Talking to Our Kids About Ferguson


By Michelle Alexander

My son wants an answer. He is 10 years old, and he wants me to tell him that he doesn’t need to worry. He is a black boy, rather sheltered, and knows little of the world beyond our safe, quiet neighborhood. His eyes are wide and holding my gaze, silently begging me to say: No, sweetheart, you have no need to worry. Most officers are nothing like Officer Wilson. They would not shoot you — or anyone — while you’re unarmed, running away or even toward them.

I am stammering.

For the past few years, I have traveled from coast to coast speaking to just about anyone who will listen about the horrors of our criminal injustice system. I have written and lectured extensively about the wars that have been declared on poor communities of color — the “war on crime” and the “war on drugs” — the militarization of our police forces, the school-to-prison pipeline, the millions stripped of basic civil and human rights, a penal system unprecedented in world history. Yet here I am, on Monday evening, before the announcement about the grand jury’s decision has been made, speechless.

My son wants me to reassure him, and tell him that of course Darren Wilson will go to jail. At 10 years old, he can feel deep in his bones how wrong it was for the police to kill Michael Brown. “There will be a trial, at least — right, Mom?” My son is asking me a simple question, and I know the answer.

As a civil rights lawyer, I know all too well that Officer Wilson will not be going to trial or to jail. The system is legally rigged so that poor people guilty of relatively minor crimes are regularly sentenced to decades behind bars while police officers who kill unarmed black men almost never get charged, much less serve time in prison.

I open my mouth to speak, look into my son’s eyes, and hear myself begin to lie: “Don’t worry, honey, you have nothing to worry about. Nothing like this could ever happen to you.” His face brightens as he tells me that he likes the police, and that he always waves at the cops in our neighborhood and they always wave back. His innocence is radiating from him now; he’s all lit up with relief and gladness that he lives in a world where he can take for granted that the police can be trusted to serve and protect him with a wave and a smile.

My face is flushing red. I am embarrassed that I have lied. And I am angry. I am angry that I have to tell my son that he has reason to worry. I am angry that I have to tell him that I already know Darren Wilson won’t be indicted, because police officers are almost never indicted when they kill unarmed black men. I must tell him now, before he hears it on the school bus or sees it in the news, that many people in Michael Brown’s town will be very angry too — so filled with pain, sadness and rage — that they may react by doing things they shouldn’t, like setting fires or breaking windows or starting fights.

I know I must explain this violence, but not condone it. I must help him see that adults often have trouble managing their pain just like he does. Doesn’t he sometimes lash out and yell at friends or family when he’s hurt or angry? When people have been hurt over and over, and rather than compassion or understanding you’re given lectures about how it’s really all your fault, and that no one needs to make amends, you can lose your mind. We can wind up harming people we care about with words or deeds, people who have done no harm to us.

I begin telling him the truth and his face contorts. The glowing innocence is wiped away as his eyes flash first with fear, then anger. “No!,” he erupts. “There has to be a trial! If you kill an unarmed man, don’t you at least have a trial?”

My son is telling me now that the people in Ferguson should fight back. A minute ago, he was reminiscing about waving to Officer Friendly. Now he wants to riot.

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I tell him that sometimes I have those feelings too. But now I feel something greater. I am proud of the thousands of people of all colors who have taken to the streets in nonviolent protest, raising their voices with boldness and courage, capturing the attention and the imagination of the world. They’re building a radical movement for justice, one that would make the freedom fighters who came before them sing from the heavens with joy.

I tell my son, as well as my daughters, as we sit around the dinner table, stories of young activists organizing in Ferguson, some of them not much older than they are. I tell them about the hip-hop artist Tef Poe, who traveled with Michael Brown’s parents to Geneva to testify before a United Nations subcommittee about police militarization and violence. I tell them about activists like Phillip B. Agnew, Tory Russell, Brittany Ferrell and Alexis Templeton, who marched in the streets and endured tear gas while waving signs bearing three words: “Black Lives Matter.”

I’ve met some of these activists, I say. They believe, like you do, that we should be able to live in a world where we trust the police and where all people and all children, no matter what their color or where they came from, are treated with dignity, care, compassion and concern. These courageous young people know the tools of war, violence and revenge will never build a nation of justice. They told me they’re willing to risk their lives, if necessary, so that kids like you can live in a better world.

My son is stirring his mashed potatoes around on his plate. He looks up and says, “Right now, I’m just thinking I don’t want anything like this ever to happen again.”

I’m tempted to tell him that it will happen; in fact, it already has. Several unarmed black men have been shot by the police since Aug. 9, when Michael Brown was killed. But I don’t say another word. It’s much easier telling the truth about race and justice in America to strangers than to my son, who will soon be forced to live it.

Michelle Alexander is the author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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88 thoughts on “Talking to Our Kids About Ferguson”

  1. Barack Palin

    Tell your son he will not have to worry as long as he doesn’t rob a store and assault the store clerk, walk down the middle of a busy road and not listen to an officer when asked to move to the side, reach into an officer’s patrol car, punch him in the face while going for his gun then run away just to turn around and once again threaten the officer’s life with a full on rush.  As long as your son doesn’t do these types of things he will be fine.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Or being a 12 year old carrying a toy gun in Ohio

      Or carry a bottle of pills apparently –

      Or walking in a housing project: “Gurley was shot in a dark stairwell of an East New York housing project building by Officer Peter Liang. Gurley was unarmed. Police Commissioner William Bratton called Gurley “a total innocent.” “The cop who was standing behind Officer Liang doesn’t know what happened; the girlfriend doesn’t know what happened,” a senior police official told the New York Times. “There is a distinct possibility that Officer Liang doesn’t quite understand what happened.” Aftermath: District Attorney Ken Thompson announced that he is investigating.”

