At 9:42 on Halloween night, I sent myself an email. It read: “Halloween shooting.” I had just walked a few blocks from Wisconsin and M Streets in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone got shot, most likely a black teenager. It was so obvious what was going to happen that I wanted to just email myself a note. There was simply no way, after what I had just seen, that someone was not going to get killed; I think I wanted to predict it just out of sheer frustration. We all know what the problem is. But we just don’t have the guts to speak honestly about the issue of unsupervised black teenagers from broken homes and the havoc they can cause — to themselves and others.
Just before 11:00 p.m., 90 minutes after my email, a black teenager was shot on 28th and M Streets in Georgetown. He is in critical condition.
I had gone down to Georgetown to take some pictures and video of Halloween night, which in Georgetown, at least when I was a kid, meant costumes, crowds, bars and fun. Yet as soon as I got down there, I noticed something very disturbing. It is something we do not allow ourselves to talk about for fear of being called racist.
There were swarms of loud — and I mean cacophonously loud — teenagers drifting through downtown Georgetown. I was standing at Wisconsin and M Streets when a mass of about 50 of them poured across the street, ignoring the orders of a police officer who told them to stay behind the barriers set up for pedestrian safety. The kids were absolutely charged with energy; it was the kind of crackling atmosphere that happens before a fight. They spilled into the parking lot of the Riggs Bank. I followed them. On the other side of the parking lot was another group of black kids, mostly males. They were intently telling one of their friends to “not get involved.” “Those guys have guns!” one of them shouted. It was 8:30. On a Monday night. The PC police will have me over the spit, of course, but liberalism has cost so many lives that I don’t care anymore. The fact is, there were not hordes of white teens and preteens roaming through Georgetown on Halloween.
Standing in the throng, the air seemed to gather weight. Well, here is where it’s going to go down, I thought. There will be a shooting, which will be followed by calls from the liberal politicians in D.C. to “do something to stop the violence” and “give our kids some hope and opportunity.” There would be a story in the paper, and the comments section of that story would be filled with racist hate about a “chimp out” and “planet of the apes.”
In all of that, no one would have the guts to tell the truth. It was not Asians or whites or Indians who were wilding in Georgetown. It was black teenagers. Illegitimacy and fatherlessness in black urban areas like Washington, D.C. has created an entire class of youth who have been weaned on gangster culture and have absolutely no impulse control. Being in the middle of the maelstrom in Georgetown, I was struck by a simple observation again and again: These kids have no impulse control. They scream to each other across the street at the top of their lungs, talk at the same time, say inappropriate things to adults and settle disputes with guns. Every single one of these problems is also a problem with white teenagers, especially considering the rising divorce rates among whites. But whites do not have such a terminal concentration of fatherlessness in such small areas the way blacks who live in inner-city neighborhoods like Washington’s Anacostia do. We simply have to restore black males as responsible and loving authority figures and fathers in these areas or the same thing will happen every Halloween — and on most other days of the year.
You can blame it on racism. You can blame it on the Great Society. You can blame it on consumer capitalism. But the truth is that while these things may contribute to the problem, the root is the absence of good parenting in the black community. I have often cited the work of Christopher Lasch, the author of “The Culture of Narcissism,” and his penetrating insight into the terrible psychological and behavior problems that occur in a family with poor parenting. According to Lasch, this produces narcissistic people — not people who are in love with themselves, but rather people who lack inner cores and seek validation through others. The narcissist is also full of uncontrollable rage because his mother and father have not socialized his infantile rages. To Lasch, in the late 20th century the healthy American psyche had been replaced by “the chaotic and impulse-ridden character.” He explains:
The new patients lack the capacity to mourn, because the intensity of their rage against lost love objects … [They are] sexually promiscuous … [but] they nevertheless find it difficult to elaborate the sexual impulse or to approach sex in the spirit of play. They avoid close involvements, which might release intense feelings of rage. Their personalities consist largely of defenses against this rage … Often these patients suffer from hypochondria and complain of a sense of inner emptiness. At the same time they entertain fantasies of omnipotence and a strong belief in their right to exploit others and be gratified … [The patient has to attach himself] to someone, living an almost parasitic existence. At the same time, his fear of emotional dependence, together with his manipulative, exploitive approach to personal relations, makes these relations bland, superficial, and deeply unsatisfying … As a psychiatric patient, the narcissist is a prime candidate for interminable analysis … The strength of his defenses, however, makes him resistant to successful analysis… To be able to enjoy life in a process of involving a growing identification with other people’s happiness and achievements is tragically beyond the capacity of narcissistic personalities.
To anyone who was in Georgetown on Halloween night, it was like watching Lasch’s theories come to life. It was equally clear that the victims of these marauders were other blacks (although everyone was assaulted by the sheer volume of their voices). It was terrifying and sad to stand behind the Riggs Bank and overhear a group of teenagers trying to convince their friend not to “mess with” the guys with the guns. It not only made you feel nervous, knowing that something was about to go down, it made you feel sorry for the scores of other people, many with their children, who were also in Georgetown. There were also many black teenagers who were polite and just there to celebrate.
But the fact remains: The behavior that I saw on the part of many of the black teenagers in Georgetown last night was quantitatively and qualitatively different from the behavior of the other people there. And it does nothing but hurt the black underclass to not admit this. I could draw a parallel to my own life. When I was younger I got into trouble due to drinking. To not have admitted the fact that my relatives came from Ireland, a place known for its pubs, and that there was alcoholism in my family going back to country Mayo, would have been to put my head in the sand. My environment was contributing to my undoing. Fortunately I found a group of people, including not a few wonderful male role models, to steer me out of that ditch.
The video I shot in Georgetown last night is here. I did not capture any of the criminal activity; I foolishly wanted to just shoot some of the costumes and the fun. Maybe, like liberals, I was in denial.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.