Why do today’s inner city youth sell and use drugs; exhibit savage violence and hostility toward each other; and seem utterly unsalvageable?
All of the aforementioned issues are caused by a cycle of short-sightedness due to the perception of being in “survival mode.”
We all know the old African Proverb: It takes a village to raise a child. What if the village is poorly educated, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and constantly working and/or having fun instead of giving the child much needed attention and mentorship? The answer can be seen in Chicago, Detroit, Pine Bluff, Newark, Philly, Baltimore, DC, etc. Many of these communities are a real life adaptation of “The Lord of the Flies.” The children are fighting in the streets for supremacy and the parents are either unable or unwilling to correct their child’s actions.
Blame it on the parents?
Yes and no. There are millions of terrible parents all over America. In an ideal community a bad parent’s effect on their child is diluted or completely overshadowed by the good influences in that child’s life. Inversely, in the inner city hardworking parents who work stressful low-income jobs for long hours have children that are forced to interact (unsupervised) with the children of self-centered, abusive, and/or otherwise unfit parents.
Unfortunately, when you combine bad parenting, poverty and ignorance with close quarter living you have a recipe for chaos. Those children that we see doing unthinkable things to each other on television, Youtube, and sometimes in person are doing what they believe they must in order to survive.
Short Term Thinking
How do we expect today’s children to understand the consequences of their actions without an understanding of long term thinking?
America is all about instant gratification and doing things in the quickest and easiest way possible. On television, in the movies, and in music adolescents see and hear tales about people who came from similar circumstances that are now living the “good” life through illegal means. They do not understand the difference between fiction and reality. Worst of all, their ignorance is reinforced by observing the worst people in their neighborhood seemingly succeeding. Since, success in the eyes of the poor is often measured by the amount of luxury items one has; the person with the most luxury items often receives the most attention from his/her peers. Attention, especially in the form of acclamation and admiration, is more valuable than life itself to some one who has been denied it throughout his/her life.
In their reality, the easiest and quickest way to make large amounts of money is buying doing something illegal i.e. selling drugs and robbery. In “law of the jungle” neighborhoods, being the most violent and vicious will earn respect from other violent people. Not doing so, will make you a possible target or victim. In short, the weaker “good” kids get robbed, beat up, killed, or become drug users in order to cope with the pressure.
The current solution is to imprison and punish the “bad” people so all can see what happens when one does not behave.
Unfortunately, showing a short-term thinker the possible consequences of their actions is not enough. “Scared Straight” programs do not work on short-term thinkers because being aware of consequences and understanding them are completely different. Every drug dealer knows that selling drugs is illegal. They also know that selling drugs is a fast way to make money. To an average or long-term thinker the cost of such actions far outweighs the benefit, but a short term thinker assesses only the immediate costs (getting a connection and the money to get started) and the benefits (money for survival and luxury items, as well as, the respect of his/her peers.)
The real solution begins with hope and ends with education. In 1903 W.E.B. Du Bois, wrote an article titled, “The Talented Tenth” wherein he said, “Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools: intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it”
The overall idea of the Talented Tenth is community and mentorship. Those who succeed must go back to the community and train others to succeed. In theory, we combat the negative influences with positive influences until the positive far outweighs the negative, thus changing the societal norm from self-destruction to self-improvement. For this to happen, the educated and motivated few must perceive the benefit of educating and caring for the uneducated and neglected many. People are motivated in different ways. Some have an inner desire to teach and help others. Some seek admiration and acclamation. While others may be motivated by financial gain through income or lessened taxation. Regardless of the means compensation, the benefit of transitioning children from a path of crime and limitless pain to a path of scholarship and limitless possibilities is priceless.
What are your thoughts?