Why?

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why I see so much useless attitude on the streets where I live. There’s so much anti-everything on the streets. There’s so much, “I don’t care at all about the way it looks for a group of young males and females to just take up a corner without regard even to churches, blocks, major streets, or in many cases, buildings and houses.

Why are we allowing them to start out looking and acting like thugs at such a young age? Why doesn’t this same age group stand on streets, porches, blocks, in front of stores or churches in Oak Park, which is right across the street? What are those parents doing so differently from the parents east of Austin Boulevard? What makes the police spot the “spots” to make sure they don’t get set up different from police over here on the east side of Austin Boulevard?

The pattern is always the same.

First, one or two will congregate. They grow to a point where there is someone on that spot several hours at a time. They develop “shifts.” They become proficient at staring a car down. They make it clear what they have if you drive by a couple of times, especially if you go slow and make any eye contact.

They tend to maintain their “posts” during most of the day and much of the night. They all tend to eventually dress, act and look the same. They will watch other nationalities work in legitimate jobs all around them. They even buy from those who come in, showing such blatant disrespect that the employers don’t put one or two “tokens” to work.

Yet they look at you with anger and disdain as you attempt to navigate your streets. Why? The others come in bunches and are never challenged by these young folk who just take over a spot and dare you to act as though you don’t like it.

They seem to have the attitude, “How dare you act like you have a right to travel your streets like people do in every other neighborhood in the city!”

They seem to not worry that at some point we are going to start asking the question, “Why?”

They seem not to worry that the adults in their own houses are going to get the ones that live in their houses off the “spots.”

They seem to not care that someone might notice their drawers are hanging below their butt, way below their butt, in the house, in front of parents, grandparents, older brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles – that someone in the house will say, “You are not leaving out of that door like that! You will not be on the street like that! You will not wear pajamas outside like that!”

Someone who gave birth or who’s taking care – or should be taking care – of them, will open their eyes and mouth, and say, “No! No! No!” No matter what you say or what you do, you will not continue the things described above!

How do you think they got so hard and calloused? We let them get started thinking they can do what they want; talk back the way they want; live and hang out the way they want.

Well, it’s time we stop. It’s time we burn up the phone lines to the police. It’s time we stand up to these kids – while we can. It’s time we make sure we start with the ones at our address.

You know if you’re watching your own or not. You know whether your own is out in a group just hanging, or starting “the lifestyle,” and how your own leaves the house dressed. Have you ever just rolled up on your own without them expecting you? Have you ever checked your own out without him or her knowing you were checking them out?

We all must commit to something now.

Call the police. Check your child. Stop allowing our street to be treated differently than the same street across Austin. Don’t you dare just give up. Don’t you dare just get so tired. Don’t you dare look any farther than across the room. Don’t you dare let them see you blink.

Ask yourself the question.

Why?

James Deanes is a senior policy adviser for Local School Council Relations, a department within Chicago Public Schools. Deanes has lived in Austin for more than 43 years.