      1. hpierce

        David… probably you should clarify “carrying a toy gun that has been modified so as to NOT look like a toy…“.  By all accounts I have seen, this particular tragic incident involved a toy gun that had the markings now required of toys, removed.  There was a reason for the requirement.  Still tragic, and still probably avoidable, but at least one of the “safeguards” was absent.  Also, 50 years ago, Dad taught me not to point even toy guns at anyone.  Having served in the Pacific in WWII, as a medic, he was pretty adamant on this.  The boy in Ohio, by most accounts pointed that ‘disguised toy’ gun at the officer.  Still tragic, but another factor that was avoidable. Again, you didn’t mention that.

        1. hpierce

          Duh, DP… long before I was 12, I knew not to point a play gun at another, unless it was part of a ‘mutual consent’ part of us playing games.  As another poster said to another post, your reply to me was condescending, dismissive,and (my term) infantile.

          And WHO took off the ‘protective indications’ of it being a toygun. Let’s face it, DP, “your diatribe, right or wrong”.

          [And outgrew my ‘games’ of cowboy/indian, “war” etc. before I was 12… never even carried a “play gun” around by 12.]

      2. WesC

        Or if you are a white teenager who lives in a trailer house and answers a knock on the door with your Wii remote control in your hand like Christopher Roupe had fatal mistake of doing.

    2. Eric Gelber

      Aside from blindly accepting one version of disputed facts as the truth in the Michael Brown case, this comment is dismissive of the very real concerns the black community has based on a long, indisputable history of disproportionate and often unjustified targeting by police. I find the comment disturbing for its lack of awareness and otherwise insensitive, condescending and derisive.


      1. zaqzaq

        Eric Gelber should read the transcript of Dorian Johnson’s testimony in the grand jury and then compare it to the physical evidence.  It does not match.

        I find Gelber’s comments disturbing in ignoring the long, indisputable history of the disproportionate rate of murders committed by black men.   The simple fact is that black men kill more people in this country than any other ethnicity.  Police have to respond to these murders.


        1. Davis Progressive

          it’s interesting how much people defending the police latch onto dorian johnson’s testimony rather than the inconsistencies in officer wilson’s testimony.

        2. hpierce

          And, it’s equally interesting, that there are those who question Wilson’s testimony (and inconsistencies), without questioning/being skeptical of Mr Johnson’s (perhaps being made of ‘whole cloth’).

        3. TrueBlueDevil

          zaqzaq, do you know when this crime pattern emerged?

          It is interesting how a major component of crime is almost completely ignored because it isn’t PC, and someone might be labeled a racist. When one group commits 8x the crime as the norm, that is troubling, or if we want to take out the gender angle (since most violent crime is committed by men), it is still a 4x factor. Either way, 800% or 400% are huge numbers. We know about the mafia … when did this urban crime spree start?

          My guess is it may have been long after WWII, and increased along with Big Government, liberalism, and the destruction of the traditional black family.

          1. Don Shor

            Everything you could want to know about crime rates relative to urban vs suburban, except that there are some disclaimers about how those terms are defined.

            …increased along with Big Government, liberalism, and the destruction of the traditional black family.

            Violent crime rates have been dropping for many years now. So there goes that theory.

            The violent crime rate has declined eighteen of the last 21 years. Since 1991, the violent crime rate has dropped by nearly half (48.3%).
            This is in stark contrast with the previous 30 years, during which the violent crime rate increased in all but five years. By 1991, the violent crime rate had increased 3.7 times from 1961. By 2012, the national violent crime rate had fallen to the lowest level since 1970

      2. Dave Hart

        Eric, there just doesn’t seem to be any space in the minds of the “usual suspects” here on the Vanguard blog for accepting the totality of the truth about being black in the United States of America in 2015.  This is a conversation that we have to have with our children, family members, neighbors, etc., who are not so far gone that every single iota of concern is classified as crap and shut down.  I do applaud David for reprinting this article.  It is essentially the same exposition that NY Mayor De Blasio made about his own son that caused the police reaction over the last week.  It’s a deep problem and back and forth comments will convince none.  David, keep it coming…

    3. TrueBlueDevil

      BP, great summary, but you forgot a few.

      Don’t smoke marijuana, which has been clinically proven to do harm to the teenage brain, can reduce IQ up to ten percent, and interfere’s with higher level reasoning – for example, it’s not wise to reach into the car of a police officer to grab his gun, and attempt to shoot him.

      We could also explain to her son that Officer Wilson has encountered tens of thousands of young black men, and never had a single problem.

      I’d also say we can tell him that the brave police officers of New York helped reduce the murder rate of New York City from 2,000 murders a year, to under 400 a year, saving tens of thousands of young black lives.

      Lastly, I would tell him to always be respectful with the police, not talk back, don’t have an attitude, and address them as “Officer” in a respectful tone. I would advise him to never make a quick movement with an officer, and to follow their directions. If he believes that they are doing something wrong or illegal, remember their name, and file a police report after the fact with a friend or parent. If a friend has an interaction with the police and they ask you to step back, STEP BACK.

