Schools and Safety; What We Do When We Deny

School and Safety; What We Do When We Deny

© copyright 2013 Betsy L. Angert empathyeducates

Look to the left. Look to the “right.” In respect to education each side is willing to talk about sensitive subjects. Granted the two sides differ in respect to the specifics and the solutions.  Nevertheless, either or each will dive deeply into a dialogue.  

In reference to the subject of Common Core, the Left and Right cannot get enough.  Many Republicans and Democrats want nothing to do with Federally imposed curriculum restrictions and requirements.  “Teacher Professionalism,” each embraces the topic, although again their values and views vary. But publicly state that Black and Brown persons do not feel safe in their neighborhoods and that this veracity has a profound effect on education and people will come after you!

The politically astute and apathetically proud alike, pounce when asked to ponder the problem of urban violence and its affect on parents and children in the community.  Cyber-bullying and bullying in general are constructs we can discuss.  But speak of the unspeakable and people will likely proclaim that you are being unjustly punitive, politically incorrect, or in short, you are a racist.   “Shhh” they say.  Let us not talk about that.  Other subjects, yes.  We can discuss those, but not how anxious an inner city resident feels when in their own home or community.  Instead, let us talk about Common Core, bad teachers, and great ones.  Those topics are fine; even favorites amongst the education elite. But how fragile life is for the Black and Brown persons who fear crime in their communities? Many say: let’s not go there – literally or metaphorically. The effects of crime on the psyches of children of color, and its impact on education, are rarely discussed.

Let’s not go there intellectually either, or at least not in any great depth. Skating along the surface will suffice.  Academics admittedly do not wish to tempt the fate that of the Moynihan Report [1965] on the Black family.  The mainstream too is timid.  On occasion, the Press will dip their toes in the waters of awareness.  Indeed, in recent months and in the last few years nationally Broadcasters gently touch that tender topic of “violence on our streets.” However, mostly these stories feature tales of mass carnage – the shootings in Tucson, Aurora, Milwaukee, and more recently Newtown, a white suburban Connecticut community, but none of these approach that dreaded third rail, violence in Black and Brown communities and its effect on education.  

Mentions of the circumstances that cause youth to use the term  Chi-raq when speaking of Chicago are scant and indiscriminate.   Even these, when discussed, rarely venture into the overlap evident in education.  Neighborhoods severely affected by violence are also the communities in which schools are forced to closed, poverty is high, hopes are low, and fear is ever-present.  

On one occasion recently, we were afforded a glimpse into what occurs in inner cities.  First Lady Michelle Obama paid homage to a teen who was struck down in the heart of the  Windy City. However, once again, the real issue was not on view.  Gun Violence supplanted the subject; frequently people of color, parents and their progeny, do not feel safe in their own urban homes.  And why would they?  Roadways are riddled with danger.  Playgrounds too can be quite perilous.  Incident after incident affirms what remains invisible from the masses.  The streets are not safe and too often, urban schools and surrounding areas are no sanctuary.

As she does at the end of every school day, Rakayia Thompson waited for her 12-year-old outside the Parkside Community Academy just before 3 p.m. last week.

“Next thing you know, gunshots,” she said.

As she stood outside with her 6-year-old son and her 7-year-old daughter, a flood of bullets suddenly came their way from East End Avenue, near 70th Street, next to the playground.

Panic followed the incident on Nov. 20, Thompson recalled. The stream of kids leaving the pre-kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school scattered in every direction.

“There were kids’ shoes everywhere,” said Angel White, who had been waiting for her three kids. “They ran out [of] their shoes.”

Thompson said kids were falling and busting their lips as they scrambled.

“They tried to shoot me!” her 5-year-old son interjected.

Real-life stories from Camden, Philadelphia. Detroit, Baltimore and St. Louis, rarely see the light of day and when they do the discussion is gun violence, not the root causes or the insidious effects of inner city violence.

