Think You’re in Heaven But You’re Living in Hell…

I always like to point out the great things about the neighborhoods we live in. However, I won’t shy away from some of the less savory aspects as well. This afternoon, Sunday, at 12:42 pm, I was sitting on my neighbors’ porch casually chatting. And a beautiful Sunday it was, sun shining, nice brisk autumn air, finally…when all of sudden BLAM, BLAM, BLAM! Now, I am, unfortunately, no stranger to gunshots. We both looked at each other in disbelief. I refused to believe I heard gunshots at 12:42 pm on a Sunday afternoon. But two seconds later my neighbor and I heard and saw a car screeching as it fled from the shooting. (Ed. note: all that was seen was the color of the car which was reported to the police.) I called 911 to report the shooting. What disturbs me even more than the shooting itself was how calm my neighbor and I were. It was as though we just heard an ice cream truck passing. I mean my adrenaline did not even raise an iota. What type of world are we living in when gunshots on a Sunday afternoon don’t even phase you? And these shots were close, on Taylor street right around the corner from where I was sitting. I should’ve been freaked out.

So who do we blame? This was another case of gang on gang violence. I heard that two people were shot but I don’t know the accuracy of that hearsay. As sad as is it is to have any loss of life, I do take solace in knowing that it was not a random shooting. But word as bond, there is bound to be retaliation and thus the cycle of violence continues. And innocent bystanders do get shot from time to time, whether it is 6 year old girl sitting on her front porch or a grandmother sitting in her own living room. This violence can not be accepted as the price we pay for living “in the city” or more specifically for living in Petworth. My adrenaline should’ve been racing, this should have been terrifying. We can not, myself included obviously, grow complacent. We can’t just say “oh it is the drug dealers just killing each other.” Hell no. Where is the accountability? It is not just a police problem. It is a community problem. And I’ve seen these “drug dealers”, half of them are just kids who barely have a whisker on their chins. And so quite frankly, I partly blame the parents. Sure, there are some kids who just can’t be contained but I truly believe it all starts at home. But then I think of the Notorious B.I.G. who sings back in ’93 “Back in the day our parents used to take care of us but look at ’em now, they’re even fucking scared of us…”. So maybe the parents can’t control their kids at a certain point. So what can be done to stop this vicious cycle of violence. I don’t want to feel like I’m living in Beirut circa 1982. This issue goes deep and we need our politicians to step up and start addressing the problem honestly. No pandering, no quick easy solutions, but a real, strategic well thought out long term plan. What do you guys think needs to be done?

Bob Marley sings “Think you’re in heaven but you’re living in hell, oh time alone, oh time will tell.” Indeed, time will tell. I choose to believe we are closer to living in heaven than hell but we won’t be for long when a shooting at 12:42 pm on a Sunday afternoon seems normal.

83 Comment

  • Yeah, sadly/ironically/similarly, my exact quote was “I think those were gunshots. Better go let [the dog] in.”

  • PoP,

    I think it’s really interesting to see how you have adjusted to the neighborhood. As a black male who was raised in Petworth, and recently moved back I am no stranger to gunshots, (as you have now become). I have found that growing up it was always hard to explain to white people why black people live in these types of neighborhoods. White people (especially suburban) tend to have a tough time figuring out why black people don’t call the police and report drug dealers, prostitutes, etc when they exist in their surrounding area. Often times they have simple suggestions like “call the police” or “write your district commander” or “start a neighborhood watch” or “you should move to (insert unaffordable white neighborhood here).”

    The problem really isn’t that simple because there are so many different social dynamics going on in this type of neighborhood, that you can’t just turn it into friendship heights overnight. So your choices are to A) move or B) adapt. Judging by the way you handled the situation, I think its clear which choice you made.

    You sir, have officially adapted. Welcome to the neighborhood.

    – J

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  • PoP,

    You’re right: Ridding this city of gang violence and murder is not simple and no amount of rhetoric or blaming will offer a silver bullet. But I think ‘adaptation’ and complacency provide the perfect environment for lawlessness and criminality to thrive. It simply can’t be an option any more.

    How to fight it? There are long term and short term targets that should be pursued aggressively. Assuming the DC tax coffers haven’t already been shoveled off by corrupt bureaucrats, I think Lanier and Fenty need to sit down with police and community leaders, take a few lessons from New York City and invest heavily into a successful and proven anti-gang campaign. It’s embarrassing enough that we are only now seeing some fruit from the proposed ‘community policy’ initiatives that were announced in January, but it seems that the needed strategy to fight gangs in this city is entirely impotent. We need an aggressive Gang Division that is out in the streets and visible, that speaks to residents and youth. Why are all these damn police riding around in their comfortable seats when they should be out on the streets?

    Here’s an interesting clip from the New York Magazine article below:

    “…according to Tartaglia and other police experts, the real reason gangs are disappearing is the NYPD Gang Division. The division, 300 strong, gathers intelligence from local detective squads, precinct cops, and informants. When it picks up a rumor of a gang fight from school security or learns of an assault where a gang name was used, it saturates the area with uniformed officers and detectives. “You can’t have a gang behind closed doors. You have to be in the streets, and that’s where we put our people,” Tartaglia says. “We show up and we keep coming back.”

  • I used to work as a children’s librarian in Anacostia. One of the most heartbreaking things I witnessed was the casual manner in which so many of the “young’uns” would
    discuss shootings/the death of a peer/going to said peer’s funeral.
    Like it is, well, you know, normal…. I think Just J makes some good, cogent points. But I also think that “we” (black folks) are sometimes too laissez faire when it comes to
    the scourge of crime… I recently had a conversation with a young man who was wearing a “Stop Snitching” t shirt… I dont mean to turn this into (solely) a race thing-but
    I asked him what good he thought this kind of thinking did. After all, its not like
    he was talking about hiding Malcolm X.
    Guess I am just very saddened and very tired of all this. I suspect we all are.

  • Great post – and good summary of the complexity of the problem people tend to try to oversimplify with a blanket statement with no true underlying answer.

  • All your suggestions sound great. But noone confronts the true issue here: Young black males are simply out of control. There is nothing the city governement can do when parents refuse to raise their children. There is nothing anyone can do to stop this when the biggest influence on most of these kids is rap music and the accompanying videos. I’ll tell you an inconvenient truth. Poor people breed with each other. As such, they pass their bad habits, inability to handle conflict, poor IQ to their children. That is why there are messed up schools in poor communities. That is why even the most innovative social experiments and gentrification rarely work equally for the poor and the gentrifiers. I’m black. Some might call me yuppieish. I’ve lived in Petworth for 6 years now. I can say without charges of being a racist that these young blacks are an impediment to gentrification. Only poor people will continue to live around this type of scourge.

  • anonymous… i think its true that parents aint necessarily what they used to be.. i could say this about kids and parents in petworth, and chevy chase ( where i also briefly worked during my stint with the dc public libraries). but the “young black males are simply out of control” statement is a verrrrrrrrry wide blanket… all of the aforementioned? i respect your attempt to simplify this problem-but you cant. why are we as a society allowing videos like those you mention to flourish? who benefits?
    and class analysis notwithstanding, who benefits from gentrification? one could argue that
    the gentry ( and i make a good salary) also breed with each other. or as the saxophonist
    ornette coleman once wrote- “no army wears a different uniform.”

