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Like the rest of the country, I couldn’t help but notice the occurrence of Black teen ‘”flash mobs” around the country. For those who haven’t been made hip to the game, flash mobs are random groups of people who get together and do “stuff.”

The acts committed by flash mobs can be naïve and cute, like singing the Star Spangled Banner on one leg while drinking a Pepsi. They can also be nasty and violent, like beating down anyone who happens to be passing by.

We can leave it to teenagers to find creative and potentially frightening ways to use the amazing power of social media. Black teen flash mobs have been formed throughout the country, with many of them designed to break the law in some way.

The most recent incident involved the 60-second robbing of a 7-11 store in Maryland. A group of teens got together on Twitter/Facebook/email/Myspace/text message and agreed to walk in the store, grab things off the shelves, and then walk out.

Another series of incidents occurred in Philadelphia, leading Philly Mayor Michael Nutter to put the entire city on lockdown with a 9 p.m. curfew for all citizens under the age of 18. Nutter went so far as to appear in a church in Philadelphia to proclaim that these young people are “an embarrassment to their race.” He is certainly correct that it’s difficult to excuse the behavior of flash mobs, especially those who engage in violence.

I can’t help but notice how the creation of flash mobs is probably the first time in recent memory that Black teenagers have gotten this much attention from media or public officials. Rather than focusing on the teenagers who are doing great things with their lives, the media loves to put a spotlight on the few scary looking black kids who decide to rob a store on a Saturday night. In spite of the media bias, there are quite a few reasons that the media, Mayor Nutter and the rest of us could have been paying attention to Black teenagers in the past.

We could have spent time addressing the 40 percent unemployment rate of Black teens across America. Public officials seem to forget that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop; when you combine a hot summer with nothing productive to do, teenagers are going to find their own ways to use that free time.

Mayor Nutter and other critics of these errant teenagers could have also decided to take note of the fact that Philadelphia has the most racially-segregated public school system in the entire United States. As usual, white kids are getting all the tools they need to have a productive future, and Black kids are only learning how to join flash mobs.

Finally, there could have been a spotlight shed on the dramatic rise in Black teen homicides in Chicago, Philadelphia and other major urban centers across America. But of course, this doesn’t make the news because it’s not an inconvenience to people in the suburbs. Also, politicians who might decide to change gun laws to curb the violence would miss out on financial contributions from gun manufacturers.

So, in all of his righteous Black male outrage, I would ask Mayor Nutter this: Who is a greater embarrassment to their race? The teenager who is led astray because adults have neglected him, or the Black political figure who silently administers and maintains the most racially-segregated school system in the entire country?

I dare to point out the irony of any elected official (not just Nutter) who neglects the serious social diseases of Black teen unemployment, violence and improper education and then has the audacity to complain about the symptoms of the disease that he/she has allowed to fester. Black teen flash mobs are our society’s creation: if we’d chosen to give these kids something to live for, they wouldn’t be out finding ways to self-destruct.

Since flash mobs are the new fad, perhaps politicians should join in the fun. Political leaders could form a flash mob where they all actually get together and do something for the American people, instead of taking care of themselves and their corporate partners. Politicians could form another flash mob in which they pass a few pieces of legislation designed to create jobs for teens so they have something to do during the weekend that doesn’t involve robbing people. In another flash mob, Mayor Nutter and his friends could desegregate the educational system so that Black kids aren’t leaving high school without being able to spell the word “NBA.”

Teen social deviance has been around for as long as there have been teenagers. But it is also universally true that young people respond more effectively to love than to hate. When we remind our children how much we hate them and how little we care, we can’t act surprised when they are careless as well.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and the founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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3 thoughts on “Dr. Boyce: Black Teen Flash Mobs A Sick Result Of Political Neglect

  1. So parents hold no responsibilty in this? Why are 11,12,13,14 years old out on the street after 9 O’clock? I’m sorry, if parents were actually doing their jobs, our kids would not be out there engaging in this kind of behaviour. When I’m out in CC at night I dont see young white kids roaming around aimlessly, I see our kids, and please dont tell me its because there is nothing for them to do. At that time of night they should be home. End of discussion, its past time for us to start taking some responsiblity for what our children do. We can not continue to blame society and government for all of our ills.

  2. Sis Patrice Stevens,
    I totally agree with you and our Mayer Nutter.
    In working with the youths for many years, it is a known fact that
    cut backs / low social programs/ lack of enforcement / some bad parenting and schools will have a negative effect on many of our youths
    (not many minority soccer moms type of programs here…Lol.) Also notice the mannerism of many of our young people with respect
    for others ”especially the elders” is almost none existing.
    Robbery and murders being committed every day with not many who are brought to Justice.
    Many have no regard for the law, or human life including their own is at an all time low.
    Who is raising the youths now that both parents ( when applicable) are out working two and three jobs to keep their
    head above water.
    This problem is wide spread ( Europe and many other places as well ) and no silver bullet is going to solve this one.
    We need to all ( pray and work) for answers, become more vigilant in teaching our youths, listening to them, and respond to wrong doing when we see it.
    Peace & blessings.

  3. First and foremost it is the parents responsibility to raise their children right. They should teach children to have respect for themselves and others. It is not the government responsibility to raise our children. There’s the saying ” That it takes a village to raise a child”, that’s all well and good but if the parent gets an attitude with you because you’re trying to help, what are we to do? You can’t blame the economy because these children have cell phones, computers and whatever else they need to communicate in order to do the “flash mob”. Who’s paying those bills? Parents need to be able to handle their business when it comes to chastising their children without threat of being jailed for giving them a behind whooping. No more excuses. I didn’t use any when I was raising my children and I don’t use any when talking to my grandchildren. We are our own worse enemy when we keep giving excuses for our children acting like animals. It does not help them when we give these excuses. I love children and also have always taken the time to engage children in conversation. I encourage them on a regular basis, I ask how they are doing in school and ask them what are they doing? When I see them doing something wrong, I talk about it with them. I believe they appreciate somebody caring for them. We have to get back to the basics, respect self, your elders and all the other folks. We need to give children a spiritual base. We need to continually talk to our children and let them know that they do have a future. We need to help them dream and let them know there is hope.

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