Where I live, the underclass has always been white. In a city surrounded by a cluster of prisons, that's bound to happen. Mark B. is incarcerated for 8 years for armed robbery. His wife Ann moves to town - it's easier to see him when visiting times permit. He brings with her 2 sons, ages 18 months & 4 years. By virtue of being a single mom - for now at least - Ann ends up living in a town house complex 4 blocks from here. She lives among the wives of other inmates, multigenerational welfare families & thrown into the mix, the odd working, struggling family.
Over the next few years she may or may not 'absorb local values' but her kids sure do. Work has no value & kids don't stay in school. Middle class values are as foreign to them as might be the values inherent to a Bulgarian village. Anybody who doesn't count on a monthly government cheque is... 'rich'. Got a car? Baby - you da man! Why stay in school. It's boring & there's money to be made on the streets.
Dad doesn't exist & increasingly, mother led families with more than 1 child have more than 1 father of baby. 'Dad' is a bizarre construct. When he's not around, mom idealizes him. "Things will be better when dad's back home." "When dad's out & working, we can live someplace better. You can have that Wii you want." When does DOES come home - it's happy, happy for a few days & then reality sets in. Dad being home is about parents screaming, stuff flying, ots of sustance abuse & odd & scary people hanging at your house.
Only 42% locally graduate high school. Kids aren't so mcu free range as feral. Kids learn by seeing & what they see isn't healthy or condusive to a long, productive life. They get up & have to fend for themsevles. They may or may not eat before school; depends if there's food in the house. The trend of wearing pyjama pants may be cool in some circles but here it's simply a mark of laziness among adults & for kids - it may be the cleanest thing they've got. There is ZERO encouragement to stay in school, to work hard to succeed. There's little talk among many parents about striving for the future, about options for later in life. The parents are too busy with their own dramas - most of which are a continuation of school yard nonsense.
There's no lack of opportunities & hands' up type help here. There's a huge lack of maturity & responsability. It's a neighbourhood of stalled children. Chidren who are old enough to drive, who can buy, sell & make drugs. 'Children' who are armed, have poor impulse control & limited loyalties that are twisted. The real children grow up with this as a model.
It only takes one generation of exposure to this for kids to think this is the norm & that anything 'better' is beyond their reach. Teachers can talk up school as much as they want, visiting police officers & other help can reach out as much as they want - rarely works. There's a divide in mentality that's a chasm too wide for many to cross.
Now we add into the mix the increasing number of those thrown out of work, perhaps out of their homes because of the current economy. The parents may certainly care but how much energy is left to them after they've damned near lost it all? How much effort are they putting into watching what mind sets their kids pick up?
It takes very little time to become downwardly mobile & the downward movement of education, ambition & values has more far reaching consequences than any financial devestation.
If you're in your head, you're behind enemy lines.