  • reuben,
    Let noone think I am hiding behind an anonymous post. Sure parents everywhere are not as involved as they used to be. That goes for chevy chase as well as SE. But the difference is that the kids in chevy chase are not shooting and killing any and everyone. They might be doing drugs. They may be skipping schools. Fine by me as that is personal. But by and large, the young black males and some of the young black women that I encounter on the trains and particularly at the Petworth metro are a different type of bad. Now don’t be naive and think I am referring to all black males. As I said in my original post, I am black. But the ones that are BAD overshadow the ones that aren’t. I know that isn’t fair. But that is the way of the world. And the world isn’t always fair.
    As for gentrification, I admit that it has losers and winners. But gentrification will not and can not occur with a lot of crime and violence. Or the people committing the crime. Don’t be so naive to think that some people accustomed to committing crime will just stop and become productive citizens. People are not moving to Columbia Heights to encounter the same level of violence as SE. So the question we must answer is how much progress do we want in relation to the displacement of the troublemakers. Why so? Because gentrifiers are not going to gentrify a neighborhood and live next door to gangbangers. People of means will never be compelled to live next to poor people. So which is more acceptable to you?
    As for breeding, the gentry do breed with the gentry. Doctors, lawyers, consultants rarely mix socially or professionally with poor people. That explains much about how good or bad a neighborhood is.

  • Anonymous says “There is nothing the city governement can do when parents refuse to raise their children.” Actually there is one thing the government will do, and that is lock people up when they go too far.
    If parents, who are expected to be the most concerned parties in how their own children turn out (otherwsie why try to raise children?), will not at minimum do all that is needed to make sure that their children do not end up dead or in jail, is any city government program going to make everything right?
    The city government should fund programs that support parents/guardians who need and want help, and must provide for children who no one is taking responsibilty for. But a stable environment for developing a healthy society of responsible citizens is not going to be created as a by-product of crisis management.

  • PoP, where did this shooting happen? I looked on the MPD 4D listserve but didn’t see anything about it (there are a lot of messages about a shooting on Kennedy St last Wednesday though…what is going on).

  • On Fri night in Adams Morgan, a group of 6 were robbed by a band of 4 teenagers who jumped out of a car, 2 with guns. One of the victims asked me, how can this be stopped? I can’t remember whatever lame answer I probably gave them, and that’s because I didn’t have a good answer.

    How do you deter a group of kids intent on doing bad? And the person is right, “young black males” is too blanket, because this group of 4 bandits included a girl.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    The shooting occured on Taylor St, NW between Illinois and 4th.

    Also the use of breeding is a foul term any future comments using such language will be deleted. I’m not going to get into a semantics argument either. Decision has been made.

  • Jasong,
    Are you willing to lead the charge for DC gov’t to begin taking (mostly black) kids from their homes due to the parent(s) being deemed unfit? No politician that wants to keep his low numbered tag is going to move on something like this. So in effect, it sounds reasonable. But politics get in the way.
    As for locking people up, who do you propose locking up? Surely not the parent(s)(mostly black) that are “raising” these kids? How fast do you think Jesse and the ACLU would be in tow if we even suggested protecting the public and these kids from being raised in an environment like this? The city gov’t already funds the programs you speak of. DC has rec centers all over the city that go unused. Parks that few people use constructively. What more would you like DC to fund to keep these people from shooting/killing/raping/robbing people like they are in the wild?

  • Did anyone get hit by the shots?

  • i was walking the dog on kansas yesterday by clark school and saw a line of deep red splotches that were clearly blood. it was quite unsettling, especially given that it was around the entrance to the school.

    but that said, it seems to me that there is a direct correlation between poverty, hopelessness, and crime. if these kids don’t see positive options for their lives, and if the school system has failed them and there are no after-school or outside activities that will get them off the streets, it’s very easy to slip into crime modes.

    in adams morgan, there are a couple excellent groups that have been working with low income kids to provide alternatives–urban rangers, sacred hoops, some mentoring programs. but that’s a drop in the bucket (and fwiw, the crime problems in adams morgan are quite different–most the 18th street violence does not involve residents either as perpetrators or as victims).

    the way to combat crime is to engage the kids–the schools need to function, there have to be programs for after school, there needs to be vocational training, and kids have to see that they have some sort of future. otherwise the cycle will never be broken.

    just my opinion.

  • Not even suggesting taking away anyone’s kids. Just agreeing with you on the source of the problem. Also in agreement with you that city gov’t is not going to be the solution.
    As for locking up, the who is determined by the justice system. Parents don’t get locked up for their children’s crimes anywhere that I know of in the U.S. though perhaps they are accountable if sued for damages caused by their minor dependants in some cases.

  • Jae,
    Sure all those things work. But what about the parents that could care less if their kids even go to school at all? I have a neighborthat recently moved out of DC. She let her son drop out of high school to sell drugs with her. I have tenants that live in the basement with their boyfriend while the kids live upstairs. I have seen parents let their kids have live-in girlfriends. Now how in the world can problems like this be solved? Schools, midnight basketball, HeadStart, and sacred hoops can not offset this level of dysfunction.

  • Poor people breed with each other. As such, they pass their bad habits, inability to handle conflict, poor IQ to their children.

    This is not true. I know many couples where one kid got all the intelligence, joined the army or got an academic scholarship and by age 30 as the one doctor, lawyer or IT expert in the family. My neighbor had 4 kids and one is wealthy while the others aren’t.

    We all know about the rich kids who did drugs and ended up in jail with illegitimate children. There are as many poor kids who never want to go back.

  • Looked at another way, gov’t changes behavior by providing incentives, and creating disincentives. I can’t imagine that a parent would need a greater disincentive than seeing their child headed to jail or an early death as a result of their own neglectful parenting. So why even discuss additional disincentives. As for incentives, it is ridiculous to reward families whose children do well. That is its own reward.

  • I think one of the biggest problems in this country is how the “school taxes” are distributed. Instead of distributing the money based on need most school districts allot money based on how much an area pays into the tax fund. So low income neighborhood schools are underfunded when compared to wealthier neighborhoods. Another change that should be made is when “gentrification” occurs, the new families shouldn’t be asking “What are the good schools around here?”- they should send their kids to the closest school. Studies have shown that children with adequate family support (most likely those families looking for the best schools) don’t fare any worse for going to the “bad” schools. They are just as successful as their socioeconomic counterparts that go to the “good” schools. And the effect of mixing social classes has been shown to increase the level of learning for all the children. In essence, true integration of social classes may achieve the education goals we are looking for until the government catches up and distributes the tax dollars in a less discriminatory manner.

  • I wish I had some insight into this problem, I’ve worked in a homeless shelter for families for nearly seven years and the longer I’m here the more complex this problem seems. At the root of it is overwhelmingly a lack of parental involvement. I’ve met many families who are homeless and African American who take an interest in their children and in turn these are good, kind children. It’s the ones who let their kids roam the streets, don’t make them go to school and don’t pay attention to their hygiene, that end up shooting each other. I’ve said this before on this blog, but become a mentor, a tutor, or somehow involved in the lives of these children before it comes to this. You will find yourself upset by what they have to live with (parents on drugs, rampant physical, sexual abuse and neglect, and a country that doesn’t care that poor black kids are losing out) but you will find yourself surprised by how loving they are, eager to please and interested in learning they really are. Above all they crave individual adult attention that they are not getting from home. On a government level, we need to have a year round curfew, if parents can’t understand why their 10 year old doesn’t need to be playing outside at 10pm someone else needs to make them. Like I said, it’s extremely complicated and there are unfortunately, no easy solutions.

  • Nathan- I really appreciate your ( and other) insights. I’ve been here since 1959, and I don’t think the still largely seldom discussed gulf between the haves and have nots has
    diminished. Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t express frustration with some of the knuckleheads wrecking havoc in this ( and other) communities. I know a lot of the young guys in my neighborhood see me as “other” (Age, employment, etc)- and I
    too am black… Maybe my hesitancy in considering gentrification a cure ( and I know you arent saying that) is because those changes don’t necessarily make me feel any less
    POP- this has been a really good, and much needed, conversation.

