Last Friday night in the early hours of the morning, around 2 am, Merritt Landry, a building inspector for the city of New Orleans shot and critically injured an intruder in his property. That intruder turned out to be 14 year-old black boy, Marshall Coulter, a young teen already awaiting trial for “stealing stuff” as his older brother David Coulter 23, said;
“He would steal — he was a professional thief, sure,” David Coulter said. “But he would never pick up a gun, not in a million years. He was too scared to aim a gun at the grass, let alone aim it at a person. No way. Before he’ll ever pick up a gun, he’ll be your friend first.”
Mr. Merritt who was at home with his pregnant wife and little daughter was alerted that someone had intruded by his dog’s barking when he went outside to investigate he the teen who had scaled his fence and was approaching the home. According to Mr. Merritt he said “Freeze” at which point the teen reached into his waistband and Mr. Merritt shot him, once striking the teen in the head.
The teen is in critical condition at a local hospital, doctors fear that if he survives he will suffer some brain damage. He was the 7th of 8 kids, his father had died three years ago of stomach cancer, leaving the oldest brother David to take care of the kids. The older brother said that Marshall, the young teen was on medication for attention deficit hyperactive disorder and he and his mother had tried their best to keep him out of trouble, with no success. Read more:
As an ironic twist a neighbor had observed the teen with another teen riding bikes in the neighborhood casing homes, he was in fact standing in front of Mr. Merritt at the time. The neighbor who observed this though it suspicious and thought about calling the police but did not because he was afraid that they would think he was racially profiling the 2 teen as they were black.
Mr. Merritt has been charged with Attempted Second Degree Murder, and is out on bail. The City has suspended him without pay pending resolution of the case.
Andrew Branca who I have quoted and linked to extensively has written an article about the event and the applicable laws for Louisiana over at Legal Insurrection that is worth reading, for a better understanding on the laws of the State.
I am not going to linger longer on the case, as most of the information is early reporting and as the Zimmerman case has shown early reporting and biases tend to skew early media reporting and this case is not any different. As some of you might imagine, some of the same people who are against Zimmerman have jumped on the bandwagon calling this another case racial profiling and racism.
I will continue to follow-up on the case as developments arise but I want to talk about a subject that is contentious and seldom address, Parental Responsibility or duties. A quick search on Google on parental responsibility will yield 13.5 million hits, but most deal with legal responsibilities as ascribed by government which can be summarized as follows:
- to have the child living with him or her or otherwise to regulate the child’s residence;
- to appropriately control, direct or guide the child’s upbringing;
- if the child is not living with him or her, to maintain personal relations and contact with the child on a regular basis;
- to act as the child’s legal representative.
As we see can the duties described are pretty dryly described and very broad and open to varied interpretations. As with morality parental responsibilities are something left up the parents and whatever their interpretation of that is. How does one go about achieving those 4 objectives and produce good upstanding citizens? After all is that not the responsibility of every parent or at the very least the aim?
I am father of two young men, one 21 years-old the other one just turned 18, I also have a little princess that is 6, I have some first hand experience of the issues that affect a parent as such I took my responsibility very seriously. I did not have my father or mother with me when I was growing up, so I have little experience on it took to be a good parent. My wife was the daughter of divorced parents so she also had her issues when it came to parenting and the responsibility of parents in raising children.
Without direct role models, we could have turned to one of the thousands of books on parenting available but we did not do so, instead we decided to work together and use our limited experiences but with a common goal, to do the best we can. We both made our share of mistakes when we were teenagers and we vowed to at the very least prevent those same mistakes in our children. I am happy to say that so far both our boys turned out in a way that any parent can be proud off, and we certainly are proud of our 2 young men.
How did we do it? We sacrificed for our children, when we moved we researched the area, the schools, the neighborhoods, crime statistics and having bi-racial children demographics. We attempted to ensure that our kids were well-rounded in all aspects.
Now, I mentioned the case of the 14 year-old because there are 2 quick questions that I immediately thought about once I read the story. Where were the parents and why was he outside at 2 am unsupervised? Reading a little more and getting some of the limited background of the young teen, it made my first 2 questions even more grave.
