This is long, but the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different outcomes…

When I grew up, I lived at home with my mom and dad, my sister, and my grandmother. During the days after school and in the summers, I played in the streets outside of my house with other kids that lived on the block. We played until the street lights went on, and then came inside to eat dinner and go to bed. In my house we generally ate when my father came home from work, at the table, all together. My mother retired from paid work when I was born, but volunteered all of her life for civil rights, women’s and young mother’s rights, and Black children. At home I was taught a lot about Black people, those who had done amazing things despite the systems that would put barriers in their way. Some well known , some not so much. I was taught to be proud of my heritage.

When I left the house, playing at kid things as kids do, we would do some not so good things. Once we got a cigarette from somewhere, and we gathered around smoking it in the alley between some of the houses. When I got home for dinner that evening, my mom already knew and was so mad and disappointed. She and my dad talked to me about what smoking can do to your lungs and how sneaking around was wrong. We were all busted by the neighbors! And I never smoked cigarettes again, until I was in college…

One time when we were old enough, we walked up to the Woolworth store and decided we were going to steal something. A group of us went in to the store and crowded around while one of us put something in our pocket, a package of small emery boards, and the security guard caught us and grabbed me and another by the collar of our shirts, made us put them back and escorted us out of the store telling us never to come back. I never did go back either! And I never stole again. I was scared out of my mind, or straight, so to speak . 

Kids do kid things. Lots of them are bad. Many times, very risky. They do not know the consequences of their actions, nor do they understand the long-term ramifications for their life, health, or future. They don’t even know all the possibilities that they could have, even in the most traditional, advantaged, “normal” homes. They usually don’t know how one action could ruin their life, and those of them around them, parents, family, friends, or strangers. 

My parents were at home. My mother had the luxury of not working after she had her second child and was always around. My parents weren’t in jail or returning citizens, addicted to drugs or parenting on their own. They were present, and so were my neighbors, present and available and involved. And still, my friends and I did bad things. 

Sometimes I think about, “what if that security guard had decided to call the police and have us arrested?” what would that have done to my life, schooling, career, and housing possibilities. 

Sometimes I think what if my neighbor didn’t give a damn, and decided we were just bad ass kids and hadn’t called my mom and said she saw me smoking in the alley. Would we have continued to do that? And more? Or worse?

What if I grew up in a world where my parents didn’t just have to worry about what happened on the block outside, and couldn’t control what I saw, how I experienced it, and didn’t have the capacity to talk to me about it once I was exposed. What if my parents had no dreams for me, because they had no faith in the system, and no dreams for themselves, and were so disengaged that there was no future painted for me? What if what I saw was a school full of police, and substandard supplies, and people getting shot and arrested, and guns and drugs were readily available, and the life that it presented was being “survived” by everyone around me? What would I think of guns if the family Christmas cards were the whole family holding automatic and other weapons smiling? What might my friends and I have done? 

What if no one gave a good G## damn about me and were looking for a way to justify what they already expected of me and were so ready to accept whatever I did as all I could do and were ready to blame me for not doing better. 

Those of us that feel comfortable blaming parents for their children’s actions are living in a fantasy world. A world that does not accept the reality of the world we have created for our children. A world that accepts the lying, cheating, debasing behaviors of adults and politicians with adoration, not derision. A world that values money more than life. A world that wants to punish and put away those things they don’t want to see or live with. A world that lies to itself about the “good old days” and the current days, and the future days. 

Today in Illinois is “Trauma Informed Awareness Day”. On the heels of two mass shootings, and everyday violence in our streets, it’s important to understand how our lives are very different than they used to be. We are reaping what we have sowed. Our racism rooted culture is impacting us all. We are all victims of the traumatic environment we have created. We all need to be part of the solutions, actively involved in our neighborhoods, with our fellow citizens, and hold each other accountable for our current situation. The violence, the hatred, the misinformation, It will never end if we do not, each of us take responsibility.