Sunday, August 16, 2009

Consequences and Race

Thursday night one of our adult neighbors from across the street, Jeff, startled me by calling me through our rear window at about 10:30 in the evening. He said, "Hey Asa, I didn't want them to know I told you but some the kids dented you wife's car playing football." Feeling slightly sickened, I thanked him and peaked out the front windows to see if anyone was still out there. Amazingly, there was still a collection of kids throwing a football around, and one of them was actually lying on top of the hood our another neighbor's car. A few minutes later, I ventured out to investigate. I saw the damage pictured to the left. As usual, none of the kids knew or saw anything. "We just got out here," they said in almost unison. After pressing them without luck, I went inside and told Laura whose wrath was kindled a bit hotter than mine. She did a little better and with the help of a mother who had apparently seen what happened but only now decided to chime in, the story emerged. Running to catch a ball, "he pushed me" and a kid ran full force into the car. The kids seemed slightly dumbfounded that they would even have to apologize and then when they did so it was without remorse. We had them take us to their parents- a mother and older cousin. Both of whom who expressed regret but promised nothing. We didn't expect to have the damage paid for but the feeling that Laura and I walked away with was of anger and real disbelief. Later, came a conviction that we needed to the best of our abilities see that there would be some sort of consequence for both kids. To the extent which families would be cooperative, could they do community service by cleaning up the alley and local park with us to "pay" for the damage? Without at least trying to serve consequences, we are doing the kids a disservice.

This is not the only sour thing that has happened in the past two years involving the children on the street. Often there has been a level of dishonesty on the part of adults involved too- or at least a lack of cooperation. The situations have become public though, and we've gotten a lot of sympathy from neighbors as well. We don't want to become the poor white couple that the neighborhood feels bad about. It does seem like every time something happens our friends on the street feel embarrassed about it a little. They feel like they have to vehemently condemn it, shake their heads, and commiserate with us. Maybe they are just being good friends. I am worried though that there is more to it. Race is woven throughout our interactions as surely as it is not discussed.

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