Evans-Manning to Baconboy for this comment about race, crime, and culture on the Prairie Home Degeneracy thread. For the record, he’s a teacher, and his classes include many black students. I had a conversation with him not long ago in which he talked about how tragic and painful it is to see so much raw intelligence and potential in some of these students, but to see its expression often frustrated by the culture they carry in their heads:

As someone who lives in Baton Rouge, let me mention some things that are being done.

1. Policing. The area I live near (Gardere) was once the most violent part of Baton Rouge. Several years ago the sheriff’s office opened up a sub-station nearby and started doing more community policing. It has dropped the murder rate down. Nevertheless, I heard the sheriff give a talk a couple of months ago and he said that if you were to ask any of the young men in the neighborhood where they’ll be in five years, the universal answer is “dead or in jail.” There is a lot of fatalism here.

2. Pre-K programs. We have a very nice early head start program here that is attached to some of the local high schools. It allows for the moms to finish high school while their kids get good care. Nevertheless, that doesn’t solve the problems these kids develop when they don’t have fathers around. When she comes to my classes to recruit students to volunteer to work with them, she always puts in a special plea for male volunteers. She says the little boys are starved for male attention. It’s a very bad cycle. Learning to be a good man is a difficult thing to do, and made even more so when you have to learn it by yourself.

3. After school programs. We also have a successful after school program, called Big Buddy, which keeps kids busy and helps with homework.

So it’s not like no one here has thought of these things. We are doing them. But the problem does seem intractable. So often many of the solutions that people throw out are experienced by those of us on the ground as kind of easy platitudes, as if we haven’t tried them or thought of them.

And yes, we continue to throw the perpetrators in jail. And we do so because there is often a family member on the other side who wants justice. One of my students had her brother killed a few years ago and more than anything she wanted justice. Another student had her brother murdered about a decade ago on his way back from choir practice (his last words, “forgive him, for he know not what he does”) and the murderer was out in five years. It really bothered her that her brother’s life was worth so little — five years!

And, by the way, I do think of this as an American problem, inasmuch as there are a lot of really bright people who would add a lot to our country and economy who are being left behind. I see some of them in my classes every week — students who are trying to get out and make a better life for themselves in spite of the violence and trauma that they’ve sustained. We waste a lot of human capital.