Post Ferguson, Can Parents Prepare Teens For Violence?
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
We continue to follow events in Ferguson, Missouri, this morning. Last night, there were more protests in that St. Louis suburb with dozens of arrests and reports of looting. But with National Guard out in force, the overall scene was calmer. There were also largely peaceful protests in more than a hundred other cities across the country.
Now, we've been covering that news, which began with the shooting death of a young, black man, and also the ongoing story of sexual assaults on college campuses. And with those topics in mind, NPR's Michel Martin sat down with two parents. She asked them how they talk to their children about what is in the headlines and what they think they can do to keep their children safe.
MICHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: I'm joined by Glenn Ivey. He's a former state's attorney in suburban Maryland, a practicing attorney and a father of six, including five young men. Leslie Morgan Steiner's also with us. She's the author of "Crazy Love," a memoir about surviving a different kind of violence by an intimate partner, her former husband. She's also the mother of three teenagers, two girls and a boy. Thank you both so much for joining us.
LESLIE MORGAN STEINER: Thank you.
GLENN IVEY: Thank you.
MARTIN: So, Glenn, let me start with events in Ferguson. What kinds of conversations have you been having with your young men about this? You know, remembering that you are a former law enforcement officer yourself...
MARTIN: ...As well as a dad.
IVEY: Well, they're run the gamut from what to do if you're stopped, you know, keep your hands in plain sight, don't make quick moves, don't reach for the glove compartment - all of that stuff. But I don't think any of them were surprised by this result. I think they're all used to African-American men being shot by police officers, even if they're unarmed and not much happening about it. I think...
MARTIN: You know, you said that so calmly. I think some people might be surprised that you said that as calmly as you did. You said they are used to the idea of young, African-American men being shot by the police.
MARTIN: I mean, they're used to it?
IVEY: I think so. I mean, I think, you know, especially...
MARTIN: Are you used to it?
IVEY: I think it's hard to say that we aren't sort of calloused by, you know, or maybe numbed by so much of this happening. And obviously I was prosecuting some of these. And, you know, some we won, but some we didn't, too. And my older kids are old enough to remember that. So...
MARTIN: So what's your word of wisdom on this? Do you have one - to them?
IVEY: Get involved - well, be personally careful, but I think politically there needs to be a major push to keep this issue live and to make some headway on this. So the grand jury verdict, you know, went the way that it went in Ferguson. But we can't allow that to be the end of the conversation and the debate and hopefully not the end of some progress happening on this front.
MARTIN: Wait a minute. As a member of law enforcement yourself - I mean, you're an officer of the court, and you're a former prosecutor, and you sort of are part of the law enforcement infrastructure of the country - at least you were as a state's attorney. Are you convinced that you know the facts? Are you convinced the prosecution was warranted in this case?
IVEY: My instincts are probably, yeah. But I think the point that's a little larger for me is that Prince George's County had, which is where I was a state's attorney, a huge problem with police misconduct and violence. But that changed over time, in part because of the political change that came by electing, frankly, African-American prosecutors and people who were choosing police chiefs who were not tone deaf to what was going on in the African-American community. It's not perfect in Prince George's County, but it helped to make those changes. And things like that need to happen in places like Ferguson and across the country.
MARTIN: Leslie Morgan Steiner, what about you? Have you had conversations with your teens about this? And if so, of what kind?
STEINER: Well, because my work as a writer and an advocate focuses on issues of violence against women, I tend to talk to my kids all the time about violence often - the exact same type that's in the media right now. And I think it's important to talk to kids about this information from a parent's view because they're going to hear about it anyway from the media and from their friends and their teachers. And I want my kids to know my views as well. So I talk all the time to them about it.
MARTIN: Is that unusual - forgive me for pointing out - you are not African-American. You're white.
STEINER: I am white, and my kids are white. And it's a very different issue because I tell you when I - my focus with the Ferguson events is not ever that I'm afraid that the police are going to shoot my kid. I - and it's shocking to me to think that a parent would be so worried about that. My kids' issue - and this is what I hear from other white parents, too - we're much more afraid of our children being falsely accused of violence, particularly sexual violence, as they head off to college. That's a very big issue now.
MARTIN: That's interesting, though, that you're saying among your peer group of the parents that you talk to...
IVEY: That's their biggest concern. Are they not concerned that their boys might actually be perpetrators - that their boys might actually be involved in an issue like this of...
STEINER: I think that they are not as concerned enough. I think there is this naivete that, well, you know, we raised our sons right and we're a good family and he would never do it. And that just shows such an incredible lack of an understanding. You know, most college - male college rapists don't believe that they actually raped because they didn't have a gun or a knife. There's an incredible misunderstanding that date rape is not rape or that if she was drunk and seemed to be enjoying herself, at least part of the time, it's not rape. So I think that we need - we have a huge education hurdle in front of us - the boys and the girls and also their parents.
MARTIN: Glenn, what do you have to say about that? Do you have some thoughts about that?
IVEY: Well, yeah. I mean, I think the education piece is very significant 'cause a lot of these young men, they know that what they've done is kind of over the line, but they do sort of stick with the old line of, well, she didn't actually say no. So...
MARTIN: But your bigger concern is the bystander - talk about that.
IVEY: Well, a lot of times there's somebody there who can say, you know, wait a second she, you know - this shouldn't go forward or pull her out of the room or you guys need to back off or I'm going to call the - you know, somebody to drive you home or - hopefully before you even get to that point, before she gets led upstairs, you know, with five guys to a room or something like that. Say hold up buddy, let's take off. That's all you need. I mean, this isn't - we're not talking about John Wayne coming in with guns blazing. It's figuring out how to preempt something when you can see it coming. You know what's about to happen. You can cut it off, and sometimes it's just socially uncomfortable. But this is more important than feeling uncomfortable. So that's what I think we need to do, and I think we're getting to that point.
MARTIN: Glenn Ivey is a former state's attorney in suburban Maryland. He's a practicing attorney and a dad of six. Leslie Morgan Steiner is the author of "Crazy Love," a memoir about surviving violence in her first marriage. She's also the mother of three. Thank you both so much for coming.
STEINER: Thank you, Michel.
IVEY: Thank you.
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