  • Yes, the community needs to take ownership of this problem, but it won’t work unless the police take it seriously, and as a department, I don’t think they do. What good is it if the community agrees to be the eyes and ears of the police if the police respond casually, if at all? Unless a cop happens to live in your neighborhood, you’re not gonna get them to care — unless it’s tied to pay, performance and promotions. Give the cops and incentive to care, and we might make some progress. But if all they see is an intractable problem caused by people (i.e. young black males and females) that they’ve already written off as hopeless or useless, all they’re going to do is ride around in cars and wait until something happens. Then it’s just process the crime scene and go home.

    Cops, like in the NYC gang division program, need to be actively engaged in their work to find out what the problems are. Who are the hardcore gang members, and who are the wannabees? Who just carries a gun to look tough, and who’s inclined to really use it? Who’s running the crews? Which gangs are the main ones, and which ones are subsets? You can’t get that information riding around in a patrol car and just responding to crimes. You have to stop them before they happen. Many cities have proven that you can curb major crime by enforcing laws on minor crimes. NY started by arresting kids who were jumping the subway turnstiles — they figured out that kids riding the trains to rob people weren’t going to be inclined to lawfully pay their fares. The key is not to just make mass arrests of young black people — that’s just plain wrong — but, by gathering intelligence and information, finding out who the gangbangers are, keeping an eye on them, and then pouncing on them whenever they commit even the most minor violation. Do that enough, and they’ll get the message.

    The MPD can make all the excuses it wants — not enough money, not enough manpower, etc. etc. — but when it comes down to it the only reasons this type of enforcement doesn’t occur are politics and complacency. Sure, there are cops who take their jobs seriously, but with crime what it is in this city, there aren’t enough.

    And if anyone from the MPD is reading this, don’t give me excuses. Give me results.

  • This is totally speculative, but I hope MPD has already looked into any correlation between the robbery below (from the mpd listserve) and yesterday’s gunshots, with either the robbers being the shooters or the victim seeking revenge…

    Sun Nov 25, 2007 8:04 pm (PST)
    A citizen reports that 2 subjects produced guns and took #348.00 in
    cash from him in front 434 Shepherd St. NW at 7:50 pm. Lookout for 2
    Black Males. Suspect 1 24-25 5’10” 160lbs, bro eyes, braids, med
    compl, short facial hair, black hat, blue jeans pants and jacket,
    purple shirt arm with silver handgun

    Suspect 2 24-25 5’10” 160lbs bro eyes short black hair, Dk compl, no
    facial hair, black hoody, blue jeans, armed with silver handgun

  • Anon: Public schools in DC aren’t “underfunded” they are mismanaged. DC has very high per-capita $$$’s per student. Schools would be the place to start though. I haven’t heard much about the new chancellor’s program, I am hopeful that her management reforms are going to make a difference, but it would be nice to see DC enforcing truancy laws as well to get as many of these boys and girls off the streets and into school as possible instead of just shrugging our collective shoulders. Low expectations hasn’t worked out so well. Voluntary programs are great too, but as pointed out, they only reach the percentage of youngsters who are already looking for an opportunity.

    The remaining problem % can’t be dealt with by the schools or by parents and they are the responsibility of the justice system. When kids are committing crimes they have to be held to account. The police need to patrol these streets, not take cursory pointless drives through the area. MPD has no idea what goes on here because the officers in 4D have no connection to this neighborhood. None. Zero. They are ghosts to us. If MPD built a real relationship with this neighborhood the rest of could then help out since we’d know who to talk to provide assistance and get answers instead of getting canned responses from politicians. Through trust and hard work MPD can defuse some of this “no snitching” bullshit and become a meaningful member of this community. It’s no surprise that so many young people, the vast majority living normal lives and causing no problems, have zero respect for the clowns in the MPD they come in contact with. As I related last week, MPD’s strategy seems pulled from the winning Iraq playbook: descend into a place you don’t know, randomly harass black youths, leave and never show your face again. Destructive, useless, disgusting. I’ve seen it action, and probably many of you have as well. Community policing means having a real and substantial connection with the community you serve. Simply wearing a uniform and a gun and driving aimlessly around doesn’t make you anything more than a glorified security guard. Real police know the people and the streets on their beat, investigate crimes, and most importantly, defuse situations before they erupt in gunfire.

  • I think everyone who has written here has made good points. Just having the dialogue is a good start. Though, everyone has thoughts on causes, everyone sorely wants conditions in our neighborhood to change. I think some off the comments on the poor are poignant. I would add there is a sad hopelessness I see in the black community, particularly in the young people. There is a lack of structure that children both crave and chafe against. Without that, as some writers the kids run out of control, not being sure what is wrong and right.

    The biggest question I would pose for everyone who reads this blog, is what have you done or what are you going to do? I am making some big assumptions about the readership, but my guess is that there are many “gentrifyers” who read and comment here. Make your voice heard. If city and community leaders don’t listen, vote with your feet. It is sad, but loss of tax base is a huge issue and a threat they must take seriously.

    Let be the first to say say I am guilty of inaction. I too have heard gun shots. I too have called 911. I too complain about the trash and litte. I too complain about the crime. However, I have not written Fenty, Lanier, or the City council letters demanding change, least I question my commitment to the city. I have told my wife I would do it, but I haven’t. I am guilty of inaction.

    No more. We all must demand change. Sorry to say if that takes locking up lots of junvials and young adults, then that is what it will takes.

  • The DC MPD needs to start watching The Wire!

  • Oden – did you catch the WaPo series a week or so back on the schools? They can’t even get the kids to go to class. Parents believe the lies the kids tell. The kids have no accountability. All the money in the world in the schools will not help that. It would only make for shiney day care staffed by well paid attendants. There is a HUGE education problem in this city and the black community is only going to fall further behind. It greatly depresses me because I see no way out.

  • Here is an example of the issue at hand. Recently, a 17 year old was caught in Columbia Heights with a gun. He was caught at 10AM. Taking into account that guns are illegal in DC, how much time should a person like this get? Well if history is any indicator, he won’t get much time. In the recent issue of the city paper, a man was caught with “Ecstasy, a stolen .40 caliber Springfield Arms semi-automatic pistol with three rounds of ammunition. In addition, 230 grams of a substance consistent with marijuana was found in both the couch and the kitchen cupboard. “Based on your affiant’s training and experience, the amount and packaging of crack-cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana were all consistent with distribution and not personal use.”

    And how much time did he get? Six months in jail for the possession charge, 90 days in jail for the pistol charge. Time should be served consecutively, followed by 18 months of supervised probation.

    Now I may be naive. But a 17 year old getting caught with a handgun at that time of the morning likely intended on using it. Yet, he will likely get a slap on the wrist until he actually uses it. At that point, it is quite possible that my life, your life, or the gangster he was feuding with will have been taken. And that is the shame of it all. DC bans guns but doesn’t make the punishment for possessing a gun worth the business risk of getting caught without a gun. In this scenario, only the law abiding citizens lose. I’m all for banning guns. But that must be coupled with harshly puiunishing the people caught with guns. In NYC, you get 3 years off the break for having an illegal weapon. We need that type of punishment here in DC. But what councilmember will have the gall to suggest strengthening the laws when it will result in sending primarily young black men to prison?