  2. zaqzaq

    BP is spot on in his comment on Ferguson.  Mike Brown is not a good symbol for the black community.  He was a dope smoking, thieving thug who fought a cop and got himself killed.  I am not “blindly accepting one version” of the facts.  My opinion is based on the video of the robbery, the autopsy report and the physical evidence at the scene.  This evidence negates many of the inaccurate claims made by the alleged eye witnesses to the incident.

    David fails to mention that they toy gun was a realistic looking toy gun.  There is a reason that New York requires a one inch orange line on the barrel of these guns when they are sold in that state.  This allows police officers to quickly distinguish between a real gun and a toy.  He also fails to mention that the red cap at that the manufacturer puts in the end of the barrel of the toy gun had been removed.  This is not the first tragedy where police have shot and killed minors possessing realistic looking toy guns.  The focus of the anger should be on the manufacturers of these toys, not the police who encounter them.

    I do not know enough about the other two incidents to comment on them at this time.


      1. zaqzaq

        That’s a witty response Dave.  I have reviewed the autopsy reports, the physical evidence (gun shot residue tests, blood trail, recovered shell casings, the round inside the driver’s door of the police vehicle and other documents), read Dorian Johnson’s testimony and concluded that this evidence indicates that Brown had at least one hand inside the police vehicle because that is where it was shot due to the blood evidence located inside the car, the recovered bullet in the inside of the drivers door and the gunshot residue on the hand.  The blood trail from this wound moves away from the police vehicle and then comes back towards the vehicle and Officer Willson.  The shell casings are near the body, not a great distance away.  There is an audio tape of the gunshots which matches Wilson’s testimony.  There are not gunshot wounds to the back of Brown or gunshot residue on his head consistent which negates claims that were made that he was shot in the back and that Wilson walked up to him and finished him off in the head.  The physical evidence does not show where his hands were when he was shot.   This evidence matches Wilson’s version and contradicts Johnson”s.  You clearly do not know enough about this incident to comment.

  3. Frankly

    I read this article last night before going to bed and I could not sleep.  It is more than depressing.  I suspected as much, but I had no idea how far down the black underclass have fallen.  I don’t know if the political correctness speech code rules will even allow us to address the problems.  We might be looking at a perpetual lost race except for a minority lucky enough to “get it” and move out and on.   I think if you have black children you might want to read this to them at some point.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “how far down the black underclass have fallen. ”

      your comment ignores how rapidly crime has fallen over the last 40 years or how much progress blacks have made over that same time in gaining entry into the middle class.

    2. Eric Gelber

      The article Frankly cites is from the publication, American Renaissance, founded by White Supremacist Jared Taylor. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia on Mr. Taylor (

      Samuel Jared Taylor (born September 15, 1951) is an American journalist and an advocate of what he describes as “racial realism.”[1] He is the founder and editor of American Renaissance, a webzine that has been described as a white supremacist journal and a “forum for writers disparaging the abilities of minorities”.[2] Taylor is the president of the magazine’s parent organization, New Century Foundation. He is a former member of the advisory board of The Occidental Quarterly. He is also a former director of the National Policy Institute, a Montana-based white nationalist think tank.[3]

      Taylor and many of the organizations he is associated with are often described as promoting racist ideologies by, among others, civil rights groups, news media and academics studying racism in the US.[4][5][6][7]

      See also:

      1. Frankly

        Eric Gelber, Thanks for vetting the website.  Do you have anything to discredit the actual article?   Otherwise it would seem you are just making a case that we should not be reading and debating the difficult truth.

        1. Eric Gelber

          Frankly: I’m all in favor of serious discussion of the issues. However, I choose not to waste my time reading and responding to the twisted facts and arguments of white supremacists.

    3. TrueBlueDevil

      This article has serious problems. He doesn’t confine his analysis to “the black underclass”, but smears all African Americans.

      I rarely play the race card, but when someone so recklessly describes a group of over 36 million people with vast negative generalizations, I do in fact wonder about his beliefs. I have been to court a few times, I have witnessed some of the behavior he mentioned, but his valid and good points are lost with either his belief system or sloppy writing.

      I in fact assisted in a trial (I’m not a lawyer), and the plaintiff who brought a lawsuit was an African American individual with limited formal education. The plaintiff was very intelligent, street smart, and fought their own case for over a year, did their own research, and managed to navigate the complicated legal world and gain several victories. When it finally went to trial, the judge was a sharp-as-a-tack African American man, and I chatted with several African American lawyers before and after court, waiting for legal proceedings, etc.

      If someone wants better insight, read about Dr. Ogbu’s (former Berkeley anthropologist) findings from his research on the Cleveland black middle class and why he believes they score below their white contemporaries.

      1. Frankly

        TBD – thanks for your comments.  I agree that the article is poorly written, but unless the author is lying, it would seem reasonable to accept that there is a larger issue here that demands discussion.  His experience as a public defender would seem to provide credibility.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          Reasonable debate can happen! He could simply be a poor writer. But he even characterized Mexican criminals as either child sexual predators, or drunkards. (My terms, but that was what he communicated.) I have witnessed or read about such occurrences, but I have also read plenty of articles about garden variety crime by individuals of this group that happen in every category – not just these two crimes. Yes, we had two local Latino priests (one in Davis, one in Woodland) who had relations with underage girls, so I don’t know if this alludes to a cultural belief system tied to the quinceañera, cultural norms, or something else. There have also been drunken street fights in downtown Davis that allude to this stereotype, but his generalizations or stereotypes were so extreme.

          In the least he needs a good Managing Editor.

