WASHINGTON, August 15, 2011—Over the past few weeks, teenagers and kids as young as eleven have been participating in riots across the pond in the United Kingdom and in violent flash mobs in our own urban and suburban streets here in the United States, causing many to question the parenting of these children.
While it is true that controlling adolescents’ behavior is not always easy, polite society still expect young people to adhere to the basic home training we assume their parents gave them about not destroying other people’s properties and not taking things that don’t belong to them or that they did not pay for.
In London in early August, police shot and killed a local man, Mark Duggan, during an arrest, sparking days of civil unrest, looting, rioting and destruction in London’s Tottenham neighborhood.
Police claim Dugan aimed a weapon at them, but subsequent reports refute that assertion, and the mainly minority and immigrant residents of that area claimed the incident was indicative of racial discrimination. The local population rioted in response, in scenes reminiscent of similar civil unrest in Los Angeles in the wake of the infamous police beating of Rodney King, which was videotaped and broadcast worldwide.
The chaos spread to other neighborhoods and led to some deaths, including those of three young Asian Muslim shopkeepers who were killed by a reported looter in a hit and run incident. This week, London police arrested a 16-year old boy for the murder of a 68-year old man during a riot murder. The boy’s 31-year old mother was arrested for obstructing police. But not all parents are turning the other cheek and protecting their kids.
Adrienne Ives turned in both her 18-year-old athlete daughter who was an Olympic ambassador and her 15-year old daughter after she discovered they had looted.
“As a mother, I love my daughter. It’s not easy, but we hope we’ve done the right thing,” Ives told the UK Mirror. “It was a hard decision to make but it was a decision that any good parent would do.
“These riots happen because good parents do nothing.”
In the UK, the unrest started among secular minority groups, but thousands of white teens and youth joined the chaos. Some attributed the violence to lack of employment opportunities for young people, but footage of the carnage show at least some individuals simply taking advantage of an opportunity to behave badly and steal some new things for themselves in the process.
Back in the United States, in cities like Chicago, Pittsburg and Miami, and smaller cities and towns like Des Moines, Milwaukee, Peioria, Madison, and Germantown, Maryland, flash mobs have turned violent.
The website ViolentFlashMobs.com documents the incidents which date back to 2002, but only recently have become a more rampant and widespread problem.
At one time in history, flash mobs only referred to random and occasional planned gatherings of people organized through social media and text messages to meet in a specific location for a pillow fight or to perform a choreographed dance routine. In recent weeks, young teens started using the same organizational method to plan violent attacks on innocent fellow citizens in the streets and to steal merchandise from stores.
Over the past week, finger-pointing mayors and historians have gotten in trouble for publicly declaring why they think young people are adopting this mob mentality behavior.
Historian David Starkey said during a BBC2’s Newsnight television broadcast that he felt the white youth were becoming “black.”
“What has happened,” Starkey said is “the whites have become black; a particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become ‘the fashion’.”
To drive home his point during the show, he read the slang-filled text message of a British Olympian who was discovered to have also looted and rioted in the streets.
He said the infusion of Jamaican patois and immigrants have caused many Brits to feel their nation is a foreign one.
Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter also drew the race card but took another route, blaming the kids themselves and their parents, saying they are making their race look bad.
During a combative speech this past Sunday at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Nutter blasted young black men, telling them to stop behaving like “sperm donors” and “human ATMs.” He said parents have to do a better job of supervising and training their children.
“If you walk into somebody’s office with your hair uncombed and a pick in the back, and your shoes untied and your pants half-down, tattoos up and down your arms and on your neck, and you wonder why somebody won’t hire you?” Nutter said to the audience. “They don’t hire you ‘cause you look like you’re crazy. You have damaged your own race.”
Though thousands of miles apart, the incidents in London and Philadelphia are similar. In both cases, young people are influenced by mob behavior and take advantage of situations to gather in massive groups, harm others and reap unearned material benefit by robbing stores en masse.
It’s quite easy to blame the tree for producing the rotten apple, but parents are also at odds with peer pressure and the lure of fulfilling instant gratification.
Alas, even those subject to peer pressure know right from wrong, yet succumb to it. It’s not just those from broken homes who cause all the trouble, but also the good kids who you’d think should know better.
To curb the problem, several jurisdictions have imposed curfews, something the parents should have done themselves. But unless a parent physically straps a young adult to his or her bed, it may not be that easy to keep them in the home at night or from disobeying the rules of civil obedience when they are out with their friends.
The fact that the incidents are not unique to just one type of neighborhood or town, but involve all sorts of young people from different demographics, means that there is a breakdown somewhere. Perhaps it’s in the messages children receive about how to react when they don’t get their way, or what to do when they have limited opportunities and options. Certainly, they should know that robbing and looting is not the answer.
But is this behavior indicative of youthful rebellion gone wrong? Each new generation of young people has been known to “act out” and to engage in dangerous, foolish activity, for as long as people have been complaining about “kids today.”
While it is our job as parents to guide and instruct, when a young adult goes rogue, do we blame the teen, or the parents who tried their best?
At what point are parents no longer responsible for the sins of their kids and the children held accountable for their own actions? Certainly the mother of an Olympian in London felt responsible, hence she turned in her own daughters and didn’t try to protect them like the mother of the 16-year old accused murderer.
Even at the tender age of 11, a child should know that assaulting others and robbing stores is wrong. We hope so, anyway.
Read more Politics of Raising Children in The Communities at the Washington Times. Follow Jeneba Ghatt at @JenebaSpeaks. Her work can also be read at JenebaSpeaksand Politic365. She also co-hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Right of Black which tackles current events and politics from a perspective not often seen in the mainstream media.
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