Culture, Root Causes, and Discussion Taboos
In a basketball tournament for teenage girls last November, one player punched an opponent, knocking her to the floor and giving her a concussion. What did the offending girl’s mother think of this blatant assault and battery? She was the one who instructed her daughter to do it. Latria Shonty Hunt was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor but let off with an apology and restitution. See this story by Vikki Vargas and Heather Navarro for NBC LA.
People have long debated the “root causes” of crime, and the discussion usually focuses on income. Poverty is the root cause of crime. Government programs are the solution to poverty. So let’s just spend more on government anti-poverty programs and crime will go down. That was how the Great Society was sold to America in the 1960s, and it was a cataclysmic failure. But that does not stop people from urging us to repeat the history.
Victor Hugo notwithstanding, we have enough of a social safety net in place that no one is going to jail for stealing loaves of bread to feed starving children. We need to look elsewhere for root causes. A powerful but under-discussed root cause of crime is culture. Too many young people are subject to influences from those around them that cause them to choose the path of crime rather than the path of law-abidingness. In the case of Ms. Hunt’s daughter, the very person who should have been teaching her to obey the law, respect the rights of others, and generally be a good person was teaching her just the opposite. Even kids with good parents are subject to bad influences from peers and popular culture.
So why don’t we hear more about culture as a root cause of crime? Continue reading . . .