WASHINGTON WATCH: Confronting Gun Violence, Gun Culture In Our Homes (VIDEO)

We’ve been talking a lot over the last few weeks about gun violence in America: the deaths of 20 children and six teachers and administrators in Newtown, Connecticut and the nearly 20, young, black, innocent bystanders killed by gun violence every 40 days.

The President has promised to introduce legislation this month to combat gun violence, but some of — or even most of — the problems start in our own homes. It’s how we raise our children, especially our boys.

Roland Martin took this problem to Dr. Steve Perry, host of TV One’s “Save My Son” and Dr. Chuck Williams, an adolescent psychotherapist at Drexel University in Pennsylvania.

MR. MARTIN:  We’ve been talking a lot over the last few weeks about gun violence in America:  the deaths of 20 children and six teachers and administrators in Newtown, Connecticut and the nearly 20, young, black, innocent bystanders killed by gun violence every 40 days.

The President has promised to introduce legislation this month to combat gun violence, but some of – or even most of – the problems start in our own homes.  It’s how we raise our children, especially our boys.

I took this problem to Dr. Steve Perry, host of “Save My Son” shown right here on TV One, and Dr. Chuck Williams, an adolescent psychotherapist at Drexel University in Pennsylvania.


MR. MARTIN:  How do we start the discussion with our brothers, nephews, aunts, within our families?  Because at the end of the day, we could talk about public policy.  We could talk about – in terms of what happens on the macro level.  I still believe that this really is a one-by-one, household-by-household, street-by-street, block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, city-by-city sort of movement.

DR. STEVE PERRY:  We have to start having honest conversations about the African-Americans’ homophobia and –


DR. PERRY:  — sexism, because the reason why we don’t want our sons to be seen as soft is ’cause we don’t want people to think they’re homosexuals.  We – we have so many mothers who don’t want their children to be seen as girl-like, and so there’s this challenge.  And then there aren’t men in the homes, or in these young men’s lives who can say to them, “I love you.”

One of the things that blows my mind when I work with kids is when a man comes up – a black man comes up to a little, black boy and says, “I love you.”


DR. PERRY:  Kids just – “Why” – “What did you just” –


DR. PERRY:  — “Why would you just” – “What” –


DR. PERRY:  — “What do you” –

MR. MARTIN:  You know what?  I think even if you don’t even use, “I love you” — I spoke at an eighth-grade graduation, and what I did was – whenever I finish speaking at graduations, I’ll actually shake the hand of every graduate.  A lot of people who speak, they’ll just go sit down and leave.  I said, “No, I want to do that.”

And I can tell you 95 percent – especially the girls – 95 percent of the folks, I will shake their hand.  They couldn’t look me in the eye.  They even were stunned at the level of just saying, “Hey, congratulations.”

And I leaned over to … Father Pfleger in Chicago.  It was a[n] eighth-grade graduation.  I said, “Doc, you’ve got a serious problem with intimacy and love among these black kids, because they didn’t even know how to react even to a hug.”

DR. WILLIAMS:  And by the way, that gets to one of my areas of research, which is social skills – social and emotional skills.  One of the things I’m doing in Philadelphia with Drexel University and the Stoneleigh Foundation is starting mentoring programs

focused on at-risk youth, end[?]-risk youth – however you want to talk about it – to teach them those skills.

So, you’re right, Roland.  They do not possess those skills.  And it’s not just about being able to say, “I love you,” or, “I appreciate that,” or, “Thank you.”  That’s also connected to academic achievement, as Dr. Perry can tell you.  We have to challenge these age-old, cultural traditions about what it means to be black, what it means to be male and just give out the statistics, like you just said.  You know, the number one killer of black and Latino teens is – is – is violence – is homicide.

MR. MARTIN:  And I do want people watching to understand that this is not a question of education or income, because – and the reason I’m saying that is because we see this level of violence in our fraternities.  So, all of a sudden, you’ll be at a party.  “No, man.  You ain’t gon’ break our line,” or, “You disrespected” – I was at Texas A&M, and they put on – it was play, and in the play was the story of a running back who injured his knee, blew a pro career.  We have football players on campus who thought we were talking about the star running back who injured his knee, and it led to a fight at the party.  And I’m sitting there going, “Bruh, he ain’t the only running back who blew a knee!”