Let’s examine 2 recent cases involving young teens in which both ended up getting shot, one fatally. I am talking about Trayvon Martin and now Marshall Coulter. Both were black teens, both were shot at a very young age, both had difficulties at school, both did not have a father living with them, both had multiple run-ins with the authorities in Martin’s case the school police had concealed his misdeeds, both made terrible decisions that led directly to their demise.
There is a pervasive need to not speak evil of the dead or in cases of young people their parents. Had the two teens not gotten hurt, the parents and their parenting skills would be questioned, but because they both ended up seriously injured we do not, instead we take the complete opposite approach and put the grieving parents in a pedestal because of their loss. I can understand not wanting to add to the grief of the parents or to kick them when they are down, as the saying goes but in doing so we compound the problem as we miss an opportunity to confront a problem head-on with the consequences of inaction so clearly demonstrated.
In Martin’s case he was on his third suspension of the school year, his mother had kicked him out of the house a month prior, at the time he was shot, he was sent to stay with his father’s girlfriend to stay, while his father was attending a convention nearby. He was left that weekend with no supervision and this was his punishment for getting suspended from school for a week? Now his father is invited to speak to Congress, is travelling around the country and held as a role model of fatherhood of the black family. Sybrina, Martin’s mother is likewise celebrated and held in such high esteem being compared to other civil rights icons, like Rosa Parks.
But is the fact that their son got killed under what some would call suspicious circumstances, enough to declare them the paragons of parenthood? What about the hundreds of parents of those killed in Chicago or anywhere else in the US?
Instead, why are we not asking what did they as parents do for kids as they turned south? Why did Tracy Martin knowing the issues of his son, not provide more supervision? Why did Sybrina kick Mr. Martin from her house, again? He was on his 3rd suspension of the school year, so for discipline he was shipped out and left to the case of the fathers girlfriend. What did they do after his first suspension, his second, did they just give up? If so, then why are we deifying them.
With the Coulter case, very little is known so far, but the fact that young Marshall was a criminal is not even denied. So the question becomes how much was done to help the young teen to mend his ways? Was the family profiteering from the young teens exploits?
It is possible to do everything right and still have problems with your kids? Of course it is, but this should be the exception not the rule. When people were describing Mr. Martin as a typical because he was using and dealing drugs, vandalism, using all types of epitaphs and getting suspended from school, I cringed. That is not should it ever be the norm and if you are a parent and think that this is the norm for teenagers in today’s society, you should examine your parenting skills.
It has become a cliché to say how important a job is to be a parent. and many take it for granted. Yet, it is perhaps the most important job that you will have as an adult. It takes sacrifice and lots of hard work it not something to be taken lightly, kids are treated like accessories. Becoming a parent is not a decision that should be made without taking into consideration what it would entail.
Parental responsibility for kids, needs to be addressed. To often due to circumstances parents fail in ensuring that one major aspect of their responsibility is taken care of. Our children are a reflection of us, when we fail our kids the results can be catastrophic to the kids or others.
All 50 states now have laws that can hold the parents responsible for civil damages of acts committed by their children, in varying degrees but the issue remains, as people seldom use the laws and the courts in their discretion don’t enforce the laws on the books. And in cases where the perpetrator is injured or kill, what use would it do.
Opponents feel that the laws are intrusive and invade the privacy of the families point out that there are other influences in the kids life that contribute to their delinquency, like social, cultural and economic reasons.
But anytime that there are attempts to address this, the big entertainment interest, and their supporters fight those efforts and resist any attempt to address the issue. It is a similar story when social reasons are addressed. The economic reasons are just are hard to fix as the fact that they are a direct result of the other two. Creating a vicious circle that no ones wants to talk about directly, outside of the usual soundbites or another government program bound to fail as it does not address all the issues simultaneously.
There are not easy solutions but one we can do is not elevate those responsible for bad parenting, who have obviously failed at their most important responsibility as saints or role models. Doing that sends the completely opposite lesson to all those parents that need help or are failing in theirs.