American Streets : The Parental Failure

A few weeks ago, I was at the Metro station in Union Station heading back to Greenbelt after an interview when a young African American man no more than 20-years-old approached me. He had a booklet with him, pointing to the paper, he asked if I’d like to donate to their cause, being altruistic at heart, I was ready to hand him the $2 I had in my pocket until my chance of conveying my altruism to the universe was abruptly halted as a result of the following exchange;

Young Man: “Hi, would you like to donate and support our cause?”
Me: “Sure! Tell me about your course.”
YM: “It’s meant to keep boys like me off the street.”

Dumbfounded by his response, varieties of thoughts linger in my head; What do you mean by “keep boys like me off the street”? Where are your parents?

Boys like you have access to financial aid.
Boys like you have access to health insurance.
Boys like you can benefit from housing and food assistance.
Boys like you with good credit can get any car you want.

In Nigeria where I come from, boys like you would give their right arm to get all these benefits. Even then, the absence of all these benefits doesn’t constitute “boys like you” to be on the street.

Although this has been the only conversation I’ve had with boys like him, I see them almost all the time, 16, 17-year-olds already patrolling the streets of DC. At this stage, one would have to question the quality of parenting, one of my favorite quote in Africa states “ A child is what you put in him”. What are these parents putting in these children?

Raising a child requires a lifetime of dedication, and if your dedication begins to wane at the early stages of their life, then the cold hard truth is that you don’t deserve to have them.

If you can’t keep your children “off the streets” at an early age, the government will do it for you. And when they do, it’s not for 4 hours or 4 days, it’s for 4 years, 40 years, and with enough charges, 400 years.