Article Comment 

Scott Colom: The value of self-control


Scott Colom



The recent controversy about police chief St. John has awaken the ghosts of April Fool''s Day 2010. On that day, Mayor Smith and Councilman Karriem got into a physical altercation at city hall. Chief St. John is presently accused of missing an administrative hearing because he had been allegedly drinking.  


In Sunday''s Dispatch, Birney Imes wrote that online commentators said Smith and Karriem don''t have the moral authority to criticize the chief because of the past altercation. In the column, Birney also mentioned that a black friend told him the past altercation between Smith and Karriem was "no big deal" in the black community, and that Kabir was lucky "he didn''t get worse" from the mayor. This was suggested to be a "cultural more" amongst blacks. 


First, the accuracy of this opinion should be questioned. Birney''s friend probably hasn''t polled black people on this point and is likely extrapolating this view based on a small sample. In my experience, people who claim to know the feelings of a large and diverse group of people are usually seeking notoriety.  


Second, the belief that physical confrontations are a norm in the black community is a dangerous, self-fulfilling stereotype. There are no genes or characteristics shared along racial lines. Cultural norms are created primarily through shared experiences, environment, and peer pressure. The cultural norms spread when they become stereotypes about a community and start to impact the way people see themselves.  


Growing up, the stereotypes about black masculinity negatively influenced my friends and peers. Toughness was often determined by one''s willingness to confront or fight an adversary. Males, in particular, were considered weak or scared if they were unwilling to stand up to someone. Often disagreements were resolved with fists instead of words, with temper instead of reason, and with violence instead of wisdom.  


On several occasions, I''ve been a victim of this stereotype. As a teenager, I often felt pressure to prove my toughness to others, particularly because my parents were lawyers. I got into fights and altercations to show I wasn''t a "rich boy," or had a bad attitude to fit in with my peers. I also witnessed this mindset ruin the lives of family members; some who''ve trapped themselves in a cycle of crime based on an original desire to fit in.  


As I''ve matured, and had many humbling lessons, I''ve realized the harm of this mindset and the need to change it. We can''t allow our children to think fighting is an appropriate response to a confrontation or that it''s "no big deal." This mindset breeds negative attitudes and destructive results.  


Thankfully, the positive aspect about cultural norms is that they can be changed as easily as they were created. We aren''t stuck with stereotypes. Therefore, in regards to masculinity, we should work to change this mindset. We should teach young people that toughness is based on mental strength, not physical; that controlling your temper is more impressive than losing it; and that fighting isn''t worthy of celebration. We should stress that the greatest victory in life is self-control. 



Scott Colom is a local attorney.


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Reader Comments

Article Comment watcher commented at 7/21/2011 8:22:00 AM:

I see the dispatch has removed my previous comment. Wow it is so nice to know that the dispatch like most of the media who claim to be a bastion of free speech, show themselves to only support free speech so long as it supports their liberal political agenda. Birney Imes I will say that you and your liberal media outlet are helping to move America ever closer to communist Russia. I also hope that the dispatch staff or Birney himself will resist the urge to lie and claim that no one removed my previous post.


Article Comment imquese commented at 7/21/2011 8:27:00 AM:

Well said Scott!


Article Comment birney commented at 7/21/2011 8:44:00 AM:

Birney Imes replies to "watcher": Our online comment system is set up so readers and Dispatch staff can remove comments they deem inappropriate. Though I don't know who removed your post, I agree with the action. Calling elected officials, or for that matter, any human being an animal, as you did in your post, is inappropriate.


Article Comment hope commented at 7/21/2011 10:17:00 AM:

@watcher;your liberal media outlet is helping to move America ever closer to communist Russia.
Did you know that a communist country, CHINA, is the second largest holder of U.S. Treasury debt?
Did you know that our trade deficit is the largest with communist CHINA, than with any other country?
Evidently, you dislike communist Russia more than you do communist China!


Article Comment watcher commented at 7/21/2011 10:19:00 AM:

Birney I tried commenting and I see your nazi mindset has decided to quell free speech, so I guess I will go somewhere where free speech is actually allowed at


Article Comment arjun.kaul commented at 7/22/2011 10:16:00 AM:


Great piece!! Your voice as a writer improves with each column, and this week's column was almost poetic to read.

Great job, great point, and that's an excellent way to make and focus on a positive point out of what isn't necessarily the most positive situation.

I'm very impressed and hope you continue to enlighten minds in Columbus!


Article Comment littleredhen commented at 7/22/2011 12:05:00 PM:

Thank you for this article. My son is eleven and is very smart. He was told by some of his classmates that he is not "gangsta" enough. I told him to be who he is and dont worry about it because when he is at Harvard or Yale they will most likely be where statistics place most young black males, dead or incarcerated. Im saving this article for him.


Article Comment littleredhen commented at 7/22/2011 12:06:00 PM:

Thank you for this article. My son is eleven and is very smart. He was told by some of his classmates that he is not "gangsta" enough. I told him to be who he is and dont worry about it because when he is at Harvard or Yale they will most likely be where statistics place most young black males, dead or incarcerated. Im saving this article for him.


Article Comment carl_davis commented at 7/23/2011 5:34:00 AM:

nice piece


Article Comment melody commented at 7/23/2011 10:31:00 AM:

Very interesting story and full of wisdom. Self control is right out of the Bible. From the fruits of the Spirit. It's always a choice, do wrong or do right. The Mayor and Councilman chose to do wrong which should have resulting in two resignations afterwards if they had chosen to do the right thing but they chose to go the RHIP route which was the wrong decision again. Now we see that they have no mercy on the ex chief and the councilman didn't vote either way. What's he paid to do? You're right- vote- one way or the other! Hopefully the next election will give us some new leaders with more self control.
Naturally the chief made wrong choices too and let it be a lesson to the youth of our city. Self control means making the right choices.


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