DR. PERRY:  I went to a college, and they had a charity basketball game – a charity basketball game – with one group of black men – fraternity – another group of black men – fraternity – end up in an all-out blood-producing brawl.  And I sat down with the kids at the campus.  I said, “Are you serious?  First of all, most of y’all can’t fight.”


DR. PERRY:  “Most of” –


DR. PERRY:  — “y’all never even been in a fight.  You came to college to fight.  So, why are you putting on this costume of a thug, when I will drop your behind off right outside these college walls” –

DR. WILLIAMS:  They didn’t know what to say.

DR. PERRY:  — “and you will get hurt.”


DR. PERRY:  Like, “You’ll walk around and be treated like something you don’t wanna be treated like.  So, why you gon’ come here and act like that?”

Be beautiful.  Be bold.  Be black.

DR. WILLIAMS:  And that’s important, because the research shows that you ain’t got just to be on the South Side of Chicago, or North Philly, where I’m from.  Even in the suburbs, where there’re resources and opportunities – you’re right – we have the same issues, with achievement, with violence.  Again, no matter where I am, in order to be legitimately “black” and male, I gotta be aggressive and a knucklehead.

And we gotta tell ’em, you know, “That’s not where you wanna go, if you wanna have a career like Roland Martin, or Dr. Steve Perry” –


DR. WILLIAMS:  — “if they want that.”

MR. MARTIN:  — so, part of that also, again, when you talk about beyond just what we look at in terms of our communities, is also what are we projecting on television.  What are we projecting in terms of what we’re seeing?  Because I tell people – literally, I mean I’ve had people say, “Man, I know sometimes when you’re on TV, and you’re debating folks, you just wanna reach over and slap ’em.”

I said, “No, there’s nothing that hurts more than a rhetorical beating.”

DR. WILLIAMS:  That’s right.

DR. PERRY:  But – there’s that, too, but one of the things –

DR. WILLIAMS:  [Chuckles.]

DR. PERRY:  — I have to own – and even as I was at work this morning in the ’hood – I have to own the fact that what we represent so often seems so far and so distant from so many of our young people.  Their lack of access to us makes us seem to be in a place where they can’t get to, so they look up, and it’s like when you’re losing a race by so much, you think, “Man, forget about that.  You just won.”


DR. PERRY:  When the images that seem most accessible are not this –


DR. PERRY:  — but something different, but feels the same way, that feels [like] the same power, then that’s one of the reasons why the kids go there.  We – those of us who have more – can do more.

I’ll say this.  For instance, so many fraternities, sororities and civil service organizations will spend the entire year planning a banquet so they can order chicken cordon bleu, or go to some white establishment, and the only people who make money off of the event is the hotel – versus taking that same amount of time – and it has to at this point be either/or – take that same amount of time and money and engage young people in meaningful mentoring opportunities.  Just in the same way we do host families, we could do host families domestically.

Someone – and I know you’ve adopted families, and I laud you for that.  Someone can adopt –

MR. MARTIN:  Six of ’em!

DR. PERRY:  — right.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

DR. PERRY:  — someone can adopt kids.  And when I say “adopt,” I don’t mean full-on, full-scale adoption, but you can invite a kid to a middle-class home.  I hadn’t been in a middle-class home until I owned one.

MR. MARTIN:  Umph!

DR. WILLIAMS:  I think images are important, which is why we need stations like TV One and your show and your show and not some of the other ones.  I won’t say any names.

I think that part of the issue is at a very young age – when I did behavioral health – right – I would go to homes where we had kids that had drug problems.  They dropped out of school, beatin’ up they momma – all the stuff that we all know about.  And I would see the younger ones sitting in front of the TV, watching “Rush Hour 3,” for example.  Now, I like it.  I’m an adult, though.  I can understand reality – you know what I mean – versus fiction.  But they’re looking at all of these images put out there by us – particularly on black radio – black music radio.