Again, the public avoids the physicality that is the condition of our communities, and more importantly, emotionally we disconnect. Granted, we study the situation from afar and make recommendations. Experts engage in theoretical and methodological research.  Some study the fear urban residents feel, be it real or imagined. Scholars look at the individual’s sense of vulnerability.  Others examine social disorganization, (rate of marriage, racial heterogeneity,  familial disruption,  socioeconomic status,  and urbanization (core indicators of social disorganization)) and again, avoid the people.

The public favors assumptions.  Some prefer the numbers. Densely populated areas or drugs are to blame for violent behavior, although the statistics do not always bear this out.  Countless of our largest cities are relatively safe. An analytic examination reveals that disinvestment delivers the despair, despondency, and dread that at any moment, you too may be murdered.

Andrew Schiller, Neighborhood Scout’s founder noted that “in many cases, city centers, which benefit from development, an influx of people and more amenities, experience less crime than outskirts and even inner ring suburbs.”

Regardless of the look and separate from the literature, the consensus is the same; stay away from what frightens you. Gun shots. Children murdering children.  Crime on inner city streets, or the inner city itself, people believe these are the problem.  Indeed, a too constant refrain is  “It is those urban communities and the persons who reside within them who commit violent offenses and victimize their own.  Such statements preclude preventative policies. These serve as excuses for suburban and rural Americans who tend to think that people need to take care of their own.  

Oh, the more “sensitive” will say the reactionary rhetoric is not true.  Academics will defend the downtrodden. However, these individuals too take no real ownership. Poverty, the intellectuals will say, that is the problem; it is as simple as that.”  Simple? Safety and the reality that a bullet in the hallway or coming through the window will kill you or your child instantly  is not a simple subject.  Nor is it one that as a society we can rightly dismiss.

It is easy to place blame on a circumstance, or put the onus on the “other,” but perhaps there is more that can be done.  What might that be? Face our selves and our folly.  Ask yourself; will we ever dare do what is difficult; look at the ways in which we, or more significantly our silence contributes to crime in urban poor communities.  Could we acknowledge and accept that the greater paradox and bigger problem is that we do not even challenge our perceptions or see what is right there, in front of our faces.

The children cry. Parents plead; ‘see us!’  Feel our pain!  Understand that we fear crime in “our communities!”  Fifty-four [54] percent of Black adults see violence as a “very serious problem” in their communities.  Sixty-nine [69] percent believe it is fairly serious issue, one among many.  The presence of guns is a grave proposition, one that haunts adults of color each and ever day.  However, it is not the only issue that burdens our poorer and impoverished citizens. It is but the most obvious one, the one uppermost in the minds of persons who by circumstances are forced to question their mortality and it is also the one that is “safest” to discuss.

Fueling these concerns is the reality that for too many Black young children, there are too few safe harbors from these ills that plague their neighborhoods, schools, and for some, their homes. Children and adults alike identify neighborhood violence, drug-related violence, gun violence, and violence in schools as areas of significant concern.

When a young girl in Memphis was asked to name one thing that if changed would help her to achieve her goals for the future, she replied:  “To help me live through this dangerous world today so I can [grow up] to be a marine biologist.”  – Young person, age 11 to 14, Memphis, TN

The prevailing view among Black adults, caregivers and leaders is that today, the situation for people of color is worse than it was a score ago. Disenfranchisement and disinvestment have destroyed the fabric of their communities.   Guns only deliver a more deadly and frequently final blow.  The newer and insidious issues that have emerged in the last few decades,  have had a devastating effect on Black communities and the children growing up in them.  Economic isolation and unemployment.  Disproportionately high Black imprisonment rates, especially among Black young men, and then, of course, the older challenges exacerbate  the crisis’ that plagued Black communities. Violence.  Drugs and addiction.  Failing schools made more so by policies that presume failure before it is proven.  Negative cultural and media influences.  Fractured Black families and communities, which conceivably lead to a loss of moral values.  Teen pregnancy.

