Today's "Drug Update, Part V," was supposed to be about recreation -- but then I heard about bejeweled and mink-clad teen-agers being chauffeured in stretch limousines to Phyllis Hyman's recent concert at Constitution Hall, and about kids pulling rolls of cash from their pockets to buy cars and clothes, and I was reminded that I had promised a column about values, or the lack of them.
Well, here it is.
Kojo Nnamdi, host of the WHMM-TV's "Evening Exchange," just concluded a very interesting series of shows on young people that demonstrated to me that a lot of black kids have their heads screwed on straight and are superbly prepared to carry the struggle for truth and justice into the 21st Century.
On the other hand, the same medium -- television (as well as movies) -- has poisoned the minds of many more than Nnamdi could ever fit into his studio.
When young people go into the streets with guns and commit murders identical to those on recent episodes of "Miami Vice" or "Crime Story," you can see what I'm talking about. When some new dance video spotlights a new line of clothing and suddenly kids are clamoring to have that style -- that's what I'm talking about. Heck, when Spike Lee comes out with "School Daze," and kids call me up to argue that this movie accurately depicts life on black college campuses -- that's what I'm talking about.
The kids I am talking about are weird. They are weird because their parents got messed up somewhere in the 1960s, and ended up raising some of the most irresponsible, live-for-today-forget-tomorrow brats you can imagine.
The only thing these kids value is money, which means it's okay, in their minds, to do any and everything that may get them money. And because they know nothing about savings, because they know nothing about the future, they blow it on dope and dumb clothes.
When it comes to the values of the street gangsters, they're the dumbest of them all. The hoodlums of the 1920s were at least interested in pulling their families out of poverty, and made plans to leave something behind in the event they were gunned down -- which they often were.
The jokers today -- who are likely to meet the same fate -- think only of themselves, and when they get busted and have their possessions confiscated, they are back where they started from. Poor.
The violence on television and movies that distorts the images of black people makes things worse, but is not in and of itself at fault. Again, parents are. They permit children to spend all of their free time glued to boob tubes. They don't insist that children do homework; they let them stay out all night, then wonder how they got hooked on drugs.
What kind of parent would not ask questions when a child comes home wearing a $1,000 outfit or driving a new car? The kind of parent who doesn't give a damn -- and I think it's high time those kinds of parents be made liable for the crimes of their children.
Remember the 12-year-old girl who was busted not long ago for using drugs? Her mother talked about how the girl often would go out and not come home until 3 a.m., if at all. The mother ought to be in some kind of treatment program, right along with that girl.
"You have to hit the family," says Frank Tucker, director of the Barron Assessment and Counseling Center of Boston, which deals with kids who get caught bringing guns and drugs to schools. "It's mama and/or papa first. You change their values and it filters down to the kids. But since they don't go to PTA meetings, you have to do it through the church, government social agencies and neighborhood groups."
This can be done through programs that teach parenthood. The D.C. school system has proposals for this sort of thing from various sources collecting dust on its shelves. The Sasha Bruce Youthworks has probably the best parent teaching program in the city. That group should be consulted by every social agency about how to make such a program work.