A tough conversation

Moderated by Rick Badie

Today, the president and CEO of a nonprofit organization writes about the plight of our city’s young black males and exhorts more people in the community to do what her group does – make these men a priority and help “raise the village.” Meanwhile, a local medical doctor admonishes what she calls “black slack.”

Thanks for starting tough conversation

By Rick Badie

Recently, a reader fired off a letter demanding to know why there was no “outrage” from us regarding the murder of an Australian baseball player, allegedly by three teens in Oklahoma. Even though The Atlanta Journal-Constitution carried the story, as did probably all newspapers and media outlets, he called my profession a sham because – in his opinion – the athlete’s death didn’t garner the attention of Trayvon Martin.

The missive arrived days after our Aug. 22 Atlanta Forward page launched the start of a tough conversation on race and crime, notably blacks killing blacks. Those inaugural essays, with their disparate views, were well-received by our audience. The package garnered more than 60 reader comments. Of that number, only two had to be removed for being distasteful. Most comments were heartfelt and showed concern.

Like this one from “Q”: “Here’s a great example of what this issue faces. I agree with everything Jerome Hudson wrote but, being a 45-year-old white male, publicly expressing the same thoughts would end up costing me everything I have. Until two people of different races can review facts and draw the same conclusions and not have one labeled as a ‘racist this’  or ’sell-out that,’ we simply cannot begin to have intelligent discussions that lead to positive changes. People will find self-preservation more important.”

These and other comments suggest that, perhaps, we, our community, stand ready to engage in a discussion that affects all of us, regardless of zip code. Moreover, if nudged, we may be ready to get off the sidelines in large numbers and address violence by youth regardless of color.

It’s a notion that’s taken root. Last Tuesday, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Police Chief George Turner met with President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder at the White House to discuss strategies to reduce youth violence. President Obama, in a pledge to the 18 mayors in attendance, said he would do everything in his power to fight gun violence and press Congress to pass commonsense reforms.

The good of our children has become a platform for the Reed administration and the Atlanta Police Department.

“We have a responsibility to shape our children’s futures,” Reed said in a statement. “They need positive role models to guide and mentor them so they don’t make the wrong choices that lead to a criminal life.”

Added Turner: “We want our officers to reach children on the front end, through athletic and life skills programs, rather than reaching them later when we are forced to place them in handcuffs due to their poor choices.”

Today, we present the second installment of this critical ongoing discussion regarding crime. It’s a complex issue that burns and demands your attention. Please share your thoughts, ideas and potential solutions on myajc.com and on the ajc.com Atlanta Forward blog.

Help raise villages of young black men

By Norma Joy Barnes

From the schoolhouse to the courthouse, the odds seem to be pervasively stacked against the black male. Unemployment rates, school dropout rates, income levels and incarceration rates of black males, compared to white males and black females, are clear indicators of challenges they face. This is particularly true for young black males 18 to 28. Too many in this age bracket are caught in the gap between youth and full manhood, with no hands-on support to help them succeed in life.

A disproportionate number of these young black males are poor, uneducated, unskilled, unemployed or underemployed. They are faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. The unemployment rate for young black men is more than twice the rate for young white men; young black men are less likely to graduate from high school than young white men and are nine times more likely to die from homicides, seemingly “black-on-black” crimes.

Based on Georgia Department of Corrections data, black males represent 27 percent of Georgia’s population, but represent 68 percent of Georgia’s prison population. Incarceration rates are even higher in Fulton (87.1 percent) and DeKalb (87.3 percent) counties.

Although these statistics paint a bleak picture, the Community Council of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc. (CCMA) believes the odds faced by young black males can be overcome with constructive strategies. To address these challenges, CCMA provides free “Overcoming the Odds” workshops; the Priority Male Institute, a 16-week job readiness institute; the 12-week DNA Young Fatherhood (Devotion, Nobility and Accountability) program; and a Man2Man mentoring program, all for black males 18-28 years of age.

Since its inception in 2008, CCMA has provided 40 free programs, serving over 1,000 black males. It has been extremely difficult obtaining funding for these programs due to the lack of priority. Many seem to feel young black males are to be blamed for their dismal state without understanding that many of them have not received the critical support needed to succeed in life. What they fail to understand is that far too many of these young men have grown up without fathers or male role models to help them navigate their journey toward responsible manhood. What people also fail to realize is that without outside support, these young men will perpetuate this legacy as they raise male children of their own. Further, without gainful employment and viable resources, they will be more likely to engage in unlawful activity. Young black men need our support.

I have always felt that it takes a village to raise a child, but now know that “a child of God” can help raise a village. There are villages of young black males who need help to raise the quality of their lives. Enough talk, let’s help raise the villages!

Norma Joy Barnes is CEO and president of the Community Council of Metropolitan Atlanta Inc.

Fixing black families

By Melody T. McCloud

Seventy-two percent of black babies are born to unwed mothers. High school and college graduation rates for black males are at an all-time low. Black-on-black crime appears to be soaring. Young males seemingly can’t go to a house party without someone getting shot or killed. It is disgraceful and inexcusable.

Some blame these current ills on slavery, and excuse the actions of uneducated and criminally-minded blacks as if they don’t have a choice in how they conduct their lives. It’s 2013. They do.

Whites also have ills: White males are angry. Some commit mass murders. Whites often use methamphetamines, commit suicide or die from anorexia or the “choking game.” While some blacks cry racism too often, whites don’t own or acknowledge it enough.