Adults, caregivers, and leaders look to the future and express guarded optimism.  Innumerable say they are hopeful, that is if they and the young survive.  According to Black Perspectives on Black Children Face and What Their Future Holds “Two-thirds of caregivers worry a great deal (45%) or quite a bit (20%) about their child or children they know being victimized and a large majority believe that many Black children will be victimized before reaching adulthood.

“I asked a 17-year-old the question you asked me: What do you see in 10 years?  How do you [see your life] in 10 or 15 years? And the bottom line was he said I don’t think I’m going to be living after four years.  Now that blew me away, because I knew the young man was serious.” Low-income caregiver, Washington, D.C.

The starkness of this thought and the reality that prompts such a dire reflection is all too common in disenfranchised communities. Yet, we do not discuss it. The subject is too delicate, or is it the thought that we might be criticized, as Patrick Moynihan was when he asked Americans to assess what their inaction and inattention condones.  Could we at least begin to have the conversations previously left behind?  In June of 2013, The Urban Institute chose to Revisit The Moynihan Report.   Might we?

Surely, silence and surface assessments have not served us, our children, or troubled communities well.  Indeed, Black and Brown people state that life in their communities is now worse.   Saying safety is not an issue for those who live in fear or that it is less significant than poverty as a whole is like saying my pangs of hunger have nothing to do with the reality that there is no food in my cupboard or money do buy fare.

Disinvestment, poverty and hopelessness are borne out of neglect.  Let us neglect no more.



References:…

Keep America Safe




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Obama: We Will Do Everything Possible to Keep America Safe

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Do you know one?  Perchance your mother, father, brother, or sister is a person you would characterize as lovingly protective.  He or she maybe an individual who works to shield loved ones from harm.  This fine fellow or femme plots and plans in an attempt to prevent any crisis.  People come to depend on caring souls such as he or she.  Indeed, you may be the cautious crier who actively expresses concern for the health and welfare of those you treasure.  It is a tough task, but you, or someone in your life may have assumed responsibility for the well-being of another.  Surely, someone must keep us safe and sane.  One never knows who might lurk or linger in the halls, bathroom stalls, on a plane, boat or train.  Credentials must be checked.  If family and friends cannot safeguard us from the crazies and fanatics certainly, our sweet Uncle Sam will.  

Article II of the Constitution and the American people provide the Commander-In-Chief the authority to protect and defend at all costs, or currently, it would seem so.  Checks and balance be damned, when the consensus within the country is, “We are at war!”

In a time such as this, few reflect upon the parallels in their everyday lives.  Quietly, each of us recalls when we, personally, were at war.  The conflict was covert.  Rarely were we even conscious of what occurred.  Thus, just as we are as children, in adulthood, we oblige.  When asked to remove our shoes in an airport, American citizens, and visitors to this country, do so.  “Put your sweater in the tray.”  Happy, with the prospect that we might avoid a full body search, we smile, and act in accordance with the command.

This is after we handed the Transportation Security Administrators our boarding pass and photograph identification card.  Indeed, as we shuffle off to Buffalo, New York, Billings, Montana, or Bakersfield, California, we succumb to the many demands put before us. The public is now, for the most part, willing to submit to a body scan. Seventy-eight percent of the Americans polled support the use of technology that in the past, would have been considered a physical invasion of privacy.

Although fifty-one percent of the American people who were asked favor racial and ethnic profiling, this action, in truth, is thought politically incorrect.  Nonetheless, archetypal classifications are “acceptable” to more than half the populace.  People prefer to feel protected.  Most trust they will never be subject to unwarranted seizure.  Nor will the use of these X-rays affect their health.  Certainly, Uncle Sam is scrupulous and will not use the images in an unethical manner.  Others are the adversaries.  Authority figures are as Mom and Dad.  They do as they do in our best interest.  

As humans, we long for love, and interpret protective practice as an expression of this caring, or do we?  Might we muse Americans have become inured to the fragility factor. Constantly, especially in this decade, citizens have been told there is reason to fear.  Hence, Americans have become extremely apprehensive.  Paradoxically, the Office of Homeland Security concludes that much of our trepidation is of our own making.