  • Oden,
    I agree that mismanagement has a lot to do with the problems in DC schools. As a student at UDC it makes me sick to know that the school, so desparately in need of funds, returned $18 million dollars due to poor budget management.

    “The conventional wisdom is that the District spends more money per student
    than any other school system in the country. This oft-repeated assertion is baseless. Indeed, although DCPS enrolls a far higher percentage of students with special educational needs, such as low-income students (64%), than surrounding school districts like Arlington (36%), Alexandria (47%), Fairfax (19%) and Montgomery (23%), the District spends less per student than most of its neighbors. The District spends over $3,800 less per student than Arlington, $2,100 less per student than Alexandria, $500 less than Montgomery County, and only $500 more than Fairfax County, where the percentage of low-income students is less than one-third of that enrolled in District schools.”

    Apparently though, unlike the Texas and other state school systems:

    “DCPS now allocates funds to local schools on the basis of enrollment at different grade levels, with 9% extra for each low-income student. Because almost no white students are low-income, most schools with significant white enrollment are among the lowest
    funded. Within the District, whites, African-Americans, and ethnic minorities now have access to equally shabby schools, equally underpaid teachers and principals, and equally scarce texts, equipment and supplies.”

  • Hi Susan- can you please detail how to join the MPD 4d listserv?

  • I am aware of the heavy “special needs” burden and it’s use by DCPS as a red herring in the funding argument. I am also aware of the fact that DC sends a huge % of it’s real special needs kids out of district and pays through the nose to do so — that’s a (mis)management issue, not a money issue.

    Also, you may be aware that a Congressional report on DCPS a few years back showed that nearly 33% of DCPS’ budget is spent on “non-instructional” items, compared to a national average in the lower 20’s for such items. That’s mismanagement. DCPS employs one manager for ever 16 teachers. In Chicago it’s one manager for every 90 teachers, in Baltimore it’s one for every 31, and the national average is 42 teachers to one administrator. That’s mismanagement. DCPS also pays more for it’s upper management than Fairfax, Montgomery County and Baltimore schools combined. That’s mismanagement.

    If money is being misspent like this why would the answer EVER BE to give DCPS more cash to misuse?

    Further, as a blue collar kid and a graduate of an urban school district with funds way below the local suburbs, that money argument doesn’t wash with me at all anyway. In fact, calling poor kids “special needs” is offensive and an excuse. Even compared to our rich neighbors, and even with the “burden” of having to teach young children who don’t live in mcmansions or have illegal immigrant servants like those “smart” children in NoVa, DC schools still are well funded compared to the vast majority of schools in this country anyway.

    Can’t we start with trying to run the schools properly, gather up the truants, and start teaching before we cry about money? Or is Fairfax somehow magic in their ability to do much more with LESS cash?

    I’m sure that the crackers in NoVa think it’s because their spoiled inbred little snotnoses are smarter than DC kids, but I don’t think it has to do with our kid’s abilities, it’s the idiot adults running the schools as warehouses, and teacher’s unions more concerned with the welfare of their membership than the education of children.

    For instance, did you know that the Fordham Institute found in 2005 that charter schools in DC get, on average, $3,500 LESS per student than DCPS schools? While we can have long debates about what the increased performance numbers from charter schools mean (I especially love DCPS apologists saying “you took all the good students!”, that’s right, blame the kids!), I don’t think anyone can seriously argue DCPS is doing, on average, better than DC charter schools are. What else can that be other than poor management at DCPS? Less money, same students, better results — just a coincidence?

    FYI, Texas schools are no longer funded with the “Robin Hood” plan, that was struck down by the courts and replaced long before George Bush left the Governor’s mansion in 2000. Texas is a depressing 39th in the nation (far behind DC) in school funding and there are huge, huge disparities between the school districts in Texas.

  • The MPD 4D list serve has been very lively lately, with discussions about random car checks and sweeps, with some citizens (me included) calling for an increase amount of random stops. Our 4D interim commander Linda Gilmore Brown, has been a refreshing change from past leadership, at least in terms of public communication. She’s recently clarified the difference between “contact” stops, where police can ask questions but because there’s no probable cause the person is free to walk away and provide no information, and then a “stop,” is when the person matches a description or otherwise gives police probable cause. In those cases the person must answer questions and is not free to leave until the police says. The discussion is now that people walking near a shooting do not give police anything more than the right to a contact stop. During that contact though the person may say or do something that escalates the situation to a stop.

    My view is that given our dire situation – and you’ve left off the two shootings an hour apart on my block on HALLOWEEN that sent about 100 kids screaming into homes (9th between Emerson and Farragut) – should give police an excuse to aggressively question everyone in sight for a contact stop, LOOKING for reasons to convert this into a full stop. A gang gathered in an alley immediately behind the first shots, and then they were shot at an hour later – while police were at the first crime scene about 50 feet away.

    This has been a great discussion. Parental involvement/intimidation is the nut to crack in my mind. But keep in mind, many of these parents depend on and accept the income from drugs that these kids are bringing into the house. And also, many of the kids are not juveniles but in their 20s.

  • Random car stops, besides being questionably legal in most all circumstances, are useless, lazy police work. Typical. Rather than actually implement real changes to the pointless and ineffective way MPD relates to the citizens of 4D they are going to randomly create more tension and waste time and tax dollars.

    It’s like a sureal comedy! This isn’t a plan.

    We need community policing. GET OUT OF THE RADIO CARS ONCE AND A WHILE, YOU LAZY BASTARDS! Try something new and brave like, I dunno, talking to the people you allegedly serve and learn something about the streets you allegedly protect. Learn who belongs and who doesn’t instead of randomly harassing people. Establish some repartee with the neighborhood instead of treating the city like an occupied zone. Try being part of the solution. We don’t need any more “emergency” feel-good temporary “solutions” to quiet the sheep. How pointless this sort of thing is, like slipping off your shoes at the airport, this means NOTHING.

    We need police that give a shit and aren’t just looking to score a few more easy possession and DUI cases while our neighborhoods remain unpatrolled and the criminals KNOW IT AS WELL AS WE DO.

  • Oden – as a 1986 graduate of the Fairfax County School System I would say there are two major differences. First and formost, parents who cared. My parents and many of my friends parents took active roles in our educations. They were members of the PTA, they had frequent parent teacher meetings, and they did not believe me when I lied about not having any homework or other trouble I found myself in. I taught me to have a work ethic and accountability.

    Second. You are correct that Fairfax County schools are better financed, better mangaged, better maintained and better run. These factos contribute to additional enrichment beyond basic fundementals. I am very thankful for that enrichment, I think I am a better person for it. But enrichment will not help when students don’t bother showing up. It takes interest in learning to take advantage of the enrichment All the money in the world cannot improve the quality of the student body. If you have not, you really should read the recent Washington Post series on the DC schools. Pehaps PoP can post the link. It made a very important statement to me.

  • d–unfortunately I’m inclined to believe that the kids who robbed you and your friends are from here in Petworth.

    On Saturday morning my mailman found a purse on our front stoop, upon calling the police, and doing a little investigative research of my own I found its rightful owner–who I believe was one of your party.

    We don’t live on a main thoroughfare, so its not as though they were just passing by and dropped it there, which is sad because most of the kids on this block seem quite pleasant and I don’t want to think they spend their Friday nights wandering around other people’s neighborhoods with guns.

  • Anon 12:29pm said: when “gentrification” occurs, the new families shouldn’t be asking “What are the good schools around here?”- they should send their kids to the closest school.