Too many blacks eagerly embrace what I call “Black Slack.” They take the path of least resistance. Proper attire has lost out to thug wear; biomedical engineering to basketball; romantic lyrics to vile hip-hop; civility to criminality. Learning proper English is trumped by “ebonics.”

A black person who encourages education and personal responsibility is often called a traitor. That is nonsensical, irresponsible and ignorant. The foolishness adopted by many black youth (and some parents) needs to stop. It’s inexcusable.

There are simply too many black children born out of wedlock and too many absentee fathers. There must be a restoration of black families that consist of married mothers and fathers.

Civil rights leaders fought, and some died, so blacks could have their rightful, fair chance at the American dream. Many honored those efforts and became dedicated company employees, professionals and entrepreneurs. But in recent decades, too many have squandered previous advances.

Today there’s no insistence on education, proper language skills, attire, morality, decency or respect for life – one’s own or anyone else’s. Black women need to respect themselves. Stop having babies without the benefit of marriage. There are too many (poorly-raised) children having children. Likewise, black girls need in-home, responsible fathers so they don’t seek “love” from sex-crazed boys, get pregnant, and continue the cycle of fatherless, undisciplined and poor-achieving offspring.

The black family needs men who know how to lead, read, respect and protect. The black community has self-inflicted internal bleeding. Hemorrhage. The prescription is one of tough love. But without remedying the above-mentioned ills, the patient, in this case the black community, will remain in grave condition.

Dr. Melody T. McCloud is an Atlanta-based OB-GYN.

67 comments Add your comment

L. E. McHugh

September 6th, 2013
7:25 pm

The statistics and characteristics mentioned by your Guest Columnists are as undeniable a they are disturbing. Thankfully, the concerns are not universal. Most of the young black men that I know are educated professionals. Most of them were raised in stable homes. Those now with children of their own are caring, affectionate fathers. Then again, I don’t hang out around public housing.
Dr. McCloud paints a frightening picture and calls out for personal responsibility. Ms. Barnes runs an organization that is providing valuable resources for at-risk youth. But I think the problems start earlier. Any child born to a teenage, single mother who is a high school drop out is practically doomed. What kind of early-childhood development can we reasonably expect from household run by a poor, single, uneducated mother?? This almost invariably leads to a life of poverty and poor schools along with the problems they bring. Education and planned parenthood are the primary challenges. Let’s start there.

Insight

September 6th, 2013
5:48 pm

PRJ, Sadly the black church has been greatly ineffective over centuries, especially recent decades. Most black churches are 80-90% women; most of the men who are there are feminized, and that, too, affects the community.

We can all pray, believe, and ‘not claim’ stuff; but if we don’t stop only looking above, and actually look at what’s happening here on earth, and do something for ourselves, it’s all for naught. Folks will pack out a concert, but the church is empty for an educational program on money, health, marriage, sex, decency.

Yes, harness commitments to be family men and women and refocus the church’s efforts not on being megachurches where the pastor doesn’t even know his members, but on providing life lessons to help people grow as families and as a community will be good. Keep up the good work; maybe you can make a difference.

Peter Rhea Jones

September 6th, 2013
3:23 pm

I have some strong black students in the Christian ministry at McAfee School of Theology with a growing vision to reach and minister to more men. Dallas Wilson of the Center for Hope is focuses with his doctoral project on ministry to men. Gary Burge, one of our alumni, is leading a ministry to men imprisoned.The church has a considerable influence and presence in predominantly black communities and once their commitments are harnessed can and will make a lasting difference.

Starik

September 6th, 2013
8:23 am

One thing we can do, as an employer or in everyday contact with underclass kids is to give them a chance… remember the awful neighborhood they live in, all the negative influences that bombard them, the low expectations for them at inferior segregated schools and try to help them if they want to be helped.

What we shouldn’t do is listen to the Al Sharpton school of leadership, or tolerate incompetent, rude and unpleasant workers just because they’re black and might sue you or accuse you of being racist. Its not racist to require the same ability and attitude from everybody.

William Sadler

September 5th, 2013
6:25 pm

Dr. McCloud, I support the views that you expressed in you recent article, “Fixing black families” and commend you for bravely expressing your views. I had never heard the term “Black Slack” but find the concept to be accurate. Parents are responsible for raising their children and passing on their values to them. In the absence of responsible parents leads to the absence of proper role models for the children. This isn’t a racial issue but rather a cultural issue.

Dusty

September 5th, 2013
3:46 pm

Well, this is beyond me to solve.

But…. I hope all communities are supportive of their citizens. That all citizens are considered equal and all try to be equally good citizens.

That all children are loved, cared for and educated.

That we all love one another in every way, even those who are unlovable.

That we remember that every person is a human being with joys and problems. Everyone!. No one is exempt. Not a one.

All this may not be considered a solution to “problems.”. But it is a thought and a hope.

Insight

September 5th, 2013
3:00 pm

As an employer, I am NOT going to hire someone walking into my business looking like a thug and who can’t speak English. First impressions matter; work ethics matter.

These boys, and seemingly the non-profit lady, can’t say they ‘can’t get’ a job; maybe that’s because they don’t show up (at all), or when they do, they look a hot mess and can’t make sentences. You have to look and be respectable. Some things are just not acceptable and will hold you back.

Choose to succeed and dress the part, learn to speak and value the language–as in English. Stop spending money on ‘blinged-out teeth,’ etc.