call/no show…and my other son failed a grade and had to repeat it. When they tell me that they feel depressed or hopeless, my initial response was, ‘What the hell could you possibly be depressed about? You have a great life!’ But, when I look at the choices that they have made in life, I have to pay attention and hear what they are telling me. And hearing the stories of so many other parents, I’ve really thought a lot about this and I can understand why my sons may feel the way they do.
The majority of inner-city schools are failing right now. There is a Great Schools rating system and our public schools are hovering between 1 and 4 on a scale of 1 to 10. The schools that are doing well are magnet schools and the average kid has a low chance of getting into one. Especially if he’s coming from an underperforming elementary school. What does that mean? It means that most of our kids are going to schools that have little or no extracurricular activities. They typically have nothing fun to look forward to throughout the day. It also means that they are likely enrolled in a school that has tried to revamp their staff, resulting in a predominantly young, white staff trying to control a predominantly black school.
This model doesn’t work and it often sets up a system that is similar to jail. The staff is afraid of the kids and therefore institutes hundreds of rules in order to make themselves feel safe. Don’t think that the kids don’t recognize this for what it is. This also contributes to them feeling worthless or bad about themselves. Many of us are out of work and having a hard time and that also translates to our children. Even though we may not tell them what’s going on, they feel it. They’re also surrounded by kids affiliated with various gangs on a daily basis. It’s impossible to avoid and that can be stressful. Even if there are great after school programs, it’s scary to go somewhere after school and risk being in the wrong neighborhood or running into the wrong person. My son was jumped while riding his bike in Kenwood because he was on the “wrong block.” Really? I found out that now different factions of the same gangs can have beef with each other and lay claim to certain blocks. It’s crazy.
I’ve also had to realize that collective consciousness is real and plays a part in my sons’ lives. No matter what my influence is, they are being bombarded by the experiences of their peers 24/7. They are plugged into the TV, social media, music, news, etc. and as much as we tried to limit their exposure, somehow they’ve adapted attitudes and views that have nothing to do with the way that we raised them. My sons seem to feel entitled and they always seem to want to take the least difficult path in everything that they do. One wanted to be an architect when he was little, now he wants to be a rapper. I asked him why he changed his mind. “That will take too long. That’s too much school,” he told me. Where did they get that from? Not from me or their father. I feel like the qualities I tried to instill in my kids are being overwhelmed by stronger influences and I suspect that many parents also feel that way. I can’t say with certainty that if one of my sons were there at Ford City mall this weekend, that they wouldn’t have gotten caught up in the mob mentality. So many of our young men are finding ways to make themselves feel – anything at all and it often results in negative behavior. In a society that constantly tells us that black people are worthless, less-than and useless, we have to try to figure out what to do once that message has been received by our sons.
Baby on board
Beyonce will be giving Blue Ivy a sibling in the near future.Get the details