Family

Tragic Death of Teen Represents a Collapsing Culture Not Police Brutality

Last week’s fatal shooting of a Columbus, Ohio teenager by a police officer set off another fierce debate about the competence and racial motivations of law enforcement. 

As you will recall, Columbus police were called out to a violent knife attack. Body camera footage later revealed one of the teen girls attempting to stab the other just prior to the gunfire. 

To be sure, the police officer, who was white, was faced with a horrific dilemma that required an almost instantaneous decision. Had he not fired his weapon when he did, it appears almost certain one woman would have been stabbed, perhaps, fatally. 

Police work often requires swift and decisive action. While hindsight might be 20/20, the heat of the moment rarely provides that same luxury. It takes a special person to be entrusted with policing responsibility. As citizens, we should be grateful to the men and women who voluntarily wear the badge in order to ensure our safety. 

Justice Department officials have recently announced plans to investigate police practices in both Minneapolis and Louisville, Kentucky – areas that have been the focal point of intense controversy the last few years. 

Accountability is a critical component of any profession, especially law enforcement. It’s important to identify and correct instances of illegal policing. Not only does unwarranted action put citizens in danger, but it undermines the integrity and hard work of every law-abiding officer. 

At the same time, if we only focus on the anatomy of a crime scene and its aftermath but don’t delve into what led to it in the first place, we’ll never get to the source of the initial problem. 

Almost every recent incident involving the use of police force was precipitated by some breakdown somewhere. Police aren’t called to picnics or other happy, peaceful occasions. They’re summoned when there’s trouble – and rarely has the family been in more trouble than today. 

The media is quick to dissect how police responded to a knife attack, but why isn’t anyone talking about why one teenage girl is attempting to stab another?  

I can tell you why – it’s because in most of these instances there’s dysfunction in their lives, their homes and their neighborhoods. They’re missing what’s needed – loving, functional parents who model healthy living. And that’s true of black, white or Hispanic communities.    

The statistics are sad, stunning – and revealing. 

According to recent findings, 40% of children are born to unwed mothers, and 35% of kids are growing up without either their mother or their father in the home.  

Will every child raised by a single parent wind up in jail? Of course not – but they’re certainly more vulnerable and susceptible to a lifestyle and habits that contribute to incarceration and other forms of cultural dysfunction. 

Children without fathers are twice as likely to drop out of school and twice as likely to commit suicide as children living with both a mother and a father. 

When it comes to crime, seventy percent of youth in correctional facilities didn’t have a father in their home. Let’s be clear. Involved dads exponentially lower a child’s risk of running off the rails. 

Over fifty years ago, there was a sociologist named Daniel Patrick Moynihan who was serving in President Lyndon Johnson’s administration. He would later become a beloved senator from New York. 

As part of his responsibilities for the administration, Moynihan studied the black family, which was beginning to unravel. At the heart of Senator Moynihan’s findings was the warning that the nuclear family (a mother, father and children) was collapsing.  He warned the disintegration, if not addressed and reversed, would be culturally catastrophic. He was right – and now that collapse transcends all racial groups. 

What we’re witnessing in America today is not widespread police brutality precipitated by systemic racism – we’re reaping the whirlwind of decades of bad policies, poor personal decisions and a culture that has lost its way. 

Sadly, by focusing on the wrong problem, we run the risk of compounding the crisis by eviscerating and weakening policing in our country. 

If our country is serious about addressing these issues, we will recognize and acknowledge that the best antidote remains healthy family life, and that no other family form comes close to providing the rich array of benefits for healthy child development like that of a child being raised by his or her own married mother and father. 

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