Children don’t come with manuals, though Proverbial guidance says “train up a child in the way he should go.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Unlike big-screen TVs, cars and computers, there is no how-to booklet or quick-start guide to peruse for child-rearing, and because government keeps teaching young parents and older adults how to game the system, if that child is male, ungifted and black, odds are he will end up in the hands of the criminal justice system, rather than in the armed forces, an institution of higher education or on a career path.
It’s a problem the majority-black leadership in Washington has been grappling with since Adrian M. Fenty became D.C. mayor in 2007, and it’s an issue his successor, Vincent C. Gray, must overcome if he doesn’t want to be a one-term chief executive like his predecessor.
The recent news that the citywide unemployment rate remains at 9.8 percent underscores the root of the black residents’ problems, and the picture is as grim now for families as it was a decade ago, when the jobless rate stood at only 5.8 percent.
As Marvin Gaye sang, the deep-rooted problem “makes me wanna holler, throw up both my hands.”
Whatever happened to personal accountability?
It doesn’t appear to be surfacing in our houses of worship or on the nonprofit front, and when that happens, government steps in to try to fill the void.
To that end, Mr. Gray and D.C. Council members are pushing job-training programs — a throwback to the 1960s and ‘70s politics that spawned the very problems we have today.
Back then, as Jim Crow was dying a horrible death, liberal and black politicians pushed federal, state and local job-training programs. One such law, the federal Workforce Investment Act, claimed its mission was to provide job training, adult education and work-force development programs that would help states and localities train and retrain workers.
Well, if initiatives like that work, why such staggering unemployment numbers among black folk two generations later?
Poor schooling and poverty-pimping politics — and the lack of personal responsibility.
Every major constituency pressed the jobs platform during the last D.C. election cycle, with advocates and candidates pointing out that while the citywide unemployment rate was 12 percent in January 2010, the rate in Ward 8, where former Mayor Marion Barry is council member, stood close to 30 percent.
On top of that, ornery pathologies that have afflicted blacks for decades remain troublesome because, try as they might with government programs, city leaders can’t seem to press them downward.
It’s truly a black thing, which is why expectations are that Mr. Gray has a magic wand at the ready.
Ward 8 and its neighboring Ward 7 are home to more special-education students than any other ward, and they also are home to multiple chronic health problems, high dropout rates and festering crime rates that has left a generation of youths as both victims and perpetrators of crime.
That’s the legacy of race-based politics, but it’s hardly the legacy the leaders of the civil rights movement had in mind when they risked life and limb to battle and bury Jim Crow.
As the new Gray administration moves forward, policymakers would do well to implement policies that force a man to stiffen his spine. How about a State of the District address that gives more than lip service to a little thing called personal responsibility?
Whether it’s housing, clothing, food or another free adult-education program, government is there to stand in the stead of self-reliance.
Where’s the incentive to buck up if there’s a government handout just for saying “present” or signing on a dotted line?
Here again, black folk will breed yet another generation of lost youth as long as they think a government manual of liberal policies is the way forward.
As the Proverb says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.