Free-Range Kids and Race


In an essay in today’s Washington Post, “Raising rbdnhshsea
free-spirited black children in a world set on punishing them
,” Stacia Brown sounds frustrated with the Free-Range Kids movement. She dearly wishes African-American kids could go outside and Free-Range without having to worry about actual discrimination and danger. (Me too!) And she is particularly angered that often low income African-American families who can’t or don’t supervise their kids every single second are not given the benefit of the doubt by Child Protective Services:

Skenazy’s site is filled with stories of parents whose families have run afoul of Child Protective Services by allowing their children to walk or play unaccompanied. Race and class aren’t often mentioned in the posts, but they should be. Those factors often make the difference between a successfully closed CPS investigation and a case left open pending a felony charge, which results in a loss of employment, which results in further inability to afford safe, reliable childcare. Skenazy’s blog recently covered Laura Browder’s case without referencing that the family was black (though it’s discussed with some nuance in the comments section). That detail matters. Black mothers — especially those who are poor or single — are disproportionately criminalizedfor their parenting choices.

There is no such thing as a free-range kid in low-income black families. They are more likely to be labeled as “abandoned” and “neglected” than as free.

She’s absolutely right. When I interviewed Diane Redleaf, founder of the Family Defense Center in Chicago, a non-profit that fights to keep families from being torn apart by CPS, she told me “most [of our clients] are impoverished and many are immigrants and minorities.”

All the more reason, then, to fight for the right of all families to be free of government interference when it comes to how we raise our kids.

That’s a goal I think Brown and all Free-Rangers share. “That the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” So said President Kennedy. And the rights of all families are diminished when the cops or CPS rule that any unsupervised child is a neglected child.

We all want to raise our kids the best we can, without threat of criminal or civil action simply because, for reasons of choice or circumstance, we cannot conform to some insane ideal of parenting.

We are all in this together. – L


Free-Range Kids believes in parents.

A Free-Range Kid.


55 Responses to Free-Range Kids and Race

  1. Kerry July 24, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    That this is a race and class issue has not been lost on me. In fact, although I am white, it has occurred to me that my parenting choices have been criticized by some in my community because they are seen as ‘low class’. I’m glad to see the racial component of this issue being explicitly discussed here.

  2. Emily Morris July 24, 2015 at 11:30 am #

    Potential for excellent and necessary discussion right here.

  3. theresa hall July 24, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    seems like someone has crazy idea that they better then you about anything. so if try to do something your way these know it alls either throw a government style tantrum or find some way to make it so you end up breaking the law. no matter which they choose you end up unhappy.

  4. James Pollock July 24, 2015 at 11:51 am #

    While I don’t doubt that there is a racial component, I wonder how discrimination is due to race, and how much is to single parenthood and to wealth, or more precisely, lack thereof.

    Single parenthood decreases by half the number of adults available in the family to provide supervision (OK, that’s a gross oversimplification, particularly in multi-generational or close-knit family units, but still.) This may force some non-supervision choices. (That is, the parent has other responsibilities that drive the decision to leave the child unsupervised, rather than an assessment that the child is really ready to be unsupervised.)

    Similarly, being poor may force a decision to leave a child unsupervised. People who are poor are in less of a position to turn down work even if it conflicts with the needs of the child(ren)

    Also, luck might play into it. If there has recently been a case similar to yours where a child came to harm, you’re going to get more notice from officials even if your situation was managed adequately.

    Finally, where you are when all this happens may make a difference, too. Out in the suburbs, the streets are safer, the playgrounds are safer, the schools are safer (this is why people who can afford to, live there in the first place.) If you live in Crime Alley, turning your kids loose outside looks worse than if you did the exact same thing in Wonderfulness Acres.

  5. old school July 24, 2015 at 11:58 am #

    Excellent topic. One point to consider is the common occurrence of misinterpreting the ages of children of varying skin colors. Many studies have documented that, for African-American boys especially, age assumptions lead to inappropriate behavior expectations. If you see an 8 year old behaving like an 8 year old, but believe him to be 10+ years old, the assumption may be that he is misbehaving, not acting age appropriately. While I do not know of a specific cure for this phenomenon, I try to be aware of my own potential bias, especially in a classroom environment. Here is a link to an APA article summary that also lists other sources.

  6. MichaelF July 24, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    This is a time when the whole quote is useful:

    “This nation was founded by many men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

    While we tend to now look down on those with backgrounds that are considered “low class/educated/life” it takes many hands to keep a boat floating and not everyone is in their circumstances by choice.

  7. SKL July 24, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    I 100% agree that there are cases when race as well as low income are factors. How can we address that?

    On the comment that maybe it’s also single parenthood (sometimes). Yes, and also being a working mom. People have this picture in their minds about how families are supposed to look and operate. If your family looks different, different = bad. Since you’re already bad, a small thing like letting your child play in the park longer than average is enough to push you over the line.

    I am a single working mom. I have a lot of advantages because I didn’t have kids in my custody until I was 41, and I spent all the prior years getting an education, paying off bills, and socking away money. I have no serious financial worries. I have a car. I am able to set a flexible schedule. I have money to put my kids in activities that are middle class luxuries vs. leaving them alone all day while I work. Still, there are things I cannot do because there is only one of me, and even I get “the attitude” at times.

    Ultimately the question needs to be: are the kids all right? If the answer is yes, then the authorities need to bug off.

  8. sigh July 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    When my kids reached the age of 2 or 3, I realized how much expectations of parents and supervision had changed. It was a real shock to find out my then-husband’s paranoia was actually the cultural norm!

    I lamented the fact that in order to be on the “right side” of the “authorities,” my elementary-aged kids had to be supervised 24/7. “Who the hell can afford this?” is what I screamed. “It costs MONEY to have an adult’s eyes on a child every minute of the day.”