    My response: Interesting thought. Are any of you gentrifiers willing to send your kids to DCPS though??? I don’t have kids currently, but I will not be sending them to DCPS when I do pro-create. That WaPo article about the kid from Coolidge mentioned that no white kids attended that high school. I would personally fear for my kids safety if I sent them to a DCPS (Dunbar would be the school in my ‘hood). My DC city experience has taught me that being the only white guy around a crowd of teenagers can sometimes be harmful to your health. Sorry if that comment is not PC, but its been my experience.

  • I didn’t mean to imply random car stops. I meant road blocks with 100 percent vehicle screening; and road blocks with 100 percent pedestrian screening. None of that work takes place from inside a car.
    Also, and I never thought I’d be defending our police, but Inspector Brown and Chief Lanier deserve time to implement their vision. It’s changing a decades long approach that did not work. The new approach is much more community policing oriented. I regularly – daily – see a cop walking the beat in my neighborhood and talking with people. I have been very frustrated in the past that the leadership has not led the community, at least they’ve not had dialogue and answered tough questions. They’re doing that now. There’s a big MPD 4D meeting to discuss the spike in gun crime this Wednesday at the Emory Community Rec Center. I’ll be there, with my extremely cautious optimism.

  • Steve: My parents never went to PTA and yet I have failed to shoot anyone (yet). You’ll note that Fairfax schools, according to the report cited by Anon, spend $500 per student LESS, not more, than DC. That was my point. Also, I listed ending truancy right at the front of my diatribe — butts in seats are at the top of the list as well. If I have time I will be interested in reading the Post article.

    I will not however accept that the caliber of student in DC is to blame for the failure of incompetent administration. That is a cowardly argument made by people trying to save their jobs and is undermined completely by the same group of students performing at charter schools. The scores go up when DCPS is removed from the equation.

    Second, the idea that the proportion of students doing poorly directly correlates to parents that “don’t care” seems insulting to me and not a very clear reflection of the poor parents and grandparents I’ve known. They f’ing-A do care! It seems to me that parents and kids are the easy scapegoats here when it’s the public servants, school administrators, teachers, and cops, that I see asleep at the wheel. The schools are supposed to serve the parents and the kids, not the other way around.

    David: I am happy to hear that you are seeing positive signs of a change in MPD policy. I hope you are only seeing the beginnings.

    What is the time of the meeting at the rec center for the benefit of people not on MPD’s listserv (or xmas card list)?

    I’ll bring donuts.

  • Oden – the impression I am left with from my admitadly myopic view of the DC school/poverty/unemployment problems is that while parents may care, they tend to be indulgent of the children. While your parent may not have gone to PTA, you had some structure in your life to provide you with the basic building blocks that have gotten you to where you are. It may not have been something overt, it may have. I don’t have any information to lead me to that conclusion, other than the fact you are very well reasoned, humorous, and write very well.

    I agree that the DC schools are woefully mismanaged. I would point to the terrible central offce (Kudos to Michelle Ree for trying to turn of the A/C there until the A/C was functioning in the schools this year). Schools should not look like prisions. I can only imgaine what going to schools that look like that with teachers that, if they ever did care, are now so jaded that they don’t, can do to an already hopeless outlook.

  • No doubt that hopelessness is a huge hurdle. It reminds me of something else I read recently. In his examination of the crime crash in NYC in the 1990’s Andrew Karmen noted that while poverty rate and unemployment in NYC stayed the same, or actually went up, while crime fell, and this is counter-intuitive to what most people would expect, there might be something to the fact that poor New Yorkers *thought* they were better off (or soon to be better off) because that’s all they heard through the late ’90’s, how great the economy was. It’s a concept called “relative deprivation”, that suggests that what is really important is how people perceive their plight and their expectations for the future.

    That being said, any change in tone for DCPS has to start with the schools and the teachers themselves to get anyone else interested. The teachers and administrators need to raise those expectations along with the parents, and frankly, the rest of us as well. If we continue to expect the worst out of young boys they’ll deliver.

  • Oh, and PoP: Lil’ Gal wants me to remind you that there aren’t “gangs” in Petworth, but “crews”.

    I could tell you what the difference is, but first you have to submit to the initiation process of my crew, the “Grant Circle Mad Demon Pop’n’Lockers” by performing a “hit” on some Sherman Circlers (spit) by toilet papering their houses and greasing their front door knobs.

    Then we may accept you.


  • So many accurate statements on here. With regards to shootings, we have to stop worrying about the root of the problems at the moment and first just get the bad guys off the street. This means a ZERO TOLERANCE to gun violence, drug dealing, reckless driving, and truancy. I was raised in and around DC; I know that no job program or community center is going to stop what’s going on because most of these guys are adults who just don’t care. The other day, a shooting took place at 7th and Kennedy at 11AM!! If we are going to save the next generation of youth, we need to get the ones committing the crimes off the streets and into prisons. I have lived in Ward 4 for going on 5 years and have watched an entire generation of young, sweet kids get recruited into drug dealing and playing thug. Most have been arrested and nothing, other than their own will, is going to get them off the road they are headed down. Let’s stop THEM from turning another generation of kids into little thugs. Let’s stop another bullet from taking the life of some innocent kid watching TV in her living room. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! This means that the MPD must pull out all the stops, and the city must give them the financial and human resources to do this. If it means turning DC into a police state, well, I’m all for that. If it means that I have to drive through a roadblock to get to my neighborhood, I’m all for that too. To respond to one “anonymous” poster, not all people from this area are black. My family has a long history in this area and we are (mostly) white. We came and went over the years, along with many black families that had the financial resources to move to the ‘burbs.

  • Oden, the only thing about the caliber of students in the DC school system that does affect what happens in them is the extremely high proportion of children with special needs (I did some work in DCPS and have a somewhat good handle on this topic). Basically, anywhere that you have a high concentration of poverty, there is usually a high number of children with special needs. Most of these kids simply suffer from environmental deprivation, but are classified as some degree of mental retardation or learning disabled. The same children, in a better environment, would probably be average or above-average. You’re right in that this doesn’t excuse what happens administratively, but it does impact the quality of education that teachers are able to deliver.

  • I once taught a media class in a transitional school in Oakland, CA, that was run by the county of Alameda. It was a tough place. Most of those kids had bounced around from foster home to foster home to parent to grandparent to aunt and uncle to reform school to halfway houses. Absolutely zero stability in their lives. They were all good kids. And that high school was a good place for them — dedicated teachers, a fantastic principal and lots of volunteers from local colleges helping them take pride in things like gardening, music making, learning alternative sports like skateboarding in addition to their academic studies. And some kids, you just knew, were probably going to be okay. Not great, but if they found a decent job and got some stability back into their lives — they would survive. But a lot of those kids were in such a bad place. These were teenagers who had never learned the basics of education: how to listen to others, to not speak when others were speaking, to show respect for the teachers and their fellow classmates. And if you were a white or latino teacher, student or volunteer there — you garnered even less respect.

  • I wish I had something smart to say like all the rest of the folks here; all I can add is that I very much appreciate that it hasn’t descended into a full-blown “well, what better can you expect of black people, they’re all animals” conversation like, well, just about any comments section attached to any racially-tinged story in the Post. For some reason, I choose to punish myself by reading those comment sections, and it just leaves me in such despair — how can we ever fix anything without even acknowledging our basic humanity?

    So, thanks for restoring my faith. A little. 🙂

  • Christina: You have to remember that most of the comments on the Post Online are from Virginia. Those fellers are probably always in a bad mood since their sister/wife makes them get up early (at noon) to feed the pitbulls outside the trailer and they don’t have time to relax and enjoy watching the NASCAR recap on their stolen cable before they have to go and tend to the corn likker still. That and they have no shoes.

