It Takes a Village
A few days before this issue went to press, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police did its best to make sure that there were no shenanigans downtown on the Fourth of July. Blue uniforms were everywhere, and a bunch of people got arrested. There was no violence, a fact that distinguishes this year’s celebration from those of the past few.
The next day, Mayor Pat McCrory wrote a letter, ostensibly to the city manager, but in reality to the media (let’s not delve into his obvious—and strangely effective—political grandstanding right now). “Too many of our youth, primarily African American,” he wrote, “are imitating and/or participating in a gangster style of dress, attitude, behavior and action.”
As the stories in this issue will tell you, his observation is accurate, although the forum in which he chose to share his observation was perhaps not appropriate. I’m not sure what Curt Walton and council members are supposed to do about Charlotte kids imitating gangsters. This is a parental issue, not a governmental one.
This month, we cover two major issues: gangs and schools. As with most large cities in America, Charlotte has its problems with each. Within each of the features, “Ganging Up” by Melissa Hankins (pg. 92) and “The Schools Report,” a package edited by Jarvis Holliday (pg. 80), a few strikingly similar quotes stand out. In Hankins’s piece, Ralph Taylor, a CMS administrator in charge of alternative education, says, “Parents shouldn’t let their kids walk around with red handkerchiefs sticking out of the pockets, calling themselves Bloods.”
In the schools package, during an interview, CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman allows, “I have seen what I would call an abdication of responsibility, and we have a lot of parents who expect us to raise their child as well as educate their child, and that makes it difficult.”
Do you think our educators are getting a little frustrated?
Lest you think it’s just teachers, here’s a quote from Hankins’s article on CMPD that ran in the June issue: “We’ll get calls from mothers and fathers who haven’t done anything with their kids for fifteen, sixteen years, and suddenly we’re supposed to fix them,” said Officer Jamie Stillman. “How can we come in on a call to service and do that?”
They can’t, of course. But here’s the deal: More than ever before, parents aren’t doing their jobs. That’s a reality. A lot of kids may not have parents—at least real parents, like the ones on television (think Everybody Loves Raymond, not Wife Swap)—or they have one parent who can barely keep up. So we have to do something. Our teachers can’t teach if kids don’t respect them. Our cops simply will not be able to keep up if our kid population continues to increase in both size and waywardness.
There have always been wayward youth. Years ago, directionless kids would hang on the corner and smoke cigarettes. They still hang on the corner, but cigarettes really aren’t that cool anymore. Gangbanging is.
“We have to pull kids off the corners,” says CMPD Major Eddie Levins, former head of the gang unit, in “Ganging Up.” “We’ve got to change the culture. We have to say as a community, we’re going to take responsibility for our kids.”