No need to fear youth
The words were meant for New Yorkers, but they can apply to Barbadians.
“We have to get away from this attitude of being afraid of our young people,” said Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix, a Bajan and the chief administrative judge of Brooklyn’s civil court system, the other day.
Actually, she was using the opportunity of a Dr Martin Luther King Jr memorial breakfast to offer a bit of poignant advice to parents and society as a whole when it comes to raising children.
In a real sense, Justice Hinds-Radix, a mother and a prominent public figure in New York was reflecting on Dr King’s legacy, less than a week before hundreds of millions of Americans of all shapes, sizes and colours pause to observe the Dr King federal holiday and to ask: if he were alive today, what would he say about the state of America?
Undoubtedly, Dr King would applaud the progress the United States has made since 1968, especially the election of Barack Obama in 2008 as the nation’s first president of colour. But he would also remind people everywhere about some unfinished business.
That’s particularly true when it comes to our young people who account for a disproportionate share of defendants caught up in the criminal justice system.
After all, a part of Dr King’s most famous speech I Have A Dream, delivered in 1963, focused on children, albeit his progeny: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Justice Hinds-Radix, said that one of the most effective ways to keep young people out of the courts was to give them a sound education.
“We have to push for education and we also have to understand our youth,” she insisted.
“ . . .We must talk to them and we must give them guidance. We talk about the things they do. We don’t like their pants down [below their waists]. We would talk about them in back rooms but we wouldn’t talk to them about it.
“We need to have discussions with them. We need to have them understand that we care.
“When you walk into a classroom and you see a committed teacher, you see good students. When you walk into a classroom and you see a teacher who is afraid to deal with students in that classroom, you have failures.
“On this day, I think, if Dr King were here he would say to us mentor our young.”
That’s why she is using her presence on the bench and in the court’s administrative offices to expose young people to the workings of the courts, so they would understand some things about discipline, respect and decorum, which keep them out of jail as inmates.
“I say all the time that if you want young people to see what judges are doing, call me,” she reminded her audience. “If you want youngsters to come and do internships in the summer, call me.
“Because it’s the only way these kids are going to learn what we do is to give them an opportunity to see it,” said the Barbadian.
As chief administrative judge, Hinds-Radix supervise the work of more than 150 judges in Brooklyn’s housing, traffic and civil courts.
“She is truly a woman of distinction, the first black person to occupy the position she now holds,” said Dr Roy Hastick, president of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which organized the memorial breakfast.
“She is a down-to-earth person and a distinguished jurist.”