Thursday, May 17, 2007

Kids being kids or kids screwing up their lives?

So on my flight home this evening I was reading 'Soul Circus' by George Pelecanos. He often features Petworth prominently in his books. So I came across this passage about Petworth by the protagonist named Strange:

"The school year had not quite ended, and night had fallen, but there were plenty of kids out, hanging on corners and walking the streets...Strange wondered, as he always did, what these kids were doing out so late, and he wondered about the adults who were responsible for them, why they had let them out of their sight."

Still true today? I see this all the time. It frustrates the hell out of me. Some of the kids are great but some are so out of control I don't know who can be accountable for them. It makes me very angry because I can see these kids ruining their lives. Now, I was no angel as a youth but lines were drawn and there was certainly no boozing and loitering at one in the morning on a school night. Where is the balance between normal adolescent behavior and "out of control" behavior? Who is ultimately responsible for these kids behavior?


K said...

So who dictates what is "acceptable social behavior"? Is it better that these children are cooped up in front of the television. Last I checked, it's rather normal for kids living in a big city to be hanging out outdoors. That's what city kids do. Now whether or not they're getting into trouble....that's where you can start asking questions.

Regardless, I think it's dangerous to make these sorts of observations. Who's to say that you need to intervene and redirect these kids' behavior? There was a story posted on Gothamist about a Larry David type character who tried to tell some kids to stop hanging out at the scaffolding near his work. And they jumped him. He didn't deserve it, but at the same time what right did he have to tell them to stop postin' up? In my opinion, he shoulda just minded his business and carried on. A city is a viscous animal. It will bite back.

Anonymous said...

I am a black man who grew up in the city, but I do have a problem with these kids hanging out late

As a parent, I would worry about my son or daughter hanging out late at night, specially with all the craziness going on. There was point in time where parents would impose curfew to their kids and I don't see nodays.

I do agree, were are the Parents??. I see kids walking around my neighborhood even at midnight

werbs said...

Two comments, one general and the other specifically related to kids hanging out late at night.

1 - It seems all but impossible for someone to make a comment without it rubbing someone else the wrong way. I absolutely agree that it is dangerous to make sweeping generalizations and statements about “good” and “bad” behavior. However, it is also dangerous to argue fundamental and guiding principles that we all share just for the sake of argument. Sometimes, it's not about making a point and being the devil's advocate, it's about coming together to discuss issues. I get frustrated when I see moral judgements passed on this blogsite, but I get equally frustrated when it seems a respondent is just trying to pick apart a genuine concern, and one that he or she may actually share. Sometimes I really wonder if comments I see are posted just for the sake of accusing someone of dictating socially acceptable behaviors. Of a stubborn (although understandable) resistance to the new mix of people coming into the neighborhood. Ie. Whatever the white person says, I’m going to let them know they can’t tell me what’s right and what’s wrong. At some point, don’t we have some things we just all agree about? Are there any absolutes that we can all agree on?

2- In the case of children hanging out late at night, drinking, yelling, having sex (no, I'm not saying they are ALL doing that, I'm referring to those that ARE), can't we all agree that this is a BAD thing - and get past the fact that if you say something is "bad," you are making a judgement? In reality, some things are just plain BAD. Killing people - bad. Kids outside on a school night, getting into trouble - bad. Kids playing football in the street after dark - fine. I want kids to have their freedom and enjoy the same type of innocent foolishness I enjoyed, but boundaries are essential, as well. In fact, forget the argument that this applies just to kids and consider ANYONE who is out late at night, drinking, fighting, etc. I would argue that is not acceptable social behavior.

And just because an animal bites doesn't mean you shouldn't try to help it. Yes, by using the word “help” I'm making a judgement. When it comes to kids, they do need help and guidance.

Prince of Petworth said...

Thank you Werbs. I count on the readers of this blog to make articulate comments like you have done. I never I said I was the most articulate, I just like to raise issues of concern and provide a forum for debate.

Tired of the BS said...

Society dictates what is "acceptable social behavior." And school-aged children hanging out on street corners late at night, drinking liquor and smoking weed, harrassing people, creating piles of trash and playing loud music is not behavior that most reasonable people would deem as "acceptable" or productive. I didn't grow up in the city and was not allowed to just "hang out", not ever. At the time I resented it, but on reflection maybe that's how I ended up not being a statistic (young black teen mom) because someone took an interest in what I was doing and who I was doing it with. In fact, the one time I crossed the line and skipped school my NEIGHBOR called my parents and alerted them. They didn't just shake their heads and turn away and let me throw my life down the tubes.

As for saying nothing and cowering in fear, that's BS. One Saturday there was a band of children wandering on my block who took something off my front porch then proceeded to walk up and down the sidewalk in front of my house with it. Was I sposed to ignore that because they might "jump back?" Hell to the naw! I went outside and said something, they returned it, and yes, I heard mumbling and grumbling and wondered about reprisals, but whateva. You don't come up on my property and remove things that don't belong to you. Period.

reuben said...

I grew up just north of Grant Circle (Im fiftysomething) -and my parents ( as well as the neighbors, who also raised us) would have kicked my a-- if I'd dare venture a minute beyond their very -excuse me- verrrrry strict curfew. Am I glad they did that to us? oh yes! Do these out of control kids AND -shall we say- lax parents frustrate the heck out of me? Does George Bush have a thing for a certain war in the Middle East?
Guess I am getting old....