  4. South of Davis

    If Michelle does not want her son to get shot by the cops all he needs to do is:

    1. Have a relationship with his father (if his dad is not around he can Google Chris Rock how not to get beat by the police to see what good dads tell their sons)

    2. Graduate from HS and College (so you won’t have to sell pot or loosies to make a living)

    3. Have some kind of faith (no religion is perfect but all the big ones will help you learn about right and wrong)

    P.S Can anyone name a black person shot by the police that did even two of the three?

      1. South of Davis

        I’m an Ayn Rand fan and I know you don’t “need” any kind of religion.  You also don’t “need” a Dad or “need”  any education past 3rd grade.  Just like AA helps a lot of people quit drinking Dads, Education and Religion help a lot of people avoid getting shot by the cops…

        1. Don Shor

          without a base morality, “right vs. Wrong” ends up being only what can and cannot be justified.

          As you clearly demonstrated on the subject of torture. Yes, it is dangerous to a society. But clearly, as evidenced by that issue and many others, there is no relationship between established religions, church attendance, and any broadly accepted definition of “right vs. wrong.”

          1. Don Shor

            even he wonders if we will continue to be great as we become more and more secular.

            “Great” in what sense?

          1. Don Shor

            Thanks for the clarification. I don’t see why secularism would have any adverse effect on our democracy. We certainly have a long tradition of it in this country.

        2. Frankly

          As you clearly demonstrated on the subject of torture.

          Likewise for you to use the word defined as:

          n – “the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain.

          v – “inflict severe pain on”

          So in fact you make up your own morality in conflict with the actual definition of words.

          Hence the need for a base moral code.  Because you can justify your limits and I can justify mine.

          1. Don Shor

            We did clearly inflict severe pain on individuals, as a matter of government policy and practice. That was torture. So your moral code allows you to redefine the practice as something else. You’ve just redefined torture so the behavior of our government fits into your completely relative moral code. And I seem to recall that you are a religious person.
            There is no “base moral code” that is defined by religion.

        3. Frankly

          Don – it is torture to keep reading you butcher the word by making up new definitions of the word “severe”.

          KSM learned to tap his fingers to keep time while water boarded knowing that the rules would require the CIA operatives to stop before he lost breath.  By the way, he is fine.  Unlike most of the people truly inflicted with severe pain by his ilk… like those getting their heads sawed off or those with bamboo shoots pounded under their fingernails, or those getting their feet clubbed and broken, or those electrocuted, or raped or lit on fire… need I go on?

          “SEVERE PAIN”

          That is the requirement.

          You might not like the enhanced interrogation techniques, and I might not like them either.  But to call them torture is simply political hyperbole and it does a terrible service to those people truly tortured.

          Sleep deprivation…  give me a break.  Every one of the techniques used by the CIA, our own military special services candidates have to endure to pass muster.  So, do we torture them too?

          1. Don Shor

            It was torture. We even killed one guy. Hypothermia. Others were forced to stand for hours on broken limbs. You know that? There’s plenty more. Is that part of the base morality you want taught? Which religion sustains these values?

        4. Frankly

          Senate staff wrote that report.  They didn’t interview key CIA staff.  It is a political hit piece.  It was 100% political.  The same Democrats that trotted it out for political fodder knew exactly the techniques the CIA was using and signed off on it… several times.  But now the Democrats are in trouble.  Not a single thing to campaign on because they screwed up everything they have touched.   So they go back to what they do best… dividing the country, tarnishing the US that they apparently only like as a vessel of personal political power, attack US law enforcement, the US military, US national defense and security personnel.  The liberal media and liberals eat it up because it validates their worldview.  It is really quite a disgusting display of anti-patriotism, IMO.

          Again, the US military puts its best and brightest through the very same list of techniques.  The purpose is to break down will.  It is NOT torture unless we are also admitting to torturing our own.  Do you think we are torturing our military special forces in their training?  A training that they freely chose to do?

          There is plenty of room to talk about war-time morality.  But then we also need to add a “stupid” versus “intelligent” test related to war-time situations and for national security.    Liberals want US enemy combatants captured on the battlefield to be tried in the American court system.  That is stupid.  It is stupid because it isn’t situationally appropriate.

          War morality should not be measured by the soft sensitivities of liberals.  When we do, we lose… and many more innocent people die.  And knowing that while still demanding the same is both immoral and stupid, IMO.

    1. Miwok

      Ms Alexander,

      What a timely article, and your background makes it clear, like your article, you are raising your kids with an agenda based on your occupation. This is dangerous, and at my later stages of life, I realize my parents never told me both sides of an issue. All I ever wanted to believe and be is what they were.. Wrong wrong wrong.

      If you let this child watch or read news of this sort and then don’t discuss both sides, that is, Right and Wrong, not Right and  Left, your son may be a victim. It is not right to allow a child to believe your view and reality of the world to be foisted on them, when you are fighting to eliminate your preconceived notions. Their experience will not be yours, unless you keep telling them only one side of an issue. They will be better than you because of you.

      Tell them what you think, but encourage them to read all the information about an issue to make up their own mind. If ten is too young, then how does he even hear about Ferguson?  I hope it is not from you ranting about it? Mr Greenwald fights what you seem to fight and I am sure there are times he pulls his hair out.

      Since I work at UC Davis, I have heard this kind of activism for decades, and worked with people who paste photos and flags all over their office and cubicle. It is intimidating since I respect all views, but these people only have ONE, theirs.

      Mr Shor, I agree from terrible experience you are right.

