'Baby thugz' or children in need of help?

Two men on bikes, two ways of dealing with rock-throwing kids

August 23, 2010|By Dan Rodricks

What you could do, instead of just posting cynical comments about 10-year-olds being "baby thugz" and the criminals of tomorrow, is find some way of helping them. Become a big brother, become a mentor, make a donation to a summer camp for kids from poor families, volunteer some time. You might make a difference.

Writing dark and sardonic words about last Thursday's column on Malcolm Majer's encounter with a group of children who threw stones at him as he rode his bicycle to work — that's not helping anyone. You can write them off as lost causes at the age of 10, you can express regret that they were ever born, you can even suggest that Mr. Majer would have been better off had he pulled a gun. It's a free country. You can say anything you want. You can even have your anonymous comments posted on this newspaper's website.

But what are you doing to change anything?

At least Malcolm Majer spoke up.

He took a stone to the forehead from one of those kids on the old Falls Road a week ago. He used his cell phone to call police, and while he waited — over a stretch of 45 minutes — Mr. Majer followed the children, who appeared to be between 9 and 13 years old, boys and girls. He stayed on his bike and spoke to the kids as they walked. He chastised them. He lectured them. Three of kids eventually apologized and shook Mr. Majer's hand.

When the column appeared online Thursday, several readers left comments, few of them positive.

Some suggested that Mr. Majer could have been killed. Some concluded that his young assailants were doomed to lives of criminality. One concluded that the children were "lost to the urban world of crime and sloth," and that "the only solution is to not pay them to reproduce like their parents have been paid, and their 35-year-old grandparents before them."

Mr. Majer read the comments and contacted me again Thursday afternoon.

"I hope," he said, "that in spite of the few responses to the contrary that there is a vast majority of people out there who would engage children as they deserve to be engaged, who would not consider it proper to act violently towards 9-year-olds, and who aren't so afraid of things that they would allow themselves to forget that we are all human beings."

But that wasn't the end of it.

I got an e-mail two days later from another young man who'd been stoned while riding his bike on Falls Road, in the valley between Hampden and midtown Baltimore. (He asked that his name not be used out of fear of retribution.) He sent me a photo of the welt on his right side from a rock some kid threw at him on Thursday.

This writer thought my "feel-good story" about Mr. Majer's encounter with the "rock-throwing monsters" glossed over "the truth about the disgusting disregard for fellow man displayed by these unloved strays."

He added, "It'll be interesting to see how many tax-paying, productive citizens will be harassed, murdered, and maimed by these baby-thugz on their journeys to prison or death."

Anyone can understand this man's being hot about a nasty little kid hitting him with a stone.

But I chose to write about Mr. Majer because, in the same circumstance, he tried to do something besides call the cops and carp to a newspaper columnist.

This other young man wants none of what Mr. Majer did. He didn't bother to call the police, either.

"There was no talking to them," he said, referring to the children in the group he encountered on Falls Road. "They were a threatening menace. I would like to have them stopped before they kill somebody. Rocks today, guns tomorrow. And yes they are thugz at 10."

My e-mail exchanges with him stopped there.

I meant to add the following:

Should you decide to do something about this — instead of just writing off kids at 10 — you could always call Baltimore Rising about mentoring a child. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Maryland and the Maryland Mentoring Partnership just announced a merger, and they're always looking for volunteers. I know of an inner-city summer camp that needs more funds if it is to expand next year, and a friend of mine runs an athletic program for East Baltimore kids and she needs volunteers every fall and winter.

If you want to get involved, get in touch.

Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. He is host of the Midday talk show on WYPR-FM. His e-mail is dan.rodricks@baltsun.com.

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