    Never mind that intuitively I sensed it was anathema to healthy development for kids, and putting ridiculous stress on families.

    Being white and affluent, I could afford to enrol the kids in the camps and aftercare programs required to fill in all the gaps, but I hated how it made my kids “organized activity junkies,” stunted their social and physical fitness, and destroyed a sense of community in the neighbourhoods. Where do the other kids live? Who knows? You never see them out in the street.

    I guess I figured that because less affluent communities could never keep up with this nonsense, culturally, it would be far more acceptable to have kids running around, going to each other’s homes, and being out of their parents’ sight. What I didn’t realize was that even if the PARENTS thought it was okay, and other neighbourhood residents weren’t ratting them out, the AUTHORITIES would find them anyway, and over-react.

    I have often said that over-supervision of children is part of “Affluenza,” or having too much wealth, and how this wealth erodes quality of life, since interdependence and community is such an important part of our well-being as humans.

    Poverty is an extreme as well. But is there a middle place, between dire poverty and extreme wealth, where needs are met, but people still need each other?

    We don’t seem to have that middle place in North America any more.

  9. Montreal Dad July 24, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    Aside from the merits of her piecer (which are many) I think it’s a sign of amazing success that stories like this are now being commissioned and written. I mean, think about the back-and-forth Brown must’ve had with her editor when she pitched this:

    “So your readers have already heard all about FRK, that’s old news. What we need is a new angle, and it strikes me nobody writes about these topics from a people-of-color point of view…”

    That’s AWESOME! It shows the basic message is now so firmly out there people need a novel angle to get pieces into print.

    I’m continually awed by Lenore’s success as an advocate. Seriously.

  10. Montreal Dad July 24, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    On the subject itself, well, I’m not sure about the race angle, but in terms of class, I think it cuts both ways.

    I think a lot of the hysteria about precious little ones being in constant danger has a distinctly upper-middle class feel to it.

    We live in a pretty hardscrabble, lower-middle class/working class neighborhood in Montreal and we see quite a lot of free range parenting around here. People don’t have enough TIME or MONEY in this part of town to keep their kids safely ensconced in one extra-curricular activity after another.

    For a lot of people around here, a certain level of hands-off parenting just seems to be a feature of economic necessity. These things are considered “normal” around here in a way they probably wouldn’t be in better off parts of town.

  11. Vicky July 24, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    Stacia Brown is absolutely wrong from my point of view. I live in a city that is almost equally white and black with other races mixed throughout. We’ve had a black mayor and black sheriff. Black history and individuals are celebrated and reflected in street and structure names/titles. It is common to see black mothers spank their children publicly and freely. White parents are terrified to do this. Black children/youth/adults commit the majority of crimes. They oftentimes go unpunished as it is seen as a ‘cultural’ thing. In this state, the only school criteria made into actual law is Black History. To be taught in either seventh or eight grades. A group of local non-black firefighters were unequally treated due to unfair advancement of nontenured and unqualified blacks employees. They lost in court because of US laws that enforce black quota standards in hiring . The favoritism shown towards blacks in our community is staggering. Many black mother’s who lose their children do so because they abandon them or choose drugs over their children. White mothers are more likely to lose their children because they’re poor or made someone mad and are falsely and anonymously reported by a neighbor/family member. The majority of gov workers here are black and show favoritism to fellow blacks. They have much more freedom to parent, or not parent, as they see fit. Like it or not, it’s reality in my neck of the woods and I suspect in many other cities across the nation.

  12. John July 24, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    First of all allow me to ventilate some of my general viewpoints before I comment on this article as this will give my comments more meaning. Now generally I am conservative. With me being a person with conservative viewpoints, people like Al Sharpton make me nauseous. The guy is nothing but a race hustler who I feel does more harm to the black community than he does help them. I also feel that the biggest threat toward black people are not white people or white police officers but other black people. Black on black crime, particularly in places like Chicago and Detroit, is getting way out of hand. Blacks are murdering blacks at an alarming rate and it needs to stop. White people are not their threat. I believe the root of the problem lies with the breakdown of the family unit within the African-American community where the out-of-wedlock birthrate is something like 70%. Contrary to popular belief, I also feel that America is NOT a racist society, particularly compared to most countries. We have come such a long ways since the 1960s and there are now so many controls in place that prevent discrimination such as affirmative action in the work place, hate crime legislations and quota systems to name a few. You will not find those type of controls in most foreign countries.

    BUT, BUT and BUT with all this said, this does not mean that racism in America is nonexistent and that individual elements of racism don’t affect legal outcomes. Unfortunately, anywhere you have people, you will have racism and there will always be racist people in EVERY race. Racism will never be totally eradicated in any culture. Surprisingly, I have even seen cases where African-Americans have discriminated against other African-Americans! With that being the case, I really believe there is an element of racism with the number of African-American mothers being arrested merely for allowing their children some unsupervised time. I think this is mostly true with single African-American mothers whom I believe are stigmatized more so than single white mothers. The mother who allowed her 9-year-old daughter to play in the park while she was at work is a good example. There were a couple of other cases of CPS snatching children away from African-American mothers who merely allowed their children some unsupervised time. Would that have happened to children of married white couples? It’s all hindsight but I personally doubt it.

    Look, giving birth to children out-of-wedlock and raising them in a single parent home is generally not a preferred thing. Statistics tell you that most kids raised in a two parent home do better than most kids raised in a single parent home. BUT this does not mean that single African-American mothers do not care about their children. This does not mean that these mothers do not work hard to raise responsible, self-sufficient children and many of them do succeed.

    Now I believe the African-American mother in the most recent case was very wise not to inject race into it even though it might have played a role. I think it might have made things worse for her but I do think that the court system and CPS do need to take a really good look at this before charging the parents and yanking the kids out of the home. This only makes things much worse.