  • I’m not from VA. I live here in Petworth. Been here for 6 years or so. I’m here to tell you that this is mainly a black male issue. But the root is the parents. I am a landlord. I have many poor Sec 8 tenants in DC. If you think that this violence can be changed, I INVITE any of you to come and take a look at the dysfunction in my tenants homes. You will come away shaking your head, acknowledging that there is absolutely nothing that can be done to save this generation with out taking draconian measures. And no politician has the gall to do what needs to be done.

  • I’ve read both this post and its comments, and WaPo’s special on the problems with DC schools, and I agree that parenting is the key factor in both issues.

    If these kids had good parents and guidance to act as their silver lining in the dark cloud, then we’d have less kids doing drugs, gangbanging, and shooting up neighborhoods. Too many of these kids and teens have such an insouciant attitude towards the world, and an end needs to be put to it somehow.

    Nathan, I’m a Black female and feel strongly about Black issues, but I can’t see this as a “Black Male” problem—it goes beyond that. It’s a neglect problem, an “I don’t care” problem, a “feeling hopeless” problem.

  • Oden, I grew up in Fairfax County. Virginia. It’s really not all that bad!

    I agree with Golden Silence. Certainly it is a “black” issue because black people make up the majority of District residents, and so are (likely) the main perpetrators AND VICTIMS OF crime (lest that be forgotten.) Crime matters even when it happens outside the gentrifying neighborhoods.

    But it is also a poverty issue, a neglect issue, a schools issue, a “people who were raised badly themselves now raising kids” issue…there’s generations of bad stuff going on and it’s not going to be fixed overnight.

    By the way, since we’re all throwing out our racial bonafides, I, too, am black. But I don’t think my blackness makes it somehow acceptable for me to make sweeping judgments about black people. All of us are seeing our own little slice of the world and while our perceptions are valid, that doesn’t make them the only way to look at an issue. Seeing some bad black kids doesn’t mean all black kids are bad, seeing some dysfunctional poor households doesn’t mean that all poor households are dysfunctional…and I tend to think that parents do care, but caring is not enough. I think the mom of that young man in that Coolidge High School series CARES. She is overwhelmed and ineffective against the many other influences affecting her son.

    Anyway, I’m derailing this very good and important conversation…carry on.

  • Wow. Somehow my post got truncated. I had a whole other paragraph where I talked about funding issues and a need for substantive reform. And my exasperation over “get tough” nonsense that only breeds more criminals. Jails don’t reform, the encourage lawlessness. And a lot about a violent culture where people are making big money from defense contracting while kids aren’t eating. These are the problems. We need to figure out what’s important and fund it. We need universal healthcare and to house and to clothe people and make sure they are fed. We need longer school years and better paid teachers. And we need to get the lead out of our water and clean up the air in our poorer neighborhoods — both contributing factors to the problems of the underclass. We need to stop enriching the all ready rich and stop suggesting that its all going to “trickle down.” We need to care for each other and put empathy above bombing on our list of national priorities.

  • Golden Silence,
    I know it hurts to admit it is a black male problem. Hell, I am a black male. But I can say that I interact with many black men. What I have noticed is that there is a large segment of black men that refuse to work. How many times have I seen my tenants (all black women) having boyfriends that refuse to work? Some are in and out of jail. The ones that do work are underemployed and constantly cycling in and out of the workforce. And that is part of the problem. The other part is that many seem so tragically drawn to the thuglife and the lure of easy money. Just look around downtown while at work. I see so few black men on K. St where I work during lunch time. I see so few working black men on the train in the morning. If they aren’t working, they are making their money to buy the Jordans somehow. And that usually is hustling on the street. I can’t tell you how many times i have been on buses and day after day, black men were boarding th ebus fresh out of jail. And most times, they exhibited the same behavior on the bus that got them in jail the first place. First off, they expected something for nothing–a free bus ride. “I just got out of jail” is their excuse. Second, they blame everyone but themselves for their problems.
    This attitude would be no problem if these people were not having children. But they are raising their children to follow in their footsteps. What a sad sad cycle. If you even want to see why it may take generations to overcome this, I invite anyone on this board to take a peek in my tenants homes. It will be an eye opener.

  • Nathan: they didn’t just become unemployed men, first they were aimless boys. I think we all can agree the boys that are coming up now are the ones we need to try and get through to so they see there is something better than what they may have seen at home or on the streets. The best thing we can all do for them is to try to get them back into school, whatever it takes. Think about it, finishing school and (for some) going to college, not family background, is the biggest divide between men that are successful and those left behind. If nothing else, boys who attend school are less likely to run the streets and get involved with foolishness. I don’t believe that boys brought up in crappy conditions are doomed to the cycle if we can get them into the schools.

  • Wow. As an avid PoP reader, I have to say this is one of the better and actually constructive discussion of one of PoPs blogs!

    I think just about everyone made great points and had thoughful things to say.

    We need to make sure folks in City Hall hear us on this stuff. From what it sounds like most of us are homeowners in and around Petworth. If that is the case, we are investing in this city with our hard earned tax money. I would recommend that we make ourselves heard. The pen (or keyboard) is a mighty weapon…don’t be affraid to use it.

    PoP…I would recommend that you have links, mail (both e and snail) to the Police Chief, District 4 Commander, Councilmembers and Mayor.

    Question authority…make a ruckous!

  • again, good, thoughtful posts by all concerned.. one question for “ward 4 resident.”
    i wonder when this society will begin to seriously address the root causes… i dont expect you to answer, of course… i lament this collective decision to not address these issues.
    it only makes the sickness fester and spread, alas…

  • I do not understand how draconian measures would save a generation, though I am interested in hearing what Nathan thinks would work.
    We have a structure in place to educate children. If students master the basics, learn how to think, learn how to learn, develop confidence that comes with accomplishment, and understand how a better life can be attained, they have a chance to save themselves. Maybe that simply doesn’t happen without the care and involvement of a parent/guardian/mentor who has accomplished those things for themselves. But the city can not mandate or enforce good parenting. It can — it must — teach the life skills that will give kids a choice. Without the skills to earn an honest living, what choice is there?

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Steve if you’d like to send me the addresses you’d like posted I’d be happy to post them. I assure you our council member and MPD are aware of this discussion…but I agree the more communication the better.

  • So after monitoring this website most of the day yesterday, I found myself waiting for my ride at 6pm on Irving Street, right outside the CVS, when I heard ‘pop, pop, pop’. I mused calmly to myself, “I wonder if those were gunshots?” Then I heard sirens and saw police chasing a boy up Irving and realized indeed I had. There were police nearby, tons of pedestrians on the street as well as commuters on their way home. It’s amazing to me the gall these boys have without any thought that they will likely get caught (as the shooter from yesterday did). I am a huge advocate for community involvement but gosh, how on earth can you stop this?

  • What amazes me is the tolerance of violent criminal behavior by otherwise law-abiding citizens. When the 20 somethings fired off their guns on our block we went into action, demanding they be evicted, demanding they be arrested, demanding they shape up and I literally had some church-going retirees try to pass off their criminal activities as “boys will be boys” or “they can’t get decent factory jobs anymore.” Uhhh… these kids are high school dropouts on a block with African-American doctors, lobbyists and people who are friends with Fenty’s parents! These kids are far outside our neighborhood’s norm, but they consciously made these choices. In one case the dude’s sister is in nursing school, so it’s not like it’s the family, it’s a choice to be a criminal that he made himself.

  • Maybe the “tolerance” is because some of those retirees were related to some of those young hell-raisers. Or knew them when they were little kids. It wouldn’t be the first time a family has made excuses for a wayward youth. And I can say from experience that once a young black male goes into the criminal justice system, they are just about irretrievable at that point.

