Well, the question is not easy to answer... so I'll give the ADD answer up front. And those who still thirst for more can read the extended explanation with background information just below it...
Generally, when poor black youth find themselves making the decision to reject formal education, ignore the risk of teenage parenthood, and engage in violence/commit crimes it is for a number of reasons specific to environment of urban poverty. I see lack of educated, responsible, or willing parents as a major contributor to this phenomenon. If children have never seen right, how can they do right? Why must these childrens' mentors be black? All too often, legitimate and mainstream success is dismissed as being limited to the white world. A successful black man or woman can help to remove this as a barrier to progress, and an excuse to continue down the path to nowhere.
Still with me? Good. I have done a fair amount of research to assemble what is my best explanation of the problem at hand, and the way in which I aim to go about addressing it. Please continue.
The Problem is Real
The poor in the African American community are in trouble and getting nowhere fast. Yes, there are many African americans living in stable homes, with strong educational backgrounds, and well-paying jobs, but am I crazy to believe that this constitutes a minority among blacks as a whole? Maybe not. According to recent research..
Average SAT scores: Black: 857, Hispanic: 903, White: 1063, Asian: 1083
1 in 3 African American Males drop out of high school
1 in 3 African American Males are involved in the penal system
Only 32% of African American Children have Fathers in the home
50% of African American Children live below the poverty line
African Americans constitute 12% of the population but account for 43% of HIV cases
And damning statistics continue.
The Original Struggle
The overall goal of the Civil Rights movement was to remove government sanctioned barriers that prevented Blacks from accessing the resources that were freely available to Whites. Exclusion from equal education and equal job opportunities, and real estate were some of the most visible and crippling sanctions forced on past generations. While racism is unlikely to ever be eradicated, America has made great strides in applying it’s founding principles of freedom and justice to the African American. Overt racism has grown less acceptable over the last four decades. Wrongs have often been addressed through the legal system.. However, racism does exist and it can work against Blacks at every level of employment and commerce.
Prosperity for Many
Many Blacks lacked the patience to wait for the U.S. Government to grant them “permission” to excel. Many Black professionals, business owners, and even politicians prevailed despite the restricted social climate prior to more favorable legislation. In the past three decades, educational and employment opportunities have become increasingly available and blacks have gained broader access to America’s vast resources.
But it appears there has only been a slight increase in the percentage of African Americans harnessing these resources to build stronger families, finances, and businesses. So why the dismal statistics quoted at the beginning of this article? Why are Blacks not taking advantage of the wide open opportunities?
Since the early 60’s we have endlessly, and impotently, complained about the problems in the Black community. We have argued about the solutions. But the problems have only gotten worse. The problems the community faces:
Drugs (Cocaine, Crack, etc)
Non-existent or distorted fatherhood
These will be readily offered by anyone who has given some thought to the source of our current state of disarray. We could spend decades arguing about which is most significant and the appropriate way to deal with it. The time for argument has passed. We will never agree on everything. We don’t need another conference, another book, or another “Black Leader.” We need Men and Women of action. We need to address the cause of the disarray.
So what is the cause? I have read numerous articles, books, and blogs on the topic of improving the black community. I have heard all of the above listed factors and many more offered as reasons for the community’s decline. Although there are numerous problems to deal with, all of these individual issues point to a common theme. Young black people are not making good decisions.
They are choosing:
Time on the street vs time in school and studying
To have casual, irresponsible sex rather than establishing relationships and preparing for the responsibilities of parenthood
Instant gratification over savings and investments
Using violence as a means to status rather than intellectual and financial means
Why are our children making the wrong decisions???
The climate of severe poverty, with little potential for meaningful employment, combined with the spread of illegal drugs have given birth to what some would refer to as street culture. This culture has become a dominant force in the poor black community, and stands in direct opposition to mainstream society’s values of industriousness, responsibility and education.
Due to social and financial instability, many of the community’s youngsters lack parents that are capable of providing the support needed to deter them from aligning themseleves with the Street culture. Many children have a poor father figure or none at all. Too often, women are left to raise children, and provide for them financially. All of this with little education, earning potential, and life experience.
Even in the worst of neighborhoods, and the most drug infested and crime ridden streets, it has been observed that a stable, two-parent home can often deter children from adopting the street culture. Sadly, this arrangment is not a possibility for many of today’s inner-city children simply because their parents have never had a proper example to model themselves after. But all is not lost. What is most valuable to children in these environments is having a person from which to learn the steps to achieving legitimate success. Black men and women who can stand up and say that ‘this is how you succeed in America’, and oppose the street culture. This is not a quick fix, and will certainly not be easy.
Two days ago. I met my ‘little brother' Jamal, as arranged by Big Brother Big Sister. He is an inner city Baltimore youth of 12 years. His father is addicted to drugs, and his mother died from her addiction last year. He lives with his grandmother and is doing terribly in school. I am coming into this child’s life to show him another path to success before the streets manipulate him into accepting theirs.
Obviously, I am only one man with his own personal responsibilities and life. I can help only one, maybe two children at a time. But what if there were many Black men and women in my position doing the same thing? Men and women who have worked hard to earn an education, and start a career and who were also committed to improving the life of another. Men and women who were committed to showing a child another way? Will any of you reading this today join me?
This blog is dedicated to the pursuit of a very narrow set of goals. All of which are aimed at putting intelligent, responsible, Black men and women in positions where they can be involved personally with black youth, and guide them towards good decision making and a brighter future.