  13. Warren July 24, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    First off it is a no win situation for Lenore. If she doesn’t say “black mom” people complain. If she says “black mom” people complain.

    I just thank my stars that I have never seen racism at work and where we live there is not any race problems. Sure we have our bigots, but they are a vanishing breed.

  14. sigh July 24, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    Oh, John. You don’t mention the for-profit incarceration industry in the US as a contributing factor to the “breakdown of the black family.” The drug laws are disproportionately enforced to incarcerate people of colour, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and single parents.

    You make it sound like folks just elect to kill each other. You’re tone deaf to the idea that so many human needs are nearly impossible to meet in the neighbourhoods that were once thriving, but had freeways put through them a couple of generations ago since black neighbourhoods were the obvious choice to put a 4 to 6-lane highway. Acres and acres of neighbourhoods were decimated in all the major cities.

    There are a bunch of reasons for the desperation you see, but I sense that through your lens, people who commit desperate acts are making choices you would never make. I would assert, though, that all human beings are capable of any action, giving the circumstances lining up. And I see circumstances that would lead me to definitely do desperate things, to try to survive.

    In the case of allowing children to be unsupervised, this is something that was acceptable across the board, in all socioeconomic circles, three decades ago. Whites are policing each other to enforce the “new rules” about “good parenting” and turning their neighbours in to the cops, but they are also clutching their pearls about what the single moms of colour are doing as well.

    When we impose our ridiculous “standards” on anyone whose child is just fine, thank you…. this is where the problems start. But when we already see people of colour through a lens of mistrust of their better nature, assumptions of neglect are made where no neglect is present.

  15. Kerry July 24, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    Montreal Dad, I think you’re right about the hysteria over kids in danger being an upper-middle-class phenomenon. It is ironic to me that so often it’s the safest neighborhoods where kids are constantly being kept inside for fear of the dangers of being outside on their own. But one of the issues here is that upper-middle-class parents who buck this trend, even if CPS does go knocking on their door, have many more resources to fight the system than do lower-income parents.

  16. SKL July 24, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    I also agree that there are times when white, not-low-income people are getting in trouble because the community has different expectations of that group of parents (on average).

    I remember once reading a black guy saying that they don’t talk about this free range stuff in black neighborhoods, because our ideal of “free range” is pretty much the norm in black neighborhoods. Of course that is just one guy and I have no idea whether he or Ms. Brown is closer to the majority view.

  17. Andrea July 24, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    @sigh – You had two very excellent posts.

    @John – The fact that you were surprised to see discrimination against blacks by blacks means you have more to learn about racism in America. A good start is the Clark Doll experiment and the Jane Elliot and the Blue-Eyed Children experiment. American society teaches everyone — white, black, and everyone in between, that the culture associated with white people is superior to all other cultures and the people associated with them, so don’t be surprised when everyone, including black people, internalizes that to some degree.

    @Vicky – I suggest you get out more. Your suspicions are wrong.

    @Emily – Agreed, the potential may be there, but I am pessimistic that it could be excellent. It inevitably devolves into a “white vs. black” dynamic. The only time I’ve ever witnessed an effective discussion of this issue was when the parties dropped their defensiveness and acknowledged their biases (and whether their responses in light of those biases were appropriate) and it was over a 2 hour in-person conversation. I’ve NEVER seen this happen online amongst strangers. There’s too little willingness to accede to someone with whom one has no existing relationship and where it is less a “discussion” and more a “post your opinion” exchange. Honestly, I think online discussions on race make the problem worse, because it gives people reason to dig into their existing perspective, rather than be willing to understand and possibly even accept a completely different one.

    @Warren – Where do you live that you don’t have “race problems?” Or is it that YOU don’t have “race problems?”

  18. Laura July 24, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    Glad to see this being addressed here. For a site that relies so much on statistics to prove that kids are safer than we think (crime is down, etc), there seems to be a surprising refusal to acknowledge the statistics that show that African Americans are punished more harshly in our criminal justice system, that young African Americans have reason to be afraid (for their lives, even) when interacting with police, that systematic racism really does influence the choices parents and children have in the U.S. today (at least among the commenters here — I don’t know about Lenore). It would be nice to see that explicitly addressed more often in Lenore’s posts. There are all kinds of connections to be made (for example, the “no excuses” mentality that leads people to think poor, non-white children should be treated to more authoritarianism in schools than wealthy, white kids, the examples brought to light by Black Lives Matter of kids being brutalized by police for being “loud” at a pool, etc.) I think this Free Range Kids movement would be even more powerful if it could address some of those realities more explicitly.

  19. Warren July 24, 2015 at 2:37 pm #


    Eastern Ontario.

    I am not saying that we don’t have some ignorant racist pigs. They will always exist. But we do not see race as an issue.

  20. Tamara July 24, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    “There are a bunch of reasons for the desperation you see, but I sense that through your lens, people who commit desperate acts are making choices you would never make”

    Yes, yes, yes, this seems to be the root of the entire matter – again, if you do not choose what most people consider normal or good, you are just bad.

    I feel the biggest problem contributing to this is poverty. This goes across the race board for me. Black people, people of any colour, really, and where I live, First Nations folks, seem to just get the absolute worst end of the poverty stick. If that one thing could be alleviated or mitigated to a reasonable level, I know that the desperation level would just drop.

  21. marie July 24, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    I hate discussions of racial issues because there is always someone who insists that someone who says they aren’t racist IS racist. Too many accusations come from such sanctimony.

    It is possible to acknowledge one’s own bias and still treat others fairly.

    It is possible to be rude as hell to people who are just doing their damnedest to take part in this debate that we are told again and again that America must have.

