Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Proper Advice for Kids

In reference to my post yesterday, a friend suggested that there is actually no point in posting a rebuttal to John Derbyshire's article (in which he suggested, essentially, that his children basically avoid black people so as not to become victims of violent crime) because the article was clearly racist and any rebuttal would amount to nothing more than "racism is wrong"--a statement that is too obvious to make. I don't see it that way--the article speaks from the point of view of a parent "just looking out for" their child's well-being, and relies on assumptions that aren't merely offensive but also suffer from being wrong and would prove damaging in the long run to any child who takes heed to them. A more sensible version of this "advice" is called for. Not having kids of my own, below is the advice I would give:

1) Hopefully in your life you never become a victim of a violent crime. If it does happen, there's a higher likelihood it will be perpetrated by someone you know than a stranger. So choose wisely who you associate with. Particularly when you're a teenager.

2) It is also a higher likelihood that the person assaulting or robbing you will be of the same race as you.

3) Now, obviously I'm not suggesting you avoid people of the same race as you--that would be silly. But statistically speaking, you have more reason to fear someone who resembles you than someone who does not.

4) There's also a (small) chance you'll be a victim of crime caused by a stranger. You can't be 100% safe from all strangers unless you live in a cabin in the wilderness, but then you might get attacked by bears so that won't work.

5) That said, when you are dealing with strangers there are certain things you can do to protect yourself. These things include:

5a) Be aware of your surroundings. If you're lost, ask for directions. Try not to be drunk, alone, and lost--that often doesn't end well.

5b) It's fine to be a "Good Samaritan" if you see someone in distress, but keep your wits about you. If the situation doesn't seem right, leave and call 911 for help. It's unfortunate, but Good Samaritans can be victims too.

5c) Remember that on average, the people you're going to encounter--of any race or age--are not out to get you and would be willing to help you if you need directions, etc. You're better off reaching out than taking your chances wandering around.

6) When dealing with the police, the first thing you must do is ensure you don't seem like a threat. That means they have to see your hands at all times, and no sudden movements. They don't know that you're not armed and planning to shoot them, so don't give them a reason to use the taser, or worse. It also helps to not have actually broken the law in the first place, but don't compound your error.

7) Teenagers can be bad news, but more often they're just typical teenagers--trying to look tough so they don't get picked on by other teenagers. This is why they'll scowl, dress like thugs, and generally be surly. But if you don't bother them, they'll usually leave you alone.

8) If they don't leave you alone, remember you're better off getting away from them than you are sticking around to fight. You don't need a broken nose, and winning a fight against some idiot doesn't win you any medals. Only fight if your physical safety depends on it.

9) Some parts of town are more dangerous than others. Avoid places with lots of abandoned homes, junked cars, trash on the streets, and a complete lack of pedestrian traffic, particularly late at night. People who are up to no good prefer to have no witnesses and operate in the dark where it's harder to be identified.

10) And "people who are up to no good" can be any race, age, or gender. Don't let media hype scare you into thinking muggers are usually going to be black or Hispanic. I've seen some scary white neighborhoods in Portland.

11) All that said, there's no reason to avoid or fear new surroundings or people you're unfamiliar with. Don't mistake good judgment and avoidance of unnecessary risks keep you from experiencing life and what the world has to offer.

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