      With respect,


    2. Dave Hart

      South of Davis:  Chris Rock, yes.  His tweet on the NYC police rebellion:  “Maybe the NYPD can use their newfound love of back-turning the next time they see a dark skinned man walking the street doing nothing.”

  5. Anon

    What the author should be teaching her son is to proceed in life with the proper caution.  Don’t talk back to police; don’t commit crimes.  It is no different that telling a daughter she should not wear overly provocative clothing; not go to frat parties and drink.

    Now before anyone jumps down my throat for “blaming the victim”, think.  We all too often send the message to our kids that they should be able to do anything they want whenever they want; that gov’t institutions are supposed to operate above the law.  But that is not reality.  If you put yourself in harm’s way, by committing a crime, by talking back to the police, you are in far greater danger of having excessive force by the police used against you.  If a female wears provocative clothing, attends frat parties while drinking, she is much more likely to find herself the victim of rape.  It doesn’t make the cop using excessive force any less abusive/wrong; the rapist any less guilty of rape.  This is not necessarily about right/wrong, but about teaching children personal safety/responsibility.

    Let’s take the example of the 12 year old child with a toy gun who was shot to death by police.  Had his parents made it clear that this child should never point a weapon at anyone, and not take off the red plastic safety cap, it is less likely that this tragedy would have happened.  Doesn’t mean the police don’t need better training.  What it does mean is that we have to teach our children better safety measures, because it is a dangerous world out there, and not everyone can be completely trusted to do the right thing, including agents of gov’t institutions such as the police.  In other words and in short, we have to give our children a reality check – the world is not perfect, far from it.  Perhaps it should be perfect, but that is just not reality.

  6. Don Shor

    This is an interesting study which attempts to demonstrate the effectiveness of church attendance and religious belief in reducing crime. What it actually does is clearly demonstrate that, while those are slight factors, by far the biggest positive factor reducing crime is “hours spent involved with productive activities” and the biggest negative factor is gang membership. 
    Minor positive factors include having both parents, and family size. A belief in education and a commitment to work are both much more significant positive factors. Somewhat more significant negative factors include living in public housing. But by an overwhelming factor, keeping kids busy and out of gangs are the highest correlations with reduced criminal activities.
    You could make a good argument in favor of youth sports leagues and strengthening the resources at community centers based on this data.
    See Appendix C.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      And who helps pay for sports teams and uniforms?

      Who helps coach the local team?

      Who helps shuttle kids to practice when the other parent is working or doing laundry?

      Who pushes, prods, and emphasizes such activities?

      An overwhelmed, tired single parent? Or a husband and wife?

      I’m sure Murphy Brown can handle a child and after-school activities, but how many women are Murphy Brown? We know that a huge percentage of children who live in poverty come from single-parent households.

      1. Don Shor

        But I just put data in front of you that suggests that the ‘single-parent’ issue is not a core cause of crime. Nor is poverty. As a taxpayer, I’d be happy to pay for sports teams and uniforms and community centers and swimming pools and playing fields and basketball courts and bus drivers, and help pay the salaries of coaches and counselors.

      2. Miwok

        Wow, TBD. I wish I didn’t have parents like you – oh, wait,  I did.

        I got on a tractor at age five and by the time I was in Junior High I wanted to play with the other kids. But “we didn’t have the money” or the time, I guess.

        I could not join Boy Scouts, the Football or Baseball team. I could not play sports without the proper equipment, and the school wanted money as they do now for uniforms, etc. Taxpayers don’t pay or it as Don Shor thinks they might.

        You are right, who is Murphy Brown among us? The coaches usually are guys who have kids who play, or they want their kids to play, and I sat a bench for a couple years with a coach like that. His kid played, lots didn’t. My parents had a hard time even taking me to a game. I don’t know if this was cost related or not.

        I am not complaining, just pointing out a different reality. A different time, maybe.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          Studies, questions, and data can be slanted.

          I took the bus to practice, and we sometimes played in the fog, mist, or rain.

          I have a friend who coaches now, and the parents are hyper sensitive, and won’t let kids practice outside when it is cold.

          1. Don Shor

            Studies, questions, and data can be slanted.

            Translation: you didn’t read it because it doesn’t fit your narrative.

    2. South of Davis

      The study did not just look at criminals so the results are about as valid as a survey that shows that helmets don’t do much when you have a huge sample not just motorcycle riders.

      I’m betting that MORE than 9 out of 10 drug dealers booked in CA have not been to church (or synagogue) in the past month…

      1. Don Shor

        This reply makes no sense. It was a study about what factors prevent criminal behavior. I’d bet there are a lot of things “more than 9 out of 10 drug dealers” have not done in the past month. You come up with some very strange statistical measures.
        Maybe you ought to read the study more carefully. Church attendance and religious significance had a small but measurable impact on the likelihood of criminal behavior. There are other factors that are of much greater significance. In terms of making effective public policy, those other factors are of much greater consequence.

        1. South of Davis

          Don wrote:

          > I’d bet there are a lot of things “more than 9

          > out of 10 drug dealers” have not done in the

          > past month. 

          So spin it around and ask what percentage of people arrested for dealing drugs were active in their church?

          I am not telling anyone to go to church but you can’t say the active church goers are a big percentage of the criminals in America…




          1. Don Shor

            The point was what factors help to prevent criminal behavior. Again, church attendance was a factor, but a minor one. And churches can provide lots of opportunities for youth to fill their time, which is more important. As a practical matter, church youth groups are probably more important than attending services. All to be encouraged, but as a matter of public policy we can’t really do much with it.