    African Americans are treated unfairly by the criminal justice sytem. The solution is not to root racism out of our hearts…the solution is to root it out of our criminal justice system or to make it less likely that any of us will ever need to encounter the CJS. Fewer laws would be a start.

    The hearts of individuals cannot be wiped clean by legislation. Those individuals will change in their own time.

    If we could stop mass incarceration and reinstate citizens’ rights to those who have served their sentence and paid their debt to society…families would be so much healthier. Too many families are broken up by America’s cruel criminal justice system.

    As for the FRK issue, being a single parent while my husband is in prison has pushed me to give my kids more freedom. That has been a good thing for them and for me. Wish I had started that earlier.

  22. Anna July 24, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    What an interesting and important topic. Radley Balko often covers this issue too, usually under the headings “The Criminalization of Parenthood” and “The Criminalization of Poverty.”

    A side-note: I have both lived and worked in two different poor, mostly minority, urban areas, and one thing I was often struck by was how charming the little kids were: not having been taught all the “stranger danger” nonsense and being allowed to play freely, they look you straight in the eye, smile, and seem fully engaged with their surroundings.

  23. Stepmama July 24, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

    This is a really good take on frk and race issues. I agree wholeheartedly that not only is it a race issue, but also a class issue. If I may, I would like too interject something as well: step-parenting. I think the whole frk movement is great. I follow it closely and was raised that way. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, the step-parenting aspect has not been explored and I am mentioning it here because a large proportion of step-parents are people of color.

    I hear a lot about how it should be the patent’s choice, but does that include step-parents like me? I am clearly not biologically related to my children, but I’ve been they’re step mom since they were in pull ups. I feel pressure to constantly hover, not only because of legal action, but also because I’m held to a different standard. Although their mother sits them in front of a tv screen all weekend and my house hold is very active, if something happens them when I’m in charge (like a bump or bruise), I am given the third degree!

    I can only imagine how race would complicate things even more. If I were black or Hispanic, would I be judged an unfit step mother if I did the same things i do now? How does anyone cope with that much pressure?

    I am as white as they come. I was raised by a middle class family. My husband and I are not rich, but he makes enough so i can go to school and raise my step kids. We have problems… who doesn’t? All I’m saying is that when I chose to let my step-kids play in the yard while I’m preparing dinner, I am distinctly aware that if something were to happen, the headline wouldn’t read “tragically two kids were (insert bad thing here).” But instead “step mother lets two children go unsupervised. Now they’re DEAD! Step mothers are the worst, right?”

  24. John July 24, 2015 at 6:27 pm #


    “There are a bunch of reasons for the desperation you see, but I sense that through your lens, people who commit desperate acts are making choices you would never make”

    Umm….well….yes. I try not to make bad choices because they have consequences. A choice is a choice and you have options as to which choice you’re gonna make. Any mature person realizes that bad choices can lead to bad consequences. It doesn’t matter what situation you’re brought up in or what race you are. If I’m a white person who was caught selling heroin, it’s preposterous to believe that I am not gonna end up with a hefty prison sentence just because I’m white.

    “And I see circumstances that would lead me to definitely do desperate things, to try to survive.”

    Really? And you’d wonder why you’d end up in jail? If I choose to sell cocaine in order to feed my family just because I’m under the false notion that nobody will hire me because I’m not white, I am making a bad choice. Plane and simple. Because if I am caught, and there is a very good chance that I will be caught, I will go to prison for a long time and may not see my family for many years. Again, bad choice that I did not have to make!

    “You don’t mention the for-profit incarceration industry in the US as a contributing factor to the “breakdown of the black family.” The drug laws are disproportionately enforced to incarcerate people of colour, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and single parents”

    Where do I begin to reply to that nonsense except to say that the late and great Richard Pryor once said in one of his comedy routines after visiting the Arizona State Penitentiary, “My heart ached, all these beautiful black men in the joint……I was naïve……..I talked to the brothers and…….THANK GOD WE’VE GOT PENITENTIARIES!” This is a Richard Pryor quote during one of his comedy routines. People are not incarcerated for no reason, white or black or Hispanic or Asian and many of those incarcerated men and women are not very nice people.

    ALL of the black people I know and work with are good and successful people BECAUSE THEY MADE GOOD CHOICES and that even includes African-American ladies who bore children out of wedlock. They worked hard and bounced back from their bad choices even with the odds stacked against them and I’m saying they should not have to suffer discrimination because of their past mistakes that they worked hard to rectify. On the other end of the spectrum, white people who are incarcerated are there BECAUSE THEY MADE BAD CHOICES! You can’t get anymore basic than that.

    Well, I don’t want to drift from the topic at hand so I will not beleaguer this point any longer but with all this said, I believe there is an element of racism in African-American mothers being arrested for allowing their children unsupervised play. But this doesn’t mean that the SYSTEM is rigged against people of color.

  25. Wendy W July 24, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

    I think in FR situations race can be the deciding factor in both directions- both of which have already been described in earlier comments- depending solely on the biases of the officer responding to the call. It’s this officer bias and their own preconceptions on race and affluence that make the difference. Until we have standards in place that give a bottom-line THIS IS OK on basic FR issues, all parents will be subject to someone else’s idea of what’s acceptable. In my opinion “race” is not a factor in the overall issue, but it can be in the individual cases.

    I think a bigger issue overall is that CPS is often incapable of backing down and saying “Oops, we overstepped; no problem here.” We have seen that the police often have no choice about calling in CPS, and often CPS has little discretion on whether to open an investigation once the police have been involved. But they DO have full discretion on continuing an investigation and on whether or not to escalate the issue. It seems too often they are incapable of admitting that they are not needed, or that they made a mistake.

