It Wasn’t Pretty, But Philly Mayor Nutter Was Speaking Truth about Bad Parents


Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is the target of severe public and pundit criticism after the mayor let down his guard and allowed his true feelings to shine through following a fatal shooting in Philly that left three teens dead.

While I agree that politicians must be held to a higher standard in controlling the words that fall from their lips, I was not disturbed at all when I read the mayor’s comments because he didn’t say anything that nearly all of us would have said in the privacy of our homes when we heard the details of this tragic and ridiculous shooting.

Apparently the dispute started on Facebook. That’s already enough for me to start fuming. How does something that started on Facebook result in three children dying? Anyway, when a car full of teens, age 14 to 16, showed up to beat down another kid, the 30-year-old stepfather of the intended target pumped so many bullets into the car that three teens—two 14-year-olds and a 16-year-old—wound up dead.

In response, the mayor erupted, calling the shooter “a dog” and lashing out at Philadelphia parents who could let something like this happen, telling them “not to act like idiots and assholes.”

“Seven young people, somewhere between 14 and 16 years old, on a Tuesday night, a school night, are out in a car going to somewhere to have a fight with some other teenager. That is completely insane, it is irresponsible. Parents have to know where their children are and what they are doing,” the mayor said.

“Their little butts should have either been in bed, getting ready for bed, or doing some homework. Not out in a car, not in some other neighborhood, and not up to this kind of nonsense. I’m not your mom and I’m not your dad. We cannot completely legislate, or by policy, make people responsible for their children.”

The mayor added, “The least you can do is know where the hell your kids are, in the daytime, in the nighttime, or at any time during the week or on the weekends. That’s the minimum we should ask and expect from our parents. You want to have kids? Take care of them.”

Who among us hasn’t thrown out those last two sentences, in response to some outrage on a national stage or as local as your kid’s classroom? It is the essence of the social contract that we as parents all unwittingly sign when we decide to bring  a child into the world. To an extent much larger than any of us are comfortable with, we all have a responsibility to help raise each other’s children. Just think about it: any major failings among the parents in your child’s peer group ultimately will come snapping back at you and yours with a vengeance. That mom down the street lets her junior high-aged daughter go to school in makeup and high heels, at some point it becomes an issue in your house. That dad in the next neighborhood lets his 14-year-old son get in a car with a bunch of other too-young boys and go looking for trouble, the trouble may wind up at some point on your doorstep.

Nutter perhaps could have been a bit more delicate in his choice of words—a mayor is usually not going to win over a lot of constituents by calling them “idiots and assholes”—but we have to at least thank him for the refreshing honesty that has given the issue of bad parenting a national spotlight.

We all know that even when we are 100 percent attentive to our kids they are not going to be perfect. They will make mistakes. Things will sometimes get messy. But as a parent, we still need to be there with them every step of the way, through every mess they might get themselves into. If we do that, perhaps Facebook can remain an innocent source of teen flirtations and insults, rather than the staging ground for a triple murder.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. ” I’m not your mom and I’m not your dad. We cannot completely legislate, or by policy, make people responsible for their children.” <— TRUTH!

    He could have been more selective with his words, but frankly as a resident of Philadelphia I am over it! Our homicide rate in 2011 was 324! Many of those were young black teens and 20 year olds. It has to stop! We're already at 21 homicides for this year (6 more than this time last year). In the past few months we have had flash mobs of teens beating up random people and teens having fights in the street. It's time to call parents to the mat! There is only so much that politicians, police and educators can do.

    I applaud Mayor Nutter for his candor!

  2. exactly how is a junior high aged girl wearing high heels and make up (you are assuming the mother gave permission) going to translate into an issue at your house?

  3. Mayor Nutter is a coward; how many times are we going to allow public officials to not have any accountability for the direction of their cities and the people that they’re supposed to serve? Saying that the parents, “are idiots and a-holes.:” or saying that “Their little butts should have either been in bed, getting ready for bed, or doing some homework.” is so empty, and really the same rhetoric we expect to hear from his Republican counterparts. It’s sickening. No sh#t, Sherlock.

    He assumes that the brothers and sisters that live in the worst parts of the city want to live there, that they know better, but just won’t do better. and nothing could be further from the truth.

    Should the piss poor behavior of some parents from the urban core of this country be excused just because of where they come from? Not entirely, but when you understand the systemic effects of generational poverty, substandard education, a lack of resources, and mangled family structures have on a people, regardless of race, you better understand their behavior and their needs.

    When was the last time you heard someone that was sincerely committed to changing the lives of their people down them, degrade them, and what’s the most troubling, disassociate themselves from those people? Never. I’ve never heard Marva Collins, Geoffrey Canada, Steve Perry, and Tim King, etc. trash the folks from the South side of Chicago, Hartford, or Harlem. But, those individuals are educators, not scum politicians. they have vested interest in the people they are serving.

    What Mayor Nutter said would be the equivalent of me peeking out my window and verbally trashing a single mom of five across the street from me, with five children, four different fathers, plus she’s an alcoholic that stays out all night. Then I criticize the poor academic standing the kids have at their school, when I know for a fact how tumultuous their home lives are, and the school they attend isn’t meant for a dog. Instead of peeking, why don’t I mentor her sons? How about tutor them two days a week? I’m saying, what solutions did Nutter offer in his so called rant? Impotent, toothless bastard.

    Grow a pair, rolled up your starched sleeves and get out there in the streets of Philly, get to know your people, and use your influence while you have it to fixed those broke institutions in the communities that are most affected by crime, drug abuse, poverty,etc.

    • Nicely said.. Although Nutter should have kept that comment out of public eye..He makes somewhat of a point.. but so do you. I agree, that parents do need to have more accountability for their children, just like I agree that Nutter needs to put his money and resources where his mouth is. The kids in urban communities do need mentoring, resources, safer neighborhoods and better schools. Just as moms and parents in urban communities, need supports. I’m sure the mom with 5 kids that you see out the window, whether an alcoholic or not, wants to be a good parent, regardless of her circumstances. Life just beats people up sometimes. People give up. Folks do need options but they also need to learn how to make them for themselves. That’s likely the hardest thing to do, when you’re faced with the dramatic nonsense that many of our urban parents face daily. Great post.

  4. I live in Chicago and I am tired of these half-raised chaps running amok.Take a stroll in any inner-city neighborhood: On any given afternoon, you will see groups of able-bodied young men lounging carelessly on street corners, smoking marijuana boldly on street corners bragging about their bitches, whores and baby mammas. Although these young men show clear shiftless tendencies, throngs of ride or die chicks, sometimes with several children in tow surround them, taking loudly while dressed in pajama bottoms and dingy white wife-beaters complete with the proverbial head scarf.

    These words are not stereotypes but actual truth. Too many times, Blacks complain about their dirty laundry being aired publicly instead of fixing the problem and it is time to discuss an issue that is plaguing us as a people: the acceptance of ignorance. Although racism is, has been, and will always be a part of American society, social behaviors once deemed deviant are embraced and accepted by some Blacks. And getting mad at Mayor Nutter is not going to solve the problem. The US government could put trillions of dollars into every inner-city in America but this ghetto mentality will still exist because being absolutely nothing is accepted. An entire generation of Black young adults has accepted their caste in society as the lowest of the low, trapped by the narrow confines of their minds and neighborhoods.

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