  7. Don Shor

    My point in posting this study* is to answer the common theme we get from the conservative voices in response to issues involving crime in inner cities and among minority populations.

    We are told, over and over, that we need to address ‘root causes’, that it’s the ‘breakdown of the black family’ and the lack of father figures. That attending church will help reduce crime. That rap music and hip-hop culture is the problem.

    All of those general answers lead you away from any effective policies. You can’t mandate church attendance. You can try to force responsibility for paternity, and it is certainly desirable to seek financial support from absent fathers. But forcing someone to ‘be’ a father isn’t likely to succeed.

     These conservative diagnoses are also a process of blaming the community. And they’re always accompanied by rhetoric blaming liberalism, government, and black leaders and asserting that policies have failed.

    In fact, crime is down. Way down.  So either demographics are prevailing, or things are changing. In any case, to call policies a failure when there is a significant decrease in crime is not credible. And the study shows that there are many factors that help to prevent criminal behavior. While there are measurable impacts from church and family, by far the biggest factors are keeping kids busy and out of gangs. It also helps to promote educational attainment and a work ethic. 

    Those can lead to actionable policies. But those policies require money. Yeah, tax dollars for things like sports programs and people to run them. And mentors from the community who can preach the ideals of good education and getting a job. Maybe even some money for summer jobs to get kids started.

    Those are things that conservatives tend to oppose. So what I see is a lot of blaming, and a lot of preaching about things that can’t be fixed. Maybe the goal is to deflect responsibility. It seems a lot of the conversation about crime and minorities arises from ideology, not from facts.

    Here it is again:

    See Appendix C.

    1. Miwok

      Very true Mr Shor

      You can’t mandate church attendance.

      You cannot make people attend church, but then you may have not lived in some small towns where people wear it like a badge.I attended a college where they tool attendance that reflected on you grades if you did not attend.

      I see lots of black churches with fine people, then I see some who have Al Sharpton give speeches, which I equate with Jerry Falwell. But that’s just me. I met Falwell, and my parent wanted me to go to his “college”. He reminded me of a mobster, which his family apparently was. That is why people who take other people’s money and buy limos and bodyguards are not high on my list.

    2. TrueBlueDevil

      Blaming the community? Just acknowledging facts.

      Look on the flip side, who succeeds? Jewish-, Chinese-, Ethiopian- and Korean-Americans, who largely follow traditional values. The loss of the black father parallels increasing Big Government.

      [In fact, crime is down. Way down.] And there is not agreement over why that happened. Mandatory sentencing, 3 strikes your out, more police officers, “broken window” strategy and more police in high-crime areas paralleled the drop in crime. San Jose recently lopped off 400 police officers, and crime is way up, murders up double.

      [And the study shows that there are many factors that help to prevent criminal behavior.]

      And on this we can agree.

      [… by far the biggest factors are keeping kids busy and out of gangs. It also helps to promote educational attainment and a work ethic.]

      And from last I looked, the majority of gangs are black or brown. Who pushes education and a work ethic? Parents.

      [Those can lead to actionable policies. But those policies require money.]

      Those “policies” cost nothing if taught by parents or family.

      [Maybe the goal is to deflect responsibility. It seems a lot of the conversation about crime and minorities arises from ideology, not from facts]

      Yes, lots of deflection going on.

      Who has the primary responsibility to raise children: parents, families, or Uncle Sam?

      1. Don Shor

        Who has the primary responsibility to raise children: parents, families, or Uncle Sam?

        A community can help parents and families raise children. All those things I mentioned about sports and community centers and swimming pools and other activities that keep youth busy. It takes a village.

        1. Miwok

          It takes a village.

          Oof. You didn’t go there, did you?

          [… by far the biggest factors are keeping kids busy and out of gangs. It also helps to promote educational attainment and a work ethic.]

          And from last I looked, the majority of gangs are black or brown. Who pushes education and a work ethic? Parents.

          Good point, TBD. But the gangs are white too, look at Fraternities and Sororities. What is needed is activities that give ALL a chance to participate. I think part of this is the effort to make schools bigger, government bigger, supposedly to cut costs. The old one-room school may have been supplanted with better facilities, but each child needs attention. Less teachers and coaches will not do this. If a school has over a certain amount of students, why not MORE sports teams?

          Maybe charge twice the fees and then include a low-income family child in the activity? Then listen to the indignation?

  8. Frankly

    Irony, hypocrisy, fog, denial… I can’t put my finger on it but secular liberals seem to have a giant problem in connecting the dots on their views of morality.

    – They say we don’t need religion because we are a nation of laws, but they reject much of the enforcement of laws on people demonstrating the lowest levels of moral behavior.

    – They reject the concept of traditional strong family values that inject strong morality because they threaten to make some people feel bad about themselves.

    – They reject the public teaching of a strong base morality because it cannot accommodate free spirits and multiculturalism.

    A large part of the problem with American blacks is largely the development of a weak morality within the culture of their urban community.  It is a culture that non-blacks living in a largely black utban community can also adopt.

    I don’t argue that religion is the only source of a strong base of morality.  But if not religion, where will it come from for the black community?

    I have heard it said by others, and I think it is valid and reasonable even if I think it is a hurtful thing to admit:  “I don’t hate blacks, I hate black culture.”

    – The type of culture that results in a academically-successful black student from being beat by his peers for acting “white”.

    – The type of culture that glorifies lawlessness, violence and promiscuity.

    – The type of culture that accepts and promotes a race-based victim mentality.