  26. Yocheved July 24, 2015 at 7:35 pm #

    SMH – *sigh*

    So much privilege in these comments! If you don’t see racism, if racism is not an issue for you, if you hate the race card, treat everyone as equal… guess what – I’ll be you’re white (or pass for white).

    I’m white, and I used to be just like you. I “didn’t see race”, and I didn’t wake up until I married a Black man. When I was by myself, people treated me just fine. The second I held my husband’s hand, I was a whore and a slut (according to many people passing by.) I had the choice to walk away, but my husband couldn’t walk away from his own skin. THAT is privilege. I had no idea what people of color went through just being themselves and minding their own business, until I saw it “second hand”, because again, I could walk away from it. I could only see it through the lens of my husband.

    My own grandmother said to me “Honey, you’re so pretty. Why do you want to be with someone like THAT? What will your kids look like?”

    Not seeing race, and being post-racial, is not working for this country. We need to talk about this, unpack it, and discuss race, poverty, institutional discrimination, class, and a million other things that impact our children’s lives.

    If you don’t get what I’m talking about, then you benefit from privilege. Go make some Black friends, and listen to them. Ask them how you can help. If you can’t do that, at least don’t get in their way when they are doing for themselves.

  27. Donna July 24, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

    “Any mature person realizes that bad choices can lead to bad consequences. It doesn’t matter what situation you’re brought up in or what race you are.”

    No, people who are taught to make good choices understand these things. People who are not only not taught to make good decisions, but grow up in a culture that actively discourages good choices don’t actually realize this. That is the reality for most in the ‘hood. Their parents can’t teach them how to make good choices because they’ve never intentionally made one themselves. Expecting people to grow up in that environment and suddenly understand good vs bad choices and consequences at 18 is utterly ridiculous. As ridiculous as expecting children who are supervised every minute of the day to suddenly manage being unsupervised when they show up at college.

  28. caiti July 24, 2015 at 9:20 pm #

    Some of these comments are making me sick, specifically the racist ones. Yocheved has it exactly right that if you don’t see race you are most likely white. And the problem isn’t exactly the system per se, but the racist laws the system follows. For example, the penalties for crack vs the penalties for the same amount of coke. Read The New Jim Crow.

    Regarding “choices:” The only choice many people have is to break the law or starve. For most people, survival instinct kicks in. Not to mention that “crime” is all about which illegalities the authorities chose to prosecute, since us law is so broad and over reaching that author Harvey Silvergate has estimated that U.S. citizens commit an average of three felonies a day (

  29. caiti July 24, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

    *I meant to say, “most U.S. citizens UNKNOWINGLY commit three felonies a day.”

  30. Meg July 24, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

    Ms. Brown is absolutely right. Black people are disproportionally criminalized for everything listed in the criminal justice system, so of course “free range parenting” is going to be viewed with even more disrespect when it’s a black child with a black mother. And of course due to poverty and—yes—racism, many black mothers are single. So are many white mothers. I was shocked to read John’s comment telling us, apparently from his vast knowledge of the subject, that “most kids raised in a two parent home do better than [those] raised in a single parent home.” His statement, according to studies, is flat out wrong. I was a single (white) mother who raised four children to successful adulthood. I knew more single mothers than married mothers, white, black, and Hispanic. They all did just fine, thank you very much. Working, going to school, parenting—whatever was necessary. Every one of us struggled and succeeded to varying degrees, but the absence or, more likely, intermittent involvement of the fathers did not measurably affect our situation. It was much the same as when the fathers were in the home except that we weren’t sleeping with them. Children go bad. Children turn out well. But stop blaming single motherhood for the bad things. The sociologists and psychologists have. Keep up, John.

    I hate to pick on John—well, not really—but I take vehement issue with his arrogant assumption that he, as a presumably white man, is going to end up in the prison system to the same degree as his black counterpart. Good grief, man, haven’t you heard of Google? The facts are that blacks and whites are equally likely to sell and/or use illicit drugs, but black men are six times more likely than white men to be incarcerated for it. In prison for drug offenses? Blacks 45%/whites 30%. Remember blacks make up only 12% of the population they were even in terms of use and sales until they encountered the “justice” system. As for the kids, where the whole thing starts, white kids are four times more likely to use and sell drugs. But black kids are 2.5 times more likely to get arrested and 1.5 times more likely to be sent to prison for it.

    Having taken up more than my share of space, i won’t belabor the problems I have with Vicky’s lack of personal or social awareness about the world she lives in. Or Warren’s naïveté. He probably lives in a very good neighborhood that protects him from seeing real life.

    I know my comment strayed a bit from the free range topic, but so did those of othes so I hope Lenore will forgive me. Anyway, the hysteria about free range kids is absolutely loaded with race and gender bias. We need to stop ignoring that.

  31. J.T. Wenting July 24, 2015 at 11:05 pm #

    it’s not a race issue. It’s a wealth issue. CPS is apparently most aggressive in poor areas, which often just happen to also be areas with a high black population.
    And historically there’s good reason for CPS to be more active in those areas as poverty does more frequently lead to child abuse and especially child neglect.
    In a situation where you can’t make ends meet your child may well end up going to school hungry, and things often deteriorate from there.

    The high poverty rate among blacks may have historically been rooted in racism, but is no longer.
    This may sound controversial, but these people have come to realise that climbing out of the poverty well is going to mean an end to a lot of government subsidies and other “free money and stuff”, so they don’t even try (and that’s largely independent of race).
    The same can be seen with entire countries not making any progress towards standing on their own feet despite attaining billions upon billions in foreign aid, bailouts, and zero-interest loans from other countries and charitable organisations.
    Those that act “wisely” and climb out of the poverty hole often find themselves teetering on the edge for generations as the financial and material aid dries up when they’re just out of the hole but before they can really succeed on their own and the same is true with individuals.

