It’s been a while since I’ve shared my thoughts and concerns about our community – recently, those concerns have been building and I’ve reached a point that I can’t keep quiet any longer.
I’m disturbed by the number of people unwilling to accept responsibility for their, and their offspring’s, actions. Recently, any number of people have been making excuses for why a teen or adult child shouldn’t have received the results their poor choices derived. At what point do we insist that people take responsibility for the havoc and pain they cause? Mourn the outcome, but be accountable and take responsibility for what led to the outcome. A total lack of regard for authority and accountability are a large part of what’s causing the chaos in our community at this time.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a police officer, teacher, principal or parent, there is an abundance of blatant disregard and disdain for anyone in an authoritative position. Children and adults alike display contempt for authority – an adult’s derision for authority is mentored for their children and it becomes the norm for the child to act in the same manner. Evidently there has been little teaching of self respect and respect for elders, teachers, police and others going on for the past decade. Many children and teens feel perfectly at ease yelling at teachers, spitting on or running from police officers or acting violently toward a principal. In a majority of cases, this is just wrong and poor parenting led us down this path.
At the same time, we are teaching our kids that they aren’t responsible for their actions – it’s always someone else’s fault. In my office, I can’t tell you how often I hear from a parent that it is one of my employee’s fault that their child’s case was denied – never mind the fact that the parent didn’t turn in their paperwork on time and complete. It’s not their fault! How often have you blamed the teacher for your child receiving a failing grade – just because their work wasn’t turned in on time, or at all, it’s not your child’s fault…he’s just a child after all or had football practice or any other activity that justifies his not turning in his homework. This lesson in lack of accountability is a lifelong one, and sadly, we’re all going to pay for it, and in many cases, are already.
Unfortunately, in many of the publicized cases recently, excuses have been made for those who made poor choices. Yes, many of those who paid the price for those bad choices have been young African American men. Yes, the situations may have been approached by people in authority with a bias. I won’t say racism is evident because each of the fatal incidents could have been avoided if the young man had complied with the requests of the authoritative person in charge. It’s easy to say that police, or someone protecting their property, shouldn’t have shot someone. It’s more realistic to recognize that when faced with an unknown person holding a potentially deadly weapon of unknown caliber, and the person doesn’t comply with demands to disarm themselves or vacate the premises, the situation has escalated to life and death decisions. Whoever is standing with the barrel facing them is going to do whatever they have to to ensure they come out alive.
At this point I do have to say that I wish more local law enforcement agencies returned to issuing Tazers. Having one more intermediate weapon in their arsenal would provide officers with another choice before moving to deadly force. I get the risk management side of the Tazer, but I feel it’s minimal when determining certain death if an officer has to fire his weapon at a subject.
I believe that drugs, poverty and a lack of mental health care are contributing to the crime we’re experiencing in Rockford. Black children are five times more likely to be raised in poverty than White children; around 70% of public housing residents are African American. Mental health funding has been slashed repeatedly by the State and it has become a challenge to get help for uninsured individuals. Rockford is perfectly positioned to be a major drug hub given our geographic distance from Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago – leading to increased crime and violence.
Does race play a role? Yes, it does in the fact that there are eight times as many unemployed African American males than their White counterparts, fewer graduating high school and fewer having the influence of strong male figures in their lives. That Black men account for more than half of local jail bookings can’t be coincidental. And yes, I believe racism is alive and well in this community; and yes, I believe law enforcement often deal in stereotypes. In the instances people are using lately to claim racism, however, I believe it’s less about race and chalk it up to lack of respect for authority and an unwillingness to be accountable for choices and actions – which ultimately drills down to parenting.