It begins in childhood.  In the last score or so, fearful parents proclaimed, “Do not talk to strangers.”  The neighborhood is on watch.  Playtime must be supervised.  “The world,” Moms and Dads declare, “is not a safe place.”  Indeed, it is impossible to escape the hazards.  Scary people are everywhere.  Nonetheless, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and of course Uncle Sam will help. Rest assured; “we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your family safe and secure.”

Children were, perchance, comforted.  Today, mothers and fathers ponder their growing pains.  Many reason it is better to cloister a little one.  Thus, parents plan every activity.  From birth forward, it is more than 18 Years in the Making. Cash is stashed for college.  Schools and careers are chosen and charted before a child takes his or her first steps.  Tikes are trained and tested to ensure that they will achieve. Once the standards are set, early in life, our government takes over.  Officials watch our every move and we are comfortable with this.

Americans, compassionately teach their children to be on guard However, as an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, Doctor Elizabeth Alderman observes, overprotective parents have left their children with few real-world coping competencies. ”If you don’t have these skills, then it’s very normal to become anxious.”

Diane knows this well. She learned her lessons long before the current trend in parenting.  Darling Diane was but a lass when she discovered that she was not safe.  Decades ago, years before people hid behind locked doors and windows, Diane realized that everywhere she went there was danger.  

In the 1950s the little tike understood, when she walked to school, she did not travel alone.  Her mother marched with her.  Mrs McMahon did not stroll at the young girl’s side.  Nor did the elder woman sweetly saunter just out of sight.  Madame McMahon hung over Diane’s head.  She haunted her darling daughter, and was always in the youngster’s thoughts.

For Diane, it was as it is today for a young patient of Doctor David Anderegg, a Child Psychologist in Lenox, Massachusetts.  As the adolescent spoke with the Professor of Psychology at Bennington College, she said “I wish my parents had some hobby other than me.” Experts appear to agree; being the subject of intense scrutiny can cause a child, of any age, to be anxious.

Diane McMahon concurs.  Whatever she did, Diane could not shake the angst.  Her protective parent influenced her every action; however, not in ways that would benefit the girl or her relationship with her Mom.  

If Diane thought to be with peers, Mom was always in the background of her mind.  When her friends stole makeup from Walgreen’s Pharmacy, Diane did too.  The “culprit” knew she could not keep the cosmetics, at least not at home.  She arranged for a friend of hers, whose Mom and Dad did not go through her drawers, to take the foundation, powder, eye shadow, and mascara.  Each evening these, along with the lipstick and perfume would go home with an acquaintance.  In the morning, on the way to school, all would be returned to Diane.

When classmates said smoking is cool, Diane tried it.  Warnings from her mother, while heard, and alive, loudly in Diane’s head, did not persuade the teen to do what Mom wanted her to do.

She never openly crossed her mother; nor did the girl question Mrs McMahon’s wisdom.  Diane merely hid her heart, the stolen makeup, the cigarettes, and her life.  The mother lived blissfully, ignorant of who her daughter was, and what she did daily.  The two had a good relationship, and seemingly, to this day they do.  However, the hurts, just as the haunts, remain unseen.  

In Diane’s family secrets prevail.  Just as a rebellious child, a sibling, a spouse, or a terrorist, people do what they desire to do.  No one, not even a firm Mrs McMahon, Mister Obama, Mister Bush, you, or I can control what will come.  Indeed, we create it.

When people are presumed to be in need of protection, ultimately, they guard themselves from the protector.  Those alleged guilty persons, often prove not to be as they appear to be. Diane enjoyed her hours at home with her parents.  She cherished the time they spent together away as well.  Yet, there was always unexpressed tension.