    Maybe what we should all do here is commit to doing one thing. One thing that may be inconvenient, may be uncomfortable, may be difficult — but just one thing. I’m as guilty as anyone else; I stay up in my little home, I work long hours, I’m tired, I don’t feel like fooling around with strangers, sometimes. But I know that I have something to give back to the community and I haven’t tried hard enough to do so. I keep *saying* I’m going to do something, but I don’t.

    None of us can change the root causes by ourselves; I mean, it’s not like these youth issues were just recently discovered. But we can all do something, from picking up the trash to working on an adult literacy program to…whatever. There’s a wealth of intelligence and good intentions here, just waiting to be harnessed.

  • Jasong,
    Honestly, we can save this generation. Maybe not even the next generation. This is likely a three generation project. I honestly believe that the kids that are lost by the age of 15 are lost forever. Sure, some may turn around. In reality, most don’t. The negative elements in their environment are too much to counteract in the limited time we have to engage them. Let me give you some examples before I give you some insight into what can possibly be done.

    I have a tenant that is ~30 years old. High school dropout. She doesn’t work She has three young kids. (all under the age of 15) She lives in the basement with her boyfriend, while the kids live upstairs. Sounds crazy right. These kids are essentially raising themselves. Her boyfriend doesn’t work. Cycles in and out of jail. How can any city counteract this overwhelming negative influences in the home without taking them out of the home?

    I had another tenant that has three kids. The mom is mentally lacking. Of course the “boyfriend” isn’t far behind in terms of intellect. There were three boys in the home. One was a registered child molester. Two others had live in girlfriends with kids in the home. The parents were functional drug and alcohol addicts. No gas for heating in the home. No high school grads. Noone working in the home. One of the kids was on in-home dialysis. House was a pigsty. Again, aside from the little girl on dialysis, there was no neglect there. The tenant’s kids were 16 and older. Sure the environment was bad, but you can’t take kids from their parents because you don’t agree with the environment. Taking into account there were no high school graduates in the home, it is reasonable to assume education won’t be the focus for the grandkids.

    Now in both of these cases, we are dealing with people that shouldn’t be having kids. To top that off, these people are having kids with other people that shouldn’t be having kids. There was an article in the detroit free press y’day. A lady and her boyfriend bbq’d their child. One sorry parent is manageable. Two is almost impossible to overcome. Draconian measure would require us to take these kids out of the home at an early age. A very early age. We have tighter regulation on people buying guns that we do for people having kids. I know it is politically incorrect. But….

    So how do we solve this? That is the beginning. And until some steps are taken to address people having children that should not be allowed to have children, the rest of the plan won’t work. But if you are interested, email me and I will fill you in.

  • You mentioned an important point Nathan: high school diplomas. There is something about making it through school and completing something. Sure, it’s easier to get a job with a diploma — but I think it’s something more than that — something psychological. I think it is a milestone that can really mean something to a kid who otherwise has little self-esteem and is prey to temptations and fantasies about living the thug life.

  • Oden,
    Sure there is more to it than high school diplomas. There have been brilliant people that have quit school and gone on to be very successful people. There’s been high school dropouts that lead regular productive lives as well. I touched on the root cause in my last post.

    Typically poor people have kids with other poor people. Smart people tend to marry smart people. Regardless of how you feel, the bulk of poor people (not working class, but poor) are generally not the people with the highest IQ. I would bet that the poor are the most likely to dropout or be indifferent about education. Sounds like genetics. It is.
    If you don’t believe me, analyze the people you have married/dated. I bet they are very similar to you in background.

    So here we have two maladjusted adults having children. It is politically incorrect to say that they shouldn’t be having kids. But that is the case. We already have laws precluding IQ challenged people from buying guns. We have laws against felons owning guns. Now tell me which you think is more of a threat to the environment?

    Two people that do not value education are unlikely to value it for their kids. Hence the lack of PTA involvement, etc. Now factor in bad personality traits like laziness, drug addiction, lack of conflict resolution, and just a bad gene pool. Is it any wonder that the schools are bad with all this working against them?

    And that is why the funding argument for schools is so flawed. That is why integration of schools doesn’t work. People that value education are not going to send their kids to school with kids from households that don’t value education. That’s the bottom line. That is why the bulk of DC’s “good” schools are in stable middle to upper income neighborhoods.

    Now the next thing is culture. In parts of the black community, it is vogue to be a thug. It is vogue to not work for the man. It is vogue to not work for $9/hour. It is vogue to sell drugs. It is not vogue to be a nerd. Just look at the black rappers and sports stars. Most can’t let that lifestyle go. That’s a part of our culture. I’m not pointing fingers. I am providing reasons.

    I work in downtown DC. I’m a programmer. The IT field is as close to a true meritocracy as it gets. Yet, I see few black men in the field. I work right downtown. I see unemployed black men dropping women off for work. But none of the black men seem dressed like they are headed to work. Next time you are at work/lunch/on break, look around and see how many black men you see that appear as if they are working. The numbers will astonish you.

  • Thank you for responding Nathan. I would rather continue the discussion in this forum (until PoP calls it off) than e-mail you off list since so many people have been contributing so well to the discussion.
    I may be misreading you, but it sounds like you are prescribing a course of action that ends up somewhere in the neighborhood of eugenics. Talking about that may be politically incorrect, but enacting public policy that prevents unsanctioned people from reproducing is of course unconstitutional, immoral, and intolerable in a free society. Draconian measures are catching on in surprising ways these days (the torture question and habeas corpus, for example) but not with my endorsement.
    The trauma of separating children from their families, however dysfunctional, means it should be a last resort, justifiable only in the case of abuse. You could try to redefine what constitutes abuse, and separate more families, but how would the city care for these children? Who is going to take over that role?

  • Oh my gosh, this is getting scary. How many of these poor children and their parents do you actually know? In my five years working at a shelter for homeless families I’ve met probably 100. I’d say over half work hard (you need to make $23/hour to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in DC), love their kids and instill discipline in them. The ones who don’t care are the ones who’s kids are shooting each other and acting crazy but they are not the majority of HOMELESS children. There are many parents I keep in touch with when they move out, heck some of their kids go to boarding school in PA and MA! Being poor doesn’t mean you are a bad person just as being rich doesn’t mean you’re going to be smart or kind. Please, please get to know these kids before you rush to conclusions about an entire gender and race. As for the men you see dropping off their wives/girlfriends, they might have worked the night shift.

  • I already stated and got into a really lousy round of arguments about the value of a neighborhood watch program and having little kids see you out on the street protecting their neighborhood with the police. As one of the cops told me, he hated his brother because he stole money from his parents and pawned his nintendo so when the cops arrested him for drug possession and took him away he decided he wanted to become a cop to keep people like his brother locked up and away from kids.

    I can say with absolute positivity that if a kid shooting guns off around kids is lost forever to the criminal justice system I don’t care one bit- not one bit- keep them in jail for as long as is legally possible. Because they violated the ultimate cardinal rule of not injuring innocent bystander kids. I think anyone arguing that these kids shouldn’t be jailed is not a good person with a good heart. Look into the eyes of the kids these criminals put in danger and tell me they don’t deserve the protection that a 10 or 20 year term for the criminal would mean. Can you really look into a child’s eyes and tell them that some gun-toting jerk has more rights than they do?

