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

DeborahinAthens

September 5th, 2013
6:43 am

I always tout of myself as open minded, I have volunteered for charities that help young, single mothers go to school and work by helping to pay for child care. Then, one day, by chance, I overheard two black “dudes” laughing about getting their money on “Mother’s Day”. Since it was winter, I expressed my confusion, then they informed me that on the day the Welfare money hits the accounts, they”collect” from their “Baby Mommas”. They both had multiple children from multiple young, dumb, stupid women who, first of all don’t value their own body enough to use birth control, and second of all are weak enough to put up with this kind of abuse. These single mothers, I have come to realize, seem to think that government subsidies pay for kids. After having two, three, four, five, six kids, and handing over the money to these disgusting cretins, they have nothing left. After trying to help one case where a young black woman in her early twenties with FOUR kids–all from different fathers–got pregnant with number FIVE, I just lost my stomach. This is a massive cultural failure which no one wants to discuss. First of all, we have to stop making it economically easier to get pregnant and stay on the dole, than it is to get up off their backs, off their butts and work. Then, the black community has to stop making excuses for these low lifes. They will suck up anything the government is willing to give to them. They feel it is okay to steal from people’s homesand cars. They mug people at gun point. What in God’s name happened to the moral fiber within the black community? When does the victim hood stop? I come from poor, Irish American stock. My father was one of thirteen children (all same mother and father). His father was a sharecropper that raised cotton, drove to FL to pick up watermelons to sell, moved houses, dowsed for wells…..anything he could to feed his family. My dad was an engineer at Lockheed. Never, ever in the equation was a government handout, divorce. You always were properly dressed, clean, neat. My grandfather never had running water, yet he was alway clean shaven, smell nice, and had clean clothes. My grandmother died before I was born, but I assume she put the fear of God in my aunts and uncles, since they have the same ethics and morals. Maybe instead of focusing on the black thug, athlete wannabe black guys, you should focus on the young black women. Make them value their bodies, value education. If their boyfriend wants sex, he needs to marry her, get a job and be a provider.After a generation or two, the black culture might right
itself. If it continues this way, they are lost.

Andy

September 5th, 2013
6:27 am

So what should we focus on? How about the school to prison pipeline fueled by no-tolerance policies and a tendency to criminalize any behavior of Black youths?

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Explain how the white kids, who sit in the same government school class next to the black kids, don’t seem to be breaking these same zero tolerance rules and/or laws the blacks kids disproportionately are breaking? Could it be because they are more likely to come from an involved two parent family whether or not those two parents live under the same roof?

Andy

September 5th, 2013
6:21 am

Sixty years of the federal government raising the majority of the black community has epically failed.

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

September 5th, 2013
6:17 am

You indicated this would be a “tough conversation” about black-on-black crime presumably with the intention of identifying solutions. Instead it is two people reciting a litany of negative statistics and finishing with what amount to platitudes. Dr. McCloud’s missive was particularly offensive; she even went to the trouble of coming up with a new name for Black underachievement, “Black slack”, how offensive.

Next time, why don’t we talk about what about our young men are doing right and how we can possibly replicate that for other young men. First of all, 5% of all college students are Black males which is proportional to the percentage of the general population and higher proportionally than White males. They graduate at lower rates, but that number rises every decade. The Black high school dropout rate is too high but it is dropping.

So what should we focus on? How about the school to prison pipeline fueled by no-tolerance policies and a tendency to criminalize any behavior of Black youths? It’s no secret that prisons do not “correct” anyone, instead they become incubators for future criminals. What about disparities in drug sentencing which again lead to higher incarceration rates which in turn lead to fewer job opportunities and you guessed it: more crime. And finally despite the beloved unwed mother rate, the overall birth rate among single young Black women is dropping significantly.

Why don’t we talk about economic investment in our communities and improving the schools? How about treating our young people as individuals instead of statistics? Get over the pants thing already, it means nothing. Expand vocational skills training for all youths. It shouldn’t be college or nothing.

Jazzpman

September 5th, 2013
6:16 am

This is a tough situation for all. Crime effects all, no matter who is killing who or committing a crime against who.

I found it terrible the Bush administration stopped most of the after school programs, and funding for the Boys and girls clubs of America, all while perusing War.

I think this did horrible damage to young children of lesser income for all, not just the black folks, allot of kids then were “running the streets “, and not getting any after school help. This has now become an issue with crime, as kids learned about crime, instead of valuable learning and play time.

The GOP would argue they don’t have to fund these poor kids activity, but the end action has young kids involved in much more crime.

I am amazed the GOP and even the Obama leadership would peruse War with Syria, yet continue to avoid dealing with the problems here at home. Seems as long as a buck could be made on War, then that is the bottom line as to what we should do.

I would be particularly upset to think my tax dollars are used for that, and not helping American’s.

WAR EAGLE

September 5th, 2013
6:06 am

Lets also point out that we have never had a President get involved in local events. This White House occupier likes to stick his nose in everything racial, when he is not on vacationing around the world or playing basketball or partying. This is the example he is showing for the blacks of today. Live off the white man b/c he owes you for being oppressed by slavery for a hundred years. This poor example is the reason our country is in worse shape than under Jimmy Carter. The black moochers parading around as reverends are just emphasizing this behavior. Wish they would follow role models like Bill Cosby and not some rapper or Al or Jesse.

MiltonMan

September 5th, 2013
5:29 am

“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.”

Hebrews were enslved alot longer than blacks but they seem to be over it. When is the last time you heard them complain that they were enslaved and therefore resort to crime????

SAWB

September 5th, 2013
12:24 am

In the last several months we’ve seen stories celebrating the movement of jobs back into Atlanta. While these actions should be celebrated the organizations mentioned seldom bring jobs that low skilled workers might qualify for.

State and City leaders need to focus on ways to bring decent entry level jobs to many of the communities in Atlanta and South DeKalb. While much effort has been made to woo bio-medical, information technology and financial organization few of these businesses are going to relocate to The SWATS. However, the right deal might attract a distribution company, manufacturer or call center which could provide good entry level jobs with some opportunity for advancement. This might require innovative tax deals, low or no rent and other regulatory relief. At one time Atlanta had ample opportunities for blue collar workers, but high taxes, real-estate cost and a less than friendly regulatory environment have pushed them to the burbs or beyond.

While I’m not naive enough to think that a few jobs will solve all the underlying issues we’ve got to start somewhere.

[...] A tough conversationAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)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. … To … [...]

InfraredGuy

September 4th, 2013
9:37 pm

Ms McCloud, NO ONE could have said it better. It’s past time for looking for every excuse under the sun by so called ” Black Leaders ” and race baiters it’s time to look inward and start being REAlL Leaders if they really want to ( which I doubt )