Hothouse parenting undermines children in other ways, too, says Anderegg. Being examined all the time makes children extremely self-conscious. As a result they get less communicative; scrutiny teaches them to bury their real feelings deeply. And most of all, self-consciousness removes the safety to be experimental and playful. “If every drawing is going to end up on your parents’ refrigerator, you’re not free to fool around, to goof up or make mistakes,” says Anderegg.

Parental hovering is why so many teenagers are so ironic, he notes. It’s a kind of detachment, “a way of hiding in plain sight. They just don’t want to be exposed to any more scrutiny.”

Infinite inspections, eternal examinations, possible detection did not necessarily stop Diane from engaging in the behaviors her mother feared.  Nor would a prohibition or possible penalty inhibit the lass .  Threats have no power.  As a toddler Dine realized the notion Scott Stewart, Vice President of Tactical Intelligence at the global foundation, Stratfor acknowledges.  The security expert advises; regardless of what type of technology is used at airports, or which techniques are employed by “protective parents, creative terrorists, just as tots, teens, and those at any age, will always find ways to get around it.

When asked if airport body scanners can stop terrorist attacks, he said, “Look at prison systems, where searches are far more invasive – they still can’t stop contraband from being smuggled into the system,”  Mister Stewart continues and cautions. Americans tend to rely on technology, “instead of human intelligence,”  

We might extrapolate.  Protective parents depend upon their ability to provide safety and security.  Rather than teach self-reliance, nervous caregivers coddle, cosset, and lavish “love” on their little ones.  Mothers and fathers create a culture cocooned from harm and believe this is good parenting.

John Portmann, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia has observed, many students, such as Diane,  “There is a ritual every university administrator has come to fear.” He explains.  “Every fall, parents drop off their well-groomed freshmen and within two or three days many have consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol and placed themselves in harm’s way. These kids have been controlled for so long, they just go crazy.”

Professor Portmann feels the effects of overprotection are even more pernicious.  He suggests the whole fabric of society is feeble and fallible when we place our faith in our mother, father, or the Federal government. Portmann is very familiar with what he sees each semester.  Young people and their parents become weaker, “more responsive to the herd, too eager to fit in-less assertive  . . , unwilling to disagree with their peers, afraid to question authority, more willing to conform to the expectations of those on the next rung of power above them.”  

That is, perhaps, the greater threat to the persons who reside on this planet.  Most forfeit their personal power.  People presuppose someone will know what is best.  We trust the crowd or the Commander-In-chief.  Most think as the group does.  “Evil is everywhere.”  “There are enemies all about.”  “Terrorists want to kill us.”  These are considered conventional wisdoms or accepted assumptions.  However, the paradox is, presumptions become projections.  Self-fulfilling prophecies survive.  Frequently, these conjectures thrive, while, just as in all other wars, citizens die.

In counterterrorism circles, the standard response to questions about the possibility of future attacks is the terse one-liner: “Not if, but when.” This mantra supposedly conveys a realistic approach to the problem, but, as Joseba Zulaika argues in Terrorism, it functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy. By distorting reality to fit their own worldview, the architects of the War on Terror prompt the behavior they seek to prevent-a twisted logic that has already played out horrifically in Iraq. In short, Zulaika contends, counterterrorism has become pivotal in promoting terrorism.

Diane, her deeds, Mrs McMahon sense of doom, and the destructive practice of a protective philosophy affirm what scores of Americans dismiss in the abstract.  What we fear most has power.  As is oft-stated, what we conceive, and truly believe, will be achieved.  Ample research asserts, whether what we imagine is for good or the source of our grief, our conviction can be a cause and an effect.  Often we are too close to a situation to see what others easily discern.

To the countless who contemplate traumas such as terrorism and ask, “What next?” There are many possible prospects.  We can choose to cultivate a culture that cares rather than works to control or we can continue to rely on a reality that has never been.  Americans can have faith that the Commander-In-Chief  “Will Do Everything” or we can accept that, alas, the demon is our own dependency.

References for the reality of resentment, revolt, or insurgent rebels . . .