MR. MARTIN:  Yeah, black music radio, which is not black-owned – but go ahead with your –

DR. WILLIAMS:  Exactly!  Another issue, but –

MR. MARTIN:  I gotcha.

DR. WILLIAMS:  — we’re workin’ on that.

MR. MARTIN:  I gotcha.

DR. WILLIAMS:  Maybe the three of us’ll get together and buy something.

But anyway, so what they hear and what they see is contradictory to everything that we’re saying.  It’s like we’re trying to push this rock up this hill, and they’re coming down.  They[’ve] got snow.  They[’ve] got rain.  They[’ve] got – we shouldn’t give up, but we need to hold them accountable.  We don’t do that enough.

So, how [are] you goin’ [to] put on a, you know, Maybach music, Rick Ross – all gunplay, gun violence – and then during the commercial, “Put down the guns.  Stop the violence”?

Kids are like, “What?

DR. PERRY:  Taking shout-outs from –

DR. WILLIAMS:  That’s contradictory – right?

DR. PERRY:  — taking shout-outs from prison –


DR. PERRY:  — the whole time.

MR. MARTIN:  And, again, I want people to understand – and I do this all the time.  This is not about attacking hip-hop culture.  It’s[?] about attacking videos –

OFF CAMERA:  I love hip-hop.

MR. MARTIN:  — ’cause I remember a few years ago, I literally saw a 50 Cent magazine ad where he was selling his clothes, and the scene was a drug lab.

DR. PERRY:  No, no, no.

MR. MARTIN:  His clothes were wrapped as if they were kilos.

DR. PERRY:  No, no, no.  No, no.  Take right now.  He and Joan Rivers have a commercial together in which he looks like it’s a drug deal, and he’s selling a 5-hour Energy drink.

DR. WILLIAMS:  What about another one? How ’bout the time he put his son out onstage in a [flak] jacket?  He had one.  He put one on his son.  What kind of message is that?

DR. PERRY:  Very often, what I find is a lot of cats who we’re speaking about have never had someone themselves.  Just ’cause they’re grown, physical men –


DR. PERRY:  — a lot of professional athletes, a lot of these rappers who I meet –

OFF CAMERA:  That’s right.

DR. PERRY:  — nobody’s ever said to them, “Bruh, you know, you could do something different.”

I was onstage at Florida A&M with Wale, and people said, “We want more positivity in your lyrics.”

He said, “Buy it, then.  I’ve got positive songs.”

MR. MARTIN:  Right.  Right.

DR. PERRY:  “You don’t pay for them.”

MR. MARTIN:  Precisely.

DR. PERRY:  “So, you tell me that you want me to do this.  I want to do it for a living.  I can’t make a living if you won’t pay for it.”

MR. MARTIN:  Which is the same, of course, when you talk about quality television shows, when you look at what do we watch – as opposed to what we don’t watch.  At the end of the day, you can’t keep trying to … say we want to aspire to this, but then I want to live in the gutter, and then say, “Man, I don’t know why other people are living in the gutter.”  You’re actually living in it as well.

And so this is why I keep going back to mindset – because, again, this is not about public policy.  This really is about you passing –


MR. MARTIN:  — a mindset on to the next generation.

DR. WILLIAMS:  Three things, Roland:  family, faith, community.  You don’t need public policy for that.  You don’t need to go to the government and get, you know, some grant to say “I love you” to your son, or to be home with them.  We[’ve] got brothers that spend more time in the barbershop than they do with their kids.  You don’t need a grant for that.

DR. PERRY:  One of our biggest challe- –

MR. MARTIN:  Final comment.

DR. PERRY:  — one of our biggest challenges is our ownership of what we’ve done to create these circumstances.  We have to own that we as a community are perpetuating the most vile … stereotypes because it’s one thing to act like a fool.  It’s an entirely different thing to be a fool.


DR. PERRY:  And too many of us have owned that as if that is the highest order of African-American expression, and we[’ve] got to do better.