The Care and Feeding of Black Teen-agers, Version 2.0

I've written this one before. It was another time, a different place and a different newspaper. The more Negroes change, the more we stay the same. See, the circumstances were identical -- wild, ca

Aug 22, 2002 at 2:06 pm

I've written this one before. It was another time, a different place and a different newspaper.

The more Negroes change, the more we stay the same. See, the circumstances were identical — wild, careless, potentially violent, emotionally vacant, frighteningly under-parented and follow-the-leader stupid black teen-agers left to their own devices.

Wearing expensive gym shoes and flopping Timberlands, black teens like these stomp down everything in their paths in a scorched-Earth tactic worthy of the U.S. military. They don't think they're privileged because they're black or because they live in a certain zip code, but they're actually intoxicated on a cocktail of privilege, freedom and stupidity.

And it's not so much what they do, but how it appears.

They're either too young to fully realize the up-to-the-minute legacy of stupidity they're leaving behind or fully aware and just don't care.

The latter might be worse. There's a connotation of an ethical void, like they know better but "What the hell?"

Then these black teens who could be separating themselves from the pack are baffled when they're labeled as "roving packs" or when they're profiled because their behavior leaves little choice.

Burn me, and I'll think you're an arsonist.

To that I say, "Behave how you want to be identified." Try it. It works.

We all know that what happened after the Saturday and Sunday close of the 14th Annual Midwest Black Family Reunion Celebration last weekend was shameful and embarrassing.

It's shameful because we don't need any of this banshee-girl/b-boy bullshit. It's embarrassing because it proves that much of the displaced responsibility previously aimed at external forces instead lands squarely at our own feet.

This is one time when we can't point crooked black fingers at the police, the city, economic disparity or any other signpost of misplaced accountability. Now what?

I'm not handing out Bad Behavior Passes or Get Out of Jail Free Cards because fits of destruction erupted in response to some perceived social injustice. Nope. Not gonna happen.

There should've been a disclaimer waved from a banner Saturday and Sunday: No unarmed black men were killed during the making of this fiasco.

And what of the rumors swirling about the free-for-all? Girl gangs? Neighborhood rivalries? It doesn't matter, really.

Property was damaged, a Metro bus driver got punched in the face and vehicles were pelted with rocks and bottles. More than a dozen people were arrested. The cops showed restraint becoming of, well, well-trained cops.

The national news reported on us, and the damage control is spinning. Some say it wasn't as bad as all that and that it was "blown out of proportion."

If one black child acts out, isn't that one bad child too many?

Such backpedaling in the deep end of denial is a sure sign of dysfunction and co-dependency worth a few trips to therapy. And we as a city — from our government to the lowliest of residents — are dysfunctional if and when we've reached the point where we excuse away downtown streets rife with unsupervised, rowdy and angry black teen-agers.

I feel like a family member has brought shame and degradation on my family name.

This isn't how we're supposed to look. This isn't how we're supposed to behave. This is whom we've given the world.

This debacle of antithetical Black Family Reunion behavior panhandles one question and only one question: Where the hell were the parents?

Hadn't they heard? It's the Black Family Reunion.

Postmodern families — and not just black ones — are disjointed and non-traditional. As many grandparents, aunts and foster and adoptive parents as biological parents are raising Cain and Abel. However difficult, it still equals a family.

So stop sending your unprepared children out into the world, hoping they'll get schooled, raised, loved, directed, arrested or otherwise taken off your lazy hands for a while. I love your kids, but that don't make 'em mine.

That corny African proverb that "it takes a village" to raise a child is a bald-faced lie. It takes parents to raise a child so that society isn't left to come up with excuses for your lackluster performance as parents.

I'm tired of writing this particular column. Gimme a reason not to again.

Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.