“It takes a village to raise a child.”
Yeah, we’ve all heard that repeated ad nauseam since Hillary Clinton dropped the line and attributed it to an old African proverb over a decade ago. Maybe it’s just me, but when non-African-descended folks start quoting African proverbs, they start to have as much validity as those old-school Calgon Detergent, “ancient Chinese secret” commercials. Just ain’t all that convincing when folks turn ancient wisdom into worn-out clichés and marketing slogans.
So, in 2009 Durham, North Carolina, writer and resident clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer “Dr. Jenn” Rounds-Bryant has flipped the script and released the controversial book It Takes a Village to Raise a Criminal. The book, which is part of her series, deals with the issue of why some of our children are failing academically and turning to criminal behavior.
Although most people would assume that Rounds-Bryant would be on the “our cities are full of gangbangers” bandwagon tip in order to push a few books, she notes that only one paragraph deals with gangsta-ism, as it is just a small piece of a bigger problem.
Dr. Jenn believes we miss an opportunity to reach youth who are attracted to the street lifestyle when we focus on gang perspectives rather than adolescent youth behavior. She says that this negative behavior doesn’t start when middle school kids start rushing home to watch 106 & Park on BET, but it starts at kindergarten age when they should be watching Sesame Street.
According to the book, many of our children are simply not prepared to enter into the school system. In other words, when your 5-year-old cusses Ms. Johnson out for calling him Raymond Johnson Jr. instead of his “real name,” “Lil Ray Ray,” that could signal a problem that you might want to get a handle on.
Writers such as Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu have alleged in the past that the failure of black youth in the school system is not an accident but part of a, dare I say it, conspiracy.
Dr. Jenn seems to concur. According to her book, some children are deliberately left behind in order to preserve the status quo and to develop a kind of capitalist classroom caste system or permanent underclass.
She points to grade retention as one of the major culprits, as the system is set up to kill spirit and motivation before a child reaches the fourth grade. This, she argues, is a type of ethnic classroom cleansing to get rid of the undesirables who could lower test scores and, in effect, reduce money from the Feds.
In the book, she also points a finger at the welfare system, saying, “Children whose mothers receive assistance with basic needs are stigmatized, have few resources, and often experience the associated low-stimulation environment that is correlated with difficulty learning, school failure, and criminal behavior.”
Rounds-Bryant further contends that the “criminal justice system is a safety net for untreated mental illness,” a disease that is rarely talked about in the African American community, as many are quick to write those who commit crimes off as simply naughty-by-nature. She also suggests that jails are really finishing schools for criminals that give away certificates of street cred in lieu of academic diplomas.
Finally, Rounds-Bryant takes aim at America’s faith institutions by saying that they have played a role in the criminalization of children by not addressing issues such as domestic violence. The church is complicit in the dysfunction through its silence on certain issues.
It Takes a Village to Raise a Criminal highlights the sad fact that we, as members of the proverbial village, are caught up in a vicious cycle. It all goes back to the simple economic principle of supply and demand. We supply the criminals, and they supply the jails.
For more information, visit Dr. Jenn’s site at www.5uglyfacts.com.