    Whether it’s right for CPS to be more aggressive in poor areas is a different question, but it’s not race based.
    People just pull the race card because it tends to short circuit any argument and get them more free stuff and money as an “apology” for the “possibly racist actions of the past”.

  32. Warren July 24, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    Oh get off your freaking soap box.

    Privilege? How? I worked my ass off to get where I am. I have worked side by side with all sorts of people. My customers come from all sorts of different backgrounds. My friends are just a diverse. My family is diverse as well.

    I see people. If that is not good enough for you and your cause, then you are the one with the major problem, not me. If you keep living in the past, you will never make it to the future.

    And that is one of the biggest problems with every group out there. Living in and screaming about making up for the past. From blacks, to natives, to women. Always screaming about the past, and wanting apologies, compensation, and whatever for the past. Stop it, and enough is enough. It happened. It is over. Move on and make the future yours.

    I never told you that you couldn’t vote, I never forced you off your land and into gov’t schools, I never owned slaves. So don’t expect me to apologize for it, don’t expect me to feel bad about it. We are not Klingons that carry the family dishonor. In my eyes we are all equal, from the day we are born. After that it is all up to us to make of it what we can.

  33. sexhysteria July 25, 2015 at 1:15 am #

    I suspect there is racial and other kinds of profiling in law enforcement. How many police officers’ kids have been taken away from their parents?

  34. Abigail July 25, 2015 at 2:12 am #

    I find it interesting that so many middle and upper SES parents spend considerable time, money & energy on their children’s environment, education & parental interactions yet can be so dismissive of the inherent challenges that low SES and minorities face.

    These families are in a cycle of poverty that often includes cultural acceptance of crime & violence. The stresses of social and economic inequalities makes for an entire population of individuals at greater risk for high BP, among other health risk factors – and that’s regardless of income.

    This is not about the ability to make good decisions. This is about genuinely having fewer options. There is a problem with the system and if you don’t believe the excellent examples offered by @Andrea – ask yourself how many African American finance experts have you met. How many college professors? How many real estate agents? How many doctors?

    The concept that anyone can do any job, so minority children aren’t working hard enough is more like an ugly self-fulfilling prophecy than a path toward a better future.

  35. SOA July 25, 2015 at 7:49 am #

    I envy black mothers willingness to spank their kids butts in public. I won’t do it because I fear CPS getting called on me. I love that they are not afraid.

    That one momma who whipped her son for rioting is my hero.

  36. SOA July 25, 2015 at 7:55 am #

    and I won’t get into the stupid “White privileged” discussion on here.
    I live in an area with so many poor white kids that I get pissed anytime someone mentions “White privileged”. Those kids have parents in jail. Don’t have food to eat outside eating at school. Are dirt poor with not even two nickels to rub together. Some of them have parents banned from school grounds. We had one family who I guess either could not be bothered or could not afford to treat lice and the little girl had it all year long. I am guessing maybe they did not own a washing machine or something to get rid of it.

    So no, I fail to see how “Privileged” they are.

    On the other hand though my black friend from when I was little, her Dad was a neurosurgeon. They had the biggest house in the neighborhood. They went to private school. So yeah, I would say she has it much better than these dirt poor white kids I know.

    It is not about race. It is about that individual. Period.

  37. Anna July 25, 2015 at 10:49 am #

    “Expecting people to grow up in that environment and suddenly understand good vs bad choices and consequences at 18 is utterly ridiculous.” Yes! That whole “if they made good choices they’d do fine” thing is just so ignorant. I have cousins raised in squalor by one parent who is an alcoholic and the other a life-long career criminal with a drug problem and a serious penchant for violence. “Normal” for them meant dad in prison most of the time, beating their mom when he wasn’t, nothing to eat except school meals and food scrounged at friend’s houses, their house being raided by police in the night.

    Amazingly, they’ve grown up to be decent people: they don’t do drugs, aren’t into crime, and support their own kids. On the other hand, they didn’t finish school, they’re chronically underemployed, live in the same filth and chaos they’re used to, and will in all likelihood remain solidly stuck in the underclass permanently. It’s totally amazing they’re doing as well as they are; expecting that they could work their way into the middle class by just pulling on their bootstraps is ridiculous. When were they supposed to learn those skills? Or even conceive the idea of bettering themselves, when the entire culture that has surrounded them denies such a possibility?

  38. Jenny Islander July 25, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    @SOA: Having seen white privilege at work in my own life, I say you’re probably white and probably assume that white privilege means every white person is rich and happy. No, it means that when my white self called the welfare office for an appointment and went in for said appointment, I was treated with courtesy every step of the way, politely questioned as to exactly what I was there for, and given exactly that service. When my nonwhite friend who was in the same straits called for an appointment, she was treated with courtesy over the phone because of her educated-sounding accent and diction. But as soon as she walked in the door the same person who had been so nice to me sight-read off a card “POOR FAVOOR, RAY-GRAY-SAY CONE OON UN-TURR-PRAY-TAY” and then ignored her. My friend received no apology for this rude refusal to serve her. She did receive lots of pamphlets about getting a GED (she has a BA), birth control (all children were planned), and shelter for single mothers (married to the dad for years before they had Planned Baby No. 1). She also sat through a lecture about drug abuse (never used, never will) before the worker finally got around to asking her why she had come in.

    I’d previously encouraged my friend to go in because the aid worker was so nice and friendly and helpful and such a good listener.

    White privilege means that there’s a ration of crap that nonwhite people have to pick through to get anything done, that we don’t even have to think about.

