What struck me most about the NPR program was its totally sympathetic stance toward the plight of these teens and their parents. The interviewer never asked the teens if they had a problem with acting "white" or their parents why they didn't motivate and supervise their children like "Asian parents." There was not even a hint of blame for anyone: as one mother said, these children just "got grabbed by something that was greater than [them]." Nor was there any indication that any of the teens had been in trouble with the law for their crimes or placed in foster care for their parents' neglect. Most will probably complete the drug treatment program, graduate from their highly-ranked suburban high schools, and go on to college, their brush with drug addiction and crime a forgiven momentary lapse in their privileged path to success.
Can you imagine a similarly sympathetic discussion of addiction, drug dealing, and theft with a group of black teenagers and their parents? The last remotely similar NPR program I heard involving black teens was about the juvenile detention center in Chicago, under investigation for its abusive treatment of its almost exclusively black population, many of whose offenses were far less egregious than those of the white OxyContin addicts in Massachusetts. Some commentators on this blog are fond of blaming the poor parenting skills of black adults and bad attitudes of black children for their failure to achieve. Is it possible that the hugely disproportionate placement of black children in juvenile detention and foster care - and the stereotypes that go along with it - contribute to the "achievement gap?"
The question is, why do we have such different mentalities (and policies) when it is White children with the addiction as opposed to Blacks? Both are amongst the dealing class. Both are committing crimes to support the addiction. Both are encouraged by powerful social cues. But it is only Blacks who we immediately give up on, label lost causes, and shunt off into prison (or prison-esque school tracking programs) without a look back. Clearly, something is motivating this. But if not racism, then what?