    Religion is absolutely not necessary when there is another functioning source of strong base morality.  But it is largely weak or absent in the predominant urban black culture.  So if not religion then what?  Can liberal orthodoxy provide it?  I think not.  Nor can conservative orthodoxy.  The church might very well be our only salvation in this case.

    1. Don Shor

      Frankly, religion is not synonymous with morality. Religion does not prevent crime. And religion happens to be very strong in the African-American community.
      I am unaware of any specific thing called “liberal orthodoxy.” You are, again:
      — blaming the community
      — refusing to acknowledge or accept practical policies

      They reject the public teaching of a strong base morality

      And, again, religion does not provide any “base morality.” I don’t even know what you think you mean by that term. It doesn’t exist.

      1. Frankly

        Of course you don’t know what I mean by that term.  It is very apparent.

        And it makes sense that you think it does not exist.

        So Don, where does your basis of morality come from?  Of maybe it does not exist?

        1. Don Shor

          where does your basis of morality come from?

          The same place yours does: the culture in which I grew up. Yet we come to very different conclusions as to what is ethical and right. Funny how that works in a pluralistic society. And that is why there is no “base morality” that you could teach.

          1. Don Shor

            Think about it. Most of the public figures you and other conservatives revile so much, like Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, are ministers. I expect they have spoken out about the very home/family/moral issues that you and TBD bring up. Would you consider them reasonable arbiters of the ‘base morality’ that should be put forth to the black community? I got the impression that you consider them part of the problem, not part of the solution. But they’re religious leaders.

        2. Frankly

          You miss the point.  A “base” morality is the things we probably do share because we grew up in a similar culture.  A tree needs a strong base of roots to be healthy.  You are free to branch out with a strong base.  Hence you and I can debate the practicality of enhanced interrogation techniques.  But the argument is not one about our base morality.  You are wrong to make it a moral argument.

          For example, our base morality says it is wrong to shoot someone to kill them.  But if you have a loaded gun for protection and you are threatened or your loved ones are threatened with a probability of death unless you shoot to kill, it would not be immoral to shoot to kill.  Having the basis allows for nuanced considerations. We may disagree with the justification, but we would share the base morality that it is generally wrong to shoot and kill someone.

          But let’s say your morality justifies you to shoot to kill someone in retribution for disrespecting you.  Not only that, but you will spray his house with bullets while driving by knowing full well that you might kill other people in the house or near by.  In that case you would not share our base of morality.

          And then where did you get that different non-shared base of morality?  And how does society go about repairing it to something acceptable?


          1. Don Shor

            Just stick to the Golden Rule. It’s foundational to practically every culture and religion. From a secular consequentialist moral standpoint, the behavior of someone killing in retribution is unethical because the outcome is harmful. It is reasonable for society to sanction that behavior, make it illegal, punish the perpetrators, and act to protect citizens from it. The moral basis of those collective decisions and policies is the Golden Rule.

        3. Frankly

          Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are not real men of the cloth.  They are more political figures and look to enrich themselves from their public persona.  Anyone can exploit religious credentials.  It is generally pretty easy to identify those that are true teachers of a base religious morality and who are just shysters, crooks and actual practicing anti-religion.

          1. Don Shor

            I see. So you and other conservatives have a system for deciding which ministers are “real?” I believe they are both ordained Baptist ministers, and Jackson has some sort of Master of Divinity degree. More to the point, as David Greenwald has pointed out, both have respect and support among the black community.

        4. TrueBlueDevil

          I believe that all the great religions of the world teach the Golden Rule.

          Christian and Jewish religions teach the Ten Commandments, and other laws and rules.

          Our current post-sexual revolution culture teaches us its OK to do it if it feels good, its ok to pork the married woman next door if it feels good, if her husband ‘doesn’t treat her right’. The 60s drug culture taught us to “tune in, turn on, drop out”. But those aren’t the values religion teaches. My religious base (not a bible thumper) and my parents taught me these things are wrong. But rap music is now glorifying “baby mamas”, strip clubs, and ‘twerking’.

          1. Matt Williams

            Here too you are seeing history through a revisionist lens. There was just as much infidelity in the generations prior to the sexual revolution. The difference was that it wasn’t talked about because the technological sophistication of communication made face to face discussion the fastest way to “get the word out” on the latest gossip. Humans are human …always have been, and always will be. You are seeing change where there is none.

        5. TrueBlueDevil

          I’d take Ben Carson as a man of God over these two any day of the week, and look at his fine family. Three sons, all with a great education, 2 married and a third on the way, and Dr. Carson takes care of his Mother, who lives with him. On top of that, he has done extensive charity work over the past few decades.

      2. Frankly

        Modern secular morality:

        It all depends on where you are;
        It all depends on who you are;
        It all depends on how you feel;
        It all depends on what you feel;
        It all depends on how you’re raised;
        It all depends on what is praised;
        What’s right today is wrong tomorrow;
        Joy in France, in England sorrow;
        It all depends on points of view;
        Australia, or Timbuctoo;
        In Rome do as the Romans do;
        If tastes just happen to agree,
        Then you have morality;
        But where there are conflicting trends,
        It all depends, it all depends.

        Christian morality:

        Let’s just start with a few key of the Ten Commandments… the basis for our US system of laws.

        Honor your father and your mother.

        You shall not murder.

        You shall not commit adultery.

        You shall not steal.

        You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

        You shall not covet.