  39. hineata July 25, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    I can’t talk about this from as an American issue other than from an academic perspective of course, but during my recent coursework there was a lot of discussion on the fact that it is only white (or whatever your cultural name for white) teachers who ‘see beyond race’ somehow, and look at students as ‘individuals’ as if that was a positive thing. The fact is that our race (or races) and culture/s are an integral part of who we are as individuals. Ignoring the same does not result in positive outcomes for students, but in negating large parts of what makes a person what they are.

    For example, being part Chinese my son attended a Chinese language preschool where the expectation was that he would sit still for fairly large chunks of time, and by and large the other (all-Asian) kids attending did the same. When he moved on to a normal state primary school his teacher was open to the fact that he sat still because he was Asian, not because he was a namby-pamby kid who needed forcing into behaving in a more boisterous Pamela fashion. I.e. different cultures do have vastly different ideas about what is acceptable, and if you aren’t open to that in the classroom you can screw kids up royally.

  40. hineata July 25, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    By and large, seeing people solely as individuals actually IS a white cultural trend, and pretty much just a colonial one at that. For example, Maori often view each other by family or iwi traits first (for example the reputation for fieriness that Nga Puhi have). Chinese put the family name first, then the generation name, and last the individual name, and the individual had better not shame the family!
    Samoan kids are still pretty much expected to put the family first too.

  41. hineata July 25, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    ‘Pamela!’ I mean Pakeha! 🙂

  42. Jenny Islander July 25, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

    @Hineata: In the States, ISTM that members of groups labeled “other” (where white, comfortably well off, broadcast-majority accent, male, Christian or able to pass, and heterosexual ditto are the defaults) want to express their individual passions and talents, but everything they do is assigned to their entire group. So a white spree killer spouting fanatical rhetoric is a lone nut, but a brown or black spree killer who spouts no rhetoric at all is a terrorist sent here by a foreign organization to destabilize our culture (even if they’re an American). If a movie with a male star tanks, it just tanked; better luck next time. If a movie made from a nearly identical script with a female star tanks, it proves that there’s no point trying to put female stars in that type of movie because they will never sell. Etc.

  43. hineata July 25, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

    Sorry Jenny I’m a bit thick but what does ISTM stand for?

  44. Jenny Islander July 25, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    @Hineata: I still use antediluvian abbreviations from the days when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and not abbreviating common phrases (or snipping previous posts in replies!) could actually make stuff not work anymore. I can’t seem to break the habit. ISTM = It Seems to Me.

  45. SKL July 25, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    Hineata: I think ISTM is “it seems to me.”

    Re whether it is better to talk like we “don’t see color,” the problem is that there is a lot of defensiveness. Was it Warren who said Lenore is damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t? I have seen many cases of people being attacked for including the race of a person in a discussion. We’re walking on eggshells over here.

  46. hineata July 25, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

    Thanks Jenny :-).

    @SKL – how much attention do you pay to any race issues, if you don’t mind me asking? I guess I assume you are white too, and your daughters aren’t. Do you get the chance to let them be part of their culture of origin sometimes?

    As I have said many times before, my kids tend to bounce around between cultures dependent on situation and sometimes just how they feel at the time. But they are part of pretty much favoured minority groups…..I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a parent of an African American child. Trayvon Martin’s death freaked me out enough, just because my boy is a hoody-wearing brownish kid, but easy enough for me to get out of that funk because we don’t have access to handguns, so teens are safer here from the type of thug who killed him. Imagine facing that kind of fear daily…..just don’t want to think too much about it!

  47. sue July 25, 2015 at 11:58 pm #

    Grr…I happen to have two kids; one is very white, one is brown. (James, they are adopted, have two parents, and are in the upper percentiles, SES wise.) The brown boy, though younger, is more responsible and more able to be allowed to make choices. He gets more freedom that his white brother got. I get more intrusive garbage from neighbors, cops, etc on my brown son than I ever got on my lily white son. The laws need to change, because society assumes the worst from brown, while allowing white to make mistakes.

  48. sue July 26, 2015 at 12:06 am #

    Lenore, please feel free to ban me, but really, what does the number of parents in a home have to do with it? A parent who is watching can make choices for each child independently. I think the men who talk of single family homes are bigots who think that any brown or black kid allowed to free range mist be neglected, whereas white freerangekids must have two loving, caring parents.. unfortunately, the cops and DYFS agree with these bigots. The laws must change.

  49. James Pollock July 26, 2015 at 12:57 am #

    ” I think the men who talk of single family homes are bigots who think that any brown or black kid allowed to free range mist be neglected, whereas white freerangekids must have two loving, caring parents.”

    Assuming you mean single-parent rather than single-family, I think you’re jumping to a conclusion.

    I think that racism, in all it’s many forms, tends to be understated by white people (it’s easy to miss when it’s not affecting you adversely) but overstated by non-white people (poor treatment from other people has many causes, and sometimes it’s not racism that motivates specific cases; and sometimes there’s no animus at all even where some is perceived.)

    So… I think it likely that CPS investigating more non-whites has to do with the fact that non-whites are more likely to be poor, and poor people are more likely to have problems providing for themselves and their children.

  50. Elin July 26, 2015 at 6:57 am #

    I am not American, I am Swedish, so what I see might not match what you see, just a disclaimer.

    I think that poverty is the big thing however if you are white and poor and “make it” you are just one in the mass of people who have improved yourself despite being born into a poor family but if you are a minority you are still a minority person even if you become one of the richest people in the country. Yes, you will probably be seen as a successful person but there will be further things like “successful for being an immigrant” “Arab success story” “Black academic” or whatever there is instead of just “successful”, “success story” “academic” which is what a white person gets.

