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WILLIAMS: Blacks must face their community’s problems together
A couple of weeks ago, Bernice King, the Rev. Martin Luther King’s youngest daughter, led an impressive 50th anniversary march in honor of her father’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech. President Obama, two other former U.S. presidents, and many celebrities and dignitaries were in attendance. While participating in my first-ever march, I was somewhat surprised at how many relevant issues of today were overlooked and not considered by the impressive platform of speakers.
The black community now collectively faces a series of problems, each related to the others, each compounding one another, and we must face them all together. We as a nation cannot ignore any of them.
Interest groups, fundraisers and politicians would like most to believe that circumstances can be changed with retooling underprivileged areas, as though people were robots, without any study of behaviors and free choices. It’s about as effective as bringing a tennis racket to a baseball field.
Those in authority have their own agenda; they treat moral transgressions like food they pass over in a buffet line — they don’t want to hear or think about them, so they don’t. Against these well-funded politicians and interest groups feasting on the “social ills” of the black community, as though they are inanimate objects unable to make their own choices, we must affirm their freedom and look at the choices many of them make.
• First, there is the family. Eight-five percent of poor black children live in single-mother households, and such children are four times as likely to live in poverty as those with two parents. Since a majority of black youth is being raised by single mothers, we must study these mothers. I have found that 38 percent of these mothers live below the poverty line, 62 percent of these mothers had never been married and almost half of them were also raised by single mothers. The lack of a proper family structure has become a revolving door of ill behavior. Is it possible that a horrible family structure could spill over to other areas of life including employment and education?
Within the black community there has been much talk about bringing about a change to every person of color, and while the methods to bring about this change are constantly debated, many black people (myself included) agree that a change is needed.
• Then there is crime. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, while blacks only make up 12 percent of the population, they account for 44 percent of all prisoners. Demico Boothe, a former prisoner turned writer, composed a book titled “Why Are There So Many Black Men In Prison?” He writes, “African-American males are being imprisoned at an alarming and unprecedented rate. Out of the 10.4 million Black adult males in the U.S. population, nearly 1.5 million are in prisons and jails, with another 3.5 million more on probation or parole or who have previously been on probation or parole. Black males make up nearly 75% of the total prison population.” It is estimated that 1 out of every 10 black males will end up in some form of a correctional facility in their lifetimes.
• And there is economics and finance. Black unemployment is at 17 percent, while whites have a jobless rate of just 6 percent. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the rate for unemployed blacks has grown constantly in contrast to whites, and in some states the black unemployment rate is as high as 25 percent. United for a Fair Economy reported that blacks are three times more likely to be poor than whites. The median annual income of a black woman with a bachelor’s degree in comparison to that of a white male is almost $20,000 less. Black women also have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates at 126 per every 1,000 women.
With alarming statistics in every form of modern society, we should acknowledge that there is a problem.
I have a solution to many of these problems: God, the family, community and education that balances creativity with discipline. As President Reagan said in his “A Time for Choosing” speech in 1964: “If government planning and welfare had the answer — and they’ve had almost 30 years of it — shouldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?”
Now they’ve had almost 80 years of it.
According to Pat Fagan of the Family Research Council, “on every outcome,” the children who flourish most often are churchgoers with two parents, and those who fail most often are from a broken home and do not go to church. Furthermore, he notes, young black men with married parents go to jail at the same rate as white men with married parents — there is no racial gap — and young black men without married parents go to jail at the same rate as white men without married parents. “The reason for the education gap is not income,” he says. “It’s marriage and parents.” The same is the case for crime and drugs.
The thousands of people who marched certainly thought that we need more than marches to change many of the devastating challenges in the black community. We need to see real progress. We want to see people rise above these statistics. The old answers of government planning and welfare are not good enough. We deserve real solutions. The failures of safety nets do not justify more and more safety nets.
• Armstrong Williams is the author of the book “Reawakening Virtues.” Join him from 4 to 5 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. daily on Sirius/XM Power 128. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
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