    And also, seriously, Eungenics (the idea that poor people have kids who aren’t smart) has no evidence to support it. Smart, gifted kids are born to poor, ignorant families and they usually end up as really amazing achievers with inspiring stories. I grew up next to a wealthy neighborhood and I knew 2 or 3 kids who did drugs, shot people, stole, and ended up in prison and their parents were rich. I also know a wealthy family where Jr had two kids out of wedlock with two different poor women. So… what then? Rich grandfather pays for the poor kid to attend private school… these are real DC stories.

  • Jasong,
    Well as I said, the solution is not politically correct. But if we are going to regulate something as trivial as someone driving a car, then in theory shouldn’t there be some regulation on people having kids? I live in Petworth. My former neighbor allowed her son to sell drugs with her and her boyfriend. Sure he wasn’t a victim of the typical abuse. But he was allowed to drop out and sell drugs. When the mother is barely older than the child, short sighted decisions like this get made all the time. How do you stop this short of drastic measures? Unfortunately, in the black culture this behavior is lionized. People look up to it in our community. Short of taking these kids out of their home at a very early age, how do you counteract the mayhem these kids experience in the home? Noone has come up with ANYTHING that has worked so far. When is it safe to conclude that something drastic is the only thing that will work?

    I am curious, to know how many black males you see downtown working/ How many black males under the age of 35 work in your firm? Now contrast that number to black women.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    I am stopping this conversation at Eugenics. Thank you for understanding.

  • Jasong –

    I can’t say Nathan is 100% correct about what to do, but he hits the nail on the head. We are creating a permenant underclass in this country. Has it always been there? Can’t say. But it does seem to be getting bigger. There is always hope a few will make it and lead successful live and they do. Natural selection occurs at all levels of the environment.

    I don’t think we can practice eugenics or regulate who can procreate and who cannot. But the government can certainly beat the drum about birth control. At somepoint I think we need to reach the conclusion that kids need to be taught about birth control in the schools and be offered prescriptions and condoms in the school. I believe there is some recent data to show some success in reducing the numbers of teenage pregnancies. More of this is needed.

  • As for the men you see dropping off their wives/girlfriends, they might have worked the night shift.

    And they might have sold their internet company for millions of dollars, except the guys on my block living with grandma and standing on the sidewalk haven’t.

    My wife has a friend at work who prefers to date these guys. At work she has no power. She’s a receptionist that everyone asks to do extra work and she has to work the friday after thanksgiving and decorate the office lobby while everyone else takes off.

    She dates one or two of these losers at a time, taking them out to eat, buying them suits so they can go to office functions, letting them stay at her apartment. She transforms herself from a woman with no power in the real world to a person dressing in a suit and making money in her pretend world with a boyfriend who has no job or usually, the most rudimentary labor jobs a few days a week. She seeks out men without jobs so she has the power in the relationship. I don’t think she sees this as a problem- she sees this as a way that her life is more sane than listening to a demanding boyfriend.

    Over all, the people who I’ve met who have the odd jobs, such as a neighbor who works nights as a security guard, really don’t try. I mean here’s a smart enough guy who is making $20 per hour tops as a guard and tells me about the other guards who are taking college classes and studying at night while he reads the newspaper without recognizing that it reflects badly on him that a nighttime security guard job is supposed to be a temporary job while people get degrees and not a career.

  • Maybe we need to all meet at Temperance and discuss this further over a few pints. Most of the world’s problems are solved that way!

  • “Unfortunately, in the black culture this behavior is lionized. People look up to it in our community.”
    Oh my god. Please, Nathan, what black culture are you talking about. Mine? Yours? C’mon now. There are dysfunctional elements, abso-freakin’-lutely. But please don’t buy into the crap promulgated by racist people that the problems of black people are somehow encoded in our DNA. I know you are disheartened, but seriously. This is a problem with being POOR. It is a problem with having a lack of opportunities for generation after generation. But it’s not like black people invented bad kids, bad parenting, drugs, whatever.

    I swear sometimes that all the racists have to do is start the ball rolling, and black folks will be happy to do their dirty work for them. Some of us have totally bought into the notion that we are somehow broken. But, I wouldn’t buy this POV coming from a white guy, and it’s not something I’m willing to buy from a black guy, even if you do know a lot of people on Section 8.

    I sense that you, like the rest of us, are struggling for solutions — it’s hard. I feel that you are sincere. Just don’t make the brush too broad.

  • Christina, you are right on. Being poor is key, look at rural America, they have to buy Sudafed over the counter because the poor white folk want to mix it with fertilizer and ingest it. They do this while they are pregnant, their kids aren’t so smart and they aren’t thinking about education.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    And that is the final word. This has been a very healthy discussion. I don’t want it to degrade. Thank you all for your thoughts and comments. Further comments bordering on racism will be deleted. Thank you.

  • I don’t buy the permanent underclass theory either, especially since I am the product of a bricklayer and a hairdresser. Boy, could mom ever lay that brick! 😉

    Plus, you don’t have to look far to see that family money can turn an idiot, who would otherwise be drinking beer and watching NASCAR in his trailer, into a success:

    1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

  • This is a problem with being POOR. It is a problem with having a lack of opportunities for generation after generation.


    No, these are kids pulling the trigger, not their grandparents. These are kids living in Northwest pulling the trigger, not Anacostia. You can’t say that kids in NW don’t have plenty of opportunities or that the opportunities to get good government jobs weren’t solidified here by 1966. This isn’t 1971 when Jim Crow was still being eliminated, this is 40 years after Jim Crow was eliminated. And let me reiterate, this is Northwest.

    And when it comes to education, man, when DC schools sucked in the 1970s, people could still blame the man. I go down to schools now and every single person working there and miseducating the kids is black. The tax money is flowing into the schools and the people who were caught stealing money from the teachers union or stealing money from the chess club to pay for gospel tickets didn’t look very white to me. The school system in DC was designed and administered by African-Americans.

    Then there’s Skeletor and the rest of the women who stole $31 million of my real estate taxes. They didn’t look like the man to me. You know who they looked like. They looked like church ladies.

    What’s going to happen when Obama’s in the White House? Then will people realize and recognize that all the avenues of opportunity have been open for the last 10 years? No one will have an excuse but their own actions, right?

    I work with these guys from the Carirbean. They went to college in Jamaica and Barbados, then got PhDs in London. They worked as cruise ship waiters and busboys and lived in single rooms in London and showered in the gyms. Why? Because they demanded the PhDs that would take them out of the slums. I talk to women who are bragging their grandkids “have good jobs.” Screw that, these kids should be getting PhDs.

    Were Jamaicans not descended from slaves? Were they not discriminated against and raised in ghettos? No matter how many Brits told them they couldn’t understand mathematics or couldn’t understand engineering they ignored them and they won. But they made the decision to do it. These other kids made the decision to fire guns and no one can tell me that society made that decision for them.

  • Oden, IMO, money or lack of it does not equate to class. I feel it is basically how one is raised and the hope that the person will maintain those values, despite external influences and pressures.

    Anon-I agree with you 100% and then some.

  • Jim: true, but did I mention the beatings?

    I did get free haircuts though.

  • An earlier post suggested having parents face consequences of their children and in fact certain comunities in various states have enacted such laws. My community was one of them. This is an old article and I dont know how much is still active but you can find more information out about it online.

    I’m not saying this is an answer – just that it exists.

    My uncle briefly lived in PG County and his neighborhood through the assistance of a local pastor created a little database on the families who lived there (the parents, children, ages, and photos of the children) and when someone in the neighborhood saw some kids up to no good they could tell the pastor and he confronted the parents.

    It would take some strong community involvement to make something like this work and I dont know that this is the answer either but it certainly made the parents more aware and hopefully more involved.

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