Historically and anecdotally, encounters between black people and the police have always generated stories of concern. So much so that black parents would have “The Talk” with their young people, especially as they came of driving age. Although still true today, we have a number of young people whose parents have, for a variety of reasons, obviously failed to maintain that tradition.

This past week, spring break for Chicago Public School students, there were at least two incidents involving young black teens going downtown to hang out. Now let’s be clear. Some were just there to mill about. Others went there to create havoc. So rather than being a situation of young people avoiding the police, it was a given that they would have encounters with them.

When some of the young people were questioned about why they all went downtown, they professed that they had nothing else to do. My question is: whose fault is that? It is obvious from the cellphones, the weave, and the kind of clothes they were wearing, these were not children whose parents were impoverished, without a dime to their name. And even if money were an issue, their parents could and should be finding things for their children to do over spring break. Since the black community is filled with a plethora of churches, every last one of them should have been open in order to give the young people something to do and a place to go.

It is time for the city alderman, the Cook County commissioners, and every last elected state and Congressional official to get together to put through a comprehensive system to address the issues of our teens. I don’t want to see our young people saddled with a criminal record. At the same time, this society cannot afford to tolerate anti-social behavior.

I read where many of the children were released to their parents. But what price should the parents have to pay? Should there be a fine? Should there be serious community service? Should there be intervention with the family by social workers? Should there be a federal mandate that if you take a deduction for these children on your taxes, by doing so you are attesting to the fact that you are raising and training them to be responsible citizens?

So far, the incidents and the encounters with police have not led to a situation where the young person has ended up injured. But when the goal for the police is to maintain order and the goal for the young people is to feel they can do whatever they want, it’s only a matter of time before the two opposite sides collide. 

And when that happens, everyone will be mad at the police while overlooking how these teens are purposely putting themselves into situations that don’t need to occur.