        1. Don Shor

          The Ten Commandments are not the basis for our US system of laws.
          Your supposed “secular morality” is humorous (and there are a lot of great covers of that song), but not a true representation of any of the secular foundations of morality. You exhibit more moral relativism than many secular people. I don’t actually have much patience for detailed discussions of these things (ethics and morals are very subjective), but Wikipedia has a good overview:

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          Christian values and ethos are spread all over our history, had a great impact on our Founding Fathers, and have impacted our country in many ways.

          Yet the way the liberal media spins it … where is it that the President gives his yearly address, is that the Senate or House chambers? The TV cameras focus on the POTUS, but if you pull back, above his head in large letters, there is a large religious saying. (In God We Trust?)

          Russia, China, Africa have a lot of godless areas, and have a huge amount of crime / theft.

          1. Matt Williams

            TBD, you are confusing religious with a small “r” with Religious with a capital “R”. They are worlds apart. Religion with a capital R is a bunch of human rules mucking up good religion/spirituality. What most of us learned as children was to be spiritual. We went to the service, then to Sunday School and then went home. When we got older we replaced Sunday School with the highly politicized after service social mingling over coffee and pastries.

    2. wdf1

      Frankly:  The church might very well be our only salvation in this case.

      LA Times, 1/14/2015:  How secular family values stack up


      So how does the raising of upstanding, moral children work without prayers at mealtimes and morality lessons at Sunday school? Quite well, it seems.

      Far from being dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless without the security and rectitude of religion, secular households provide a sound and solid foundation for children, according to Vern Bengston, a USC professor of gerontology and sociology.
      He was surprised by what he found: High levels of family solidarity and emotional closeness between parents and nonreligious youth, and strong ethical standards and moral values that had been clearly articulated as they were imparted to the next generation.

      “Many nonreligious parents were more coherent and passionate about their ethical principles than some of the ‘religious’ parents in our study,” Bengston told me. “The vast majority appeared to live goal-filled lives characterized by moral direction and sense of life having a purpose.”
      “If your morality is all tied in with God,” she continued, “what if you at some point start to question the existence of God? Does that mean your moral sense suddenly crumbles? The way we are teaching our children … no matter what they choose to believe later in life, even if they become religious or whatever, they are still going to have that system.”
      Recent research also has shown that children raised without religion tend to remain irreligious as they grow older — and are perhaps more accepting. Secular adults are more likely to understand and accept the science concerning global warming, and to support women’s equality and gay rights. One telling fact from the criminology field: Atheists were almost absent from our prison population as of the late 1990s, comprising less than half of 1% of those behind bars, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics. This echoes what the criminology field has documented for more than a century — the unaffiliated and the nonreligious engage in far fewer crimes.

      Another meaningful related fact: Democratic countries with the lowest levels of religious faith and participation today — such as Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Belgium and New Zealand — have among the lowest violent crime rates in the world and enjoy remarkably high levels of societal well-being. If secular people couldn’t raise well-functioning, moral children, then a preponderance of them in a given society would spell societal disaster. Yet quite the opposite is the case.

  9. TrueBlueDevil

    And does anyone here want to venture a guess where this “black culture” came from? What are the roots of rap, and inner city values … where did they come from?

  10. TrueBlueDevil

    Some new police statistics of note.

    Citations are down 94% in New York – a virtual work stoppage. Police don’t feel safe, or supported.

    Arrests plummet 66%! The Far Left should be rejoicing.

    The number of police officers killed in 2014 is up 56%. 50 police officers were killed.

    “In all, the report found that 126 federal, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014. That’s a 24 percent jump from last year’s 102 on-duty deaths. Shootings were the leading cause of officer deaths in 2014 followed by traffic-related fatalities, at 49.

    “The sharp increase in gun-related deaths among officers followed a dramatic dip in 2013, when the figure fell to levels not seen since the 19th century. This year’s uptick comes amid increased tension between police and the public following the high-profile deaths of unarmed black men by white police officers, including Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.”

    The number of ambush attacks is up 300%, to 15. Some wonder if this is the result of Al Sharpton, Eric Holder, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama leading the wave of recent high-profile shootings.

  11. Biddlin

    “Some wonder if this is the result of Al Sharpton, Eric Holder, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama leading the wave of recent high-profile shootings.”

    Some of us wonder how such an ignorant question could be innocently posed by decent people.



    1. TrueBlueDevil

      And President Obama now thinks race relations are better than when he entered office. How out of touch. He has made things worse with his “the officer acted stupidly” or “Trayvon could have been my son”.

      We were a lot better off with an Eisenhower, Kennedy, or even Colin Powell or Dr. Ben Carson.

      1. Miwok

        Michael Brown could have been his son, too, but for some reason he won’t embrace that… He only embraced the kid doing Tea and cough syrup. With pot.

        I think the Prez has had his life injected with reality way beyond his dreams when he thought he could change the country and the world, except the world and country didn’t listen. Now Blacks are protesting, even him, his own party is disagreeing publicly with him, and the world is sensing weakness and attacking.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          Obama was a big member of “The Shroom Gang” in high school.

          I believe Dr. Charles Krauthammer has stated that Obama is a narcissist, and I guess two autobiographies when one has accomplished little in life is partial proof.

          He had a very privileged upbringing, but then threw his grandmother under the bus – the one who made everything possible. Heck, his grandpa also set him up with black surrogate / mentor Franklin Marshall Davis. Davis was a writer, Marxist, and lived in a time warp where he thought we had not progressed past Jim Crow. Obama notes his numerous times in his first autobiography as “a very wise man”.

          But his parents who abandoned him, he names books for.

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