Well, unfortunately I feel compelled to talk about the subject of violence today. With the constant murders in Chicago—and the fact that today is the anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination—I must.

President Obama visited his adopted hometown of Chicago a week ago to address the relentless violence that took 535 lives in 2012.

In his remarks, he spoke about how he quote-unquote “screwed up” as a youth just like a number of the young black men in the audience but the difference was that he had more of a “safety net” there to catch him. He went on to say he was no different from them, and that what was different were the consequences young black men suffer today.

You know we often talk about crime and punishment, but how about punishment and crime? I mean, isn’t crime a result of subjecting children to a punishing environment where they feel they have no hope, no value, no chance at success, or even adulthood?

Before they are even old enough to think about committing a crime or, God forbid, taking a life, aren’t many being punished for being poor, being from a single-parent family, or being in constant survival mode?

You see, it’s easy to be ‘tough on crime’ and big on punishment. But if we were truly tough on crime, wouldn’t it be better to stop punishing our youth before they commit a crime in the first place?

Wouldn’t it be better to raise the minimum wage so more families could have a chance at reclaiming some small sense of stability? Wouldn’t it make more sense to end punitive and destructive educational policies like high-stakes testing that continue to leave our children behind? Wouldn’t it be smart to adopt policies that give all children access to quality pre-school and child care regardless of income or location?

And yet, after literally punishing children all the way through their formative years, we actually wonder why they resort to crime, drugs, gangs, and sadly, murder.

I’m well aware that there are nuances about the Chicago situation contributing to its insane murder rates, but this does not minimize my point. As a society, we spend a lot of time punishing children from the day they are born for things they have no control over; their family income, their parents or lack thereof, their skin color.

An environment of undeserved punishment is a breeding ground for bad things to happen, including the violence plaguing the Windy City.

Like our President, I can’t offer you one particular action item to go do and make the situation in Chicago or anywhere else better. But I can challenge you to challenge any policy that punishes our children unnecessarily and undermines their life chances.

Frederick Douglass was right when he said: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

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2 thoughts on “Punishment & Crime

  1. L. Steven Clark on said:

    The recent article by Stephani Robinson is an Echo through out the Black Community and is an issue that has been prevalent in our society since the liberal issue of how to raise children was to take away corporeal punishment ie a spanking. Children grow up today with no fear of retribution by parents for their misdeeds and if we correct them its the parent that end up in jail rather than the child getting his “due justice” from mother or father. The saddest part of this phenomenon is that the right to be parents are tainted with government rules and people that think children have more rights than their parents. The statement by Ms. Robinson about the wages and opportunity is partially true. Those that seek to move out of the crippling governement programs are folks that seek to better prepare themselves based on their own initiative, the will to succeed rather than be an observer and the last but not least the desire to want more for not just themselves but their children and others. Having worked in the social programs and county services it is appalling that we credit the lack of initiative on the government rather than on the individual that should be making the changes. Its like a poem that I wrote some time ago called ” I heard a Rumor an Obituary for Blackmen, Women and Children Too! This speaks to our self destructive attitudes and ones that we teach our children. We are responsible for the paths our children take and the lessons that we teach them growing up. Responsibility and respect are lessons taught at a young age, not after you kill someone, steal from someone or disrespecting a parent, by then its to late unless that person decides to change. No more excuses and no more crutches for our people. Lay them down and find a way like our folks did in the 40′, 50’s and part of the sixties. Rise up toe occassion of greatness not self pity!

    • 55th st silverbacks on said:

      ONCE again the history is needed to grasp our current situation in chicago. as a kid i grew up in the austin district of the westside of chicago , during that time the police were delivering drugs and guns they also were enforcers for the dealers they supported.the whole mess was uncovered after a rookie officer stood for what he belived the police in the community SHOULD represent , he was set up by fellow brothers in blue and murdered in a large courtway after he responded to a call of shots fired but no backup ever came. now lets go back a little farther to when there were brothers willing to resist the influx of drugs in our communities. the black panthers are portrayed as militants arming themselves to resist society. they were young men using there RIGHTEOUS MINDS to prevent the drugs and violence. they were murdered in there bed by the chicago police. the west side at one time had major drug dealers on every other block and the only relevence to wealth that the youth growing up in these areas saw was from drug dealers. during the time we were truly fighting for our right to be treated as humans our leaders were murdered and now the lack of leadership has created a generation of young black men with no instructions for the trials they will face and have been taught there is no way out and embrace the thought of prison to bulid a “rep” and the lack of pride and knowledge leads them to lash out when confronted with issues of selfworth.they are in the streets celebrating this life of survival and struggle they want to be seen hustling it is the modern way our kids feel they fight against the weight of what the have no knowledge. without our TRUE HISTORY WE ARE LOST.

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