    Poverty in itself restricts choices but I do think there is room for improvement for almost everyone who is motivated, it is just getting people motivated that is the problem because poverty also makes people lose hope. I do not think everyone can become a doctor or rise to the highest positions in society and our society is deeply unfair in that the best positions are mostly going to be reserved for those whose parents have already done all or most of the job but there IS still some that will also go that far. I am a teacher and it is a hard thing to make people see that yes they do have a chance to get a better life than their parents but that sometimes it is sadly through lowering your expectations that this will come. If you aim to be a doctor and become a busdriver or shop assitant you will be disappointed but if your goal all along was to get a job you can support yourself and to do better than your parents who get financial aid then you will probably be quite happy with these jobs. I struggle between “be realistic” and “aim for your goals” many times. If you are also a minority on top of having to rise from poverty you also need to work with the expectations people have of your group.

  51. Donna July 26, 2015 at 9:04 am #

    SKL – My problem with the “we don’t see color” is it indicates a view that we can only all be equal if we don’t see the brown. This is different than saying “I acknowledge that you are brown and still believe that you are entitled to be treated with the same respect I would give anyone else and not as a walking personification of brown stereotypes.”

  52. Kate July 26, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    This is very interesting. Earlier this summer, CPS contacted me to let me know that the following report (typed below verbatim, though with names deleted) had been filed. My son is D, my husband is S:

    S works out of State. I was having lunch with D today and D said, “My dad hates me.” There does not appear to be any physical or emotional abuse.

    Yes, that is the full report. No, CPS did not investigate, but we were certainly alarmed by the fact that this report was filed at all. I mean… God help middle school parents if something like this is worthy of a report to CPS. Note: D is 4 years old and the only African-American in his summer program. He was adopted into our caucasian family. As much as we didn’t want to look at this from a racial perspective, it was difficult not to think that race played a role in this report coming to be, or that perhaps the reporter was reading something into D’s use of the word “hate?”

    Also interesting to note: When CPS contacted me, they were only calling to offer to pay my utilities or provide free life-enrichment classes to me. Apparently local CPS has a new policy regarding reports that they opt not to investigate when children under 5 are involved. No permanent record is created, they just contact the family to offer to pay utilities or provide classes to improve their lives. Certainly makes some assumptions, doesn’t it?

  53. SKL July 26, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    Hineata, I pay a LOT of attention to racial issues, trust me. Choosing my words carefully in public does not mean I am blind and ignorant.

    With my kids, I have to work on both sides of racism – the fact that they are likely to be the recipients of it, and the fact that they have the potential to be racist themselves. (Because, no, racism doesn’t just come from what they see at home. My kids made their first racist statement after the Martin Luther King lesson in Kindergarten, when they were taught the whole world “used to” treat blacks as less than human. You tell a 5yo that everyone from parents to teachers to presidents thought that was OK, and they think “must be justified at some level.” Race education in this country is not fully evolved.) I have had many, many discussions with my kids about race and ethnicity. I have never believed in “color-blindness.”

    My kids spend a lot of time with people from the part of the world they come from. They also spend a lot of time with people from other non-US cultures. We experience and celebrate different cultures. And they observe me working with people of all colors/ethnicities as equals. But at the same time, I’m not going to apologize for being “white.”

    As for the “privilege” discussion, you really have to be careful. Again, young kids don’t understand things the way adults do. If I told my kids that being white allows me to carte blanche (no pun intended) for things nonwhite people have to fight for, they will hear that white skin is superior. I can’t see how that is helpful for a girl already bound to struggle with the troubles all girls deal with growing up. Now if they observe something on their own, we can talk about how it arises from ignorance etc. That is different from me laying it out and hoping they understand it the way I do as an adult.

  54. JP Merzetti July 26, 2015 at 12:13 pm #

    Hey John. Read Michelle Alexander sometime. Worth the effort.

    The war on the poor – the one we all know and love to fear and loathe…… always, and always has been a war on the children of the poor, too.
    That visible minorities and people of color happen to be poor, in numbers that far exceed their proportion of the population, is just a known fact.

    I think there’s a basic axiom in our fair society that distinctly comes into play on this issue.
    When we see something that causes (for whatever reasons) a sense that things don’t appear to be quite right – do we apply basic principles of normal human conduct, such as proper investigation to determine what the truth might be? And once we are satisfied we have the facts straight, do we then offer any compassion, underststanding and possible help that we may be able to deliver?
    From neighbors, citizens, to police, to judicial and social systems….do we really do this?
    Far too often, the answer is no, we do not!
    We instead, react in a punitive manner, believing that this is the pride and joy of our social construct.
    It is anything but.

    In the past 40 years we have evolved tough nuts. Whose evolution serves somebody somewhere, but certainly not citizens whose socio-economic resources are often at the bottom of the pile.
    They cannot fight back, because they do not possess the ways and means, the resources, to afford it.
    Were we to take a stroll through our entire punitive system, from top to bottom, we would not have to look too long or hard to find the disproportion of people represented there – are the marginalized in our society.
    This is indeed, how we treat them – like it or not.

    That they do or do not deserve it, is a topic thrashed in a thousand threads daily, and not appropriate in this one.
    Back to this one. Back to the children.
    However we do it, we set about a course of action that does indeed, punish children in divers’ ways for the (supposed) sins of their parents, guardians, caregivers, et al.
    This (apparently) coming from the endless and eternal “care and concern” and desire to promote their welfare and wellbeing. Too often we do anything but. And the saddest thing is that many holy fools don’t even know that.
    Justifiable cruelty is a term that has always been an oxymoron to me, and always will.
    (emphasis on the moron)
    …….were that their idiocies could do as little damage, as possible.

  55. MicroBalrog July 27, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    This should not be a surprise to anyone.

    Part of the reason the Great Society has ‘coincided’ with the expansion of agencies like CPS/DCFS on the state level is that there was a perceived need to police ‘dysfunctional’ black and lower-class white families.

    That these agencies treat lower-class families unfairly isn’t an accident. It’s what these agencies have been designed to do.