Negligent Parents, Lawbreaking Kids: Stunning Article on Parental Accountability

Negligent Parents, Lawbreaking Kids: Stunning Article on Parental Accountability August 22, 2013

LZ Granderson writes a weekly column for CNN, and this week’s entry was stunning. Granderson laments the lack of accountability for the parents of children who commit horrible, unspeakable crimes. He begins,

“A detail in the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Shaaliver Douse by a New York Police Department officer earlier this month has been stopping me from grieving his death. The tragedy happened around 3 a.m.

Why was a 14-year-old boy out that late without his mother, Shanise Farrar, who called the shooting an assassination? Or his aunt, Quwana Barcene, who said the bloody gun police say was found near his body was part of a cover up? Where was the supervising adult who should have been with a 14-year-old boy walking the streets of New York at 3 o’clock in the morning? “I’m not saying that he’s the best one, but he’s my angel,” his grieving mother said.

Her “angel” was a suspected gang member who police say was chasing and shooting at an unidentified man when they encountered him. Her “angel” was arrested last month for attempted murder of a 15-year-old. Her “angel” left their apartment around 8 p.m. and she had no idea where he was until the next morning when detectives informed her that her son was dead. I want to mourn for her loss, I really do. But as callous and as heartless as this sounds, I just can’t get past what awful parents she and the boy’s father were. Children may be born angels, but with all the temptations out there in the world, it takes work to try to keep them that way.”

Granderson gives examples of other crimes perpetrated by children, then quotes the reaction of the parents. Their statements are stunning – unanimously talking about their children in glowing terms. I’m honestly not sure how to feel about what he is saying. If my child did some terrible thing, it wouldn’t change the way I feel about them. I’m sure I’d be saying the same things as these parents.

It’s important to remember that society plays a role in this type of injustice as well (a point Granderson mentions but does not tease out). Poverty is linked to violent crime. We cannot simply point the finger at the parents, because we all perpetuate a system in which economic and social justice does not exist for all. Want a simple example? U.S. Median household net worth for whites: $110,00. U.S. Median household net worth for blacks: $4,955 (2012). The average fifteen year old African American kid is living a completely different life than the average 15 year old white kid. Same goes for their parents. I have a hard time judging.

Still, Granderson is a leader in the black community, and he makes a good point. He’s emphasizing the importance of accountability not just after the crime, but accountability before the crime, in the home between parents and children. Our problem, he believes, is that we don’t do accountability anymore in our society, we do blaming.

“Parents are supposed to instill a sense of right and wrong in their children and then keep up the due diligence necessary to make sure they don’t veer off that path. When parents don’t do that, we end up with three 15-year-olds assaulting and breaking the arm of a 13-year-old on a school bus in Florida. “This is life. I am sorry what happened to the victim,” Julian McKnight Sr., whose son Julian was one of the boys accused in the attack, said after a court appearance. A second appearance is scheduled later this month. “It’s just the way it is. My son ain’t never been no bad person, he just got mixed with bad people, that’s all … he sorry.”

I am not a perfect parent with all the answers. But I do know that it was the father, and not the son, who was apologizing — and that, my friends, is our problem in a nutshell. We don’t teach accountability, we don’t expect accountability and I’m not even sure we even know what accountability looks like anymore. Some of us have become so addicted to pointing fingers at others for all the wrong that happens in our lives that self-assessment has become synonymous with blaming the victim.

What do you think? Do parents bear the blame? Does society bear it with them? It’s conventional wisdom to say “there are no bad kids, just bad parents.” Its that true? Could it also be true that sometimes good parents are playing a game in which the deck is so stacked against them that they literally cannot be good parents?

Granderson has me thinking, and I appreciate the article. Mostly what I’m thinking right now is this:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

– Psalm 13

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