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

Andy

September 5th, 2013
7:25 am

Now I would love to discuss this with you further, but I have to go to the job that Andy and you think I don’t have.

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I never said you didn’t have a job. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and making excuses.

Jeff Knapp

September 5th, 2013
7:21 am

We have a society in which a growing number of children are being born into single parent households. Unfortunately, history tell us that males born into this scenario do have the “cards stacked against them”. However, lets first place the blame where it belongs – on the “parents” on this child. It is irresponsible to have any child outside of marriage and to have one anyway because “I want a baby” is the height of selfishness. We get mad at people who by a puppy at Christmas and then it ends at the dog pound a short time later, then where is the anger when babies are often intentionally born out of wedlock when – especially for males – they now face a high probability of being in jail. A few years ago I read statistics where over 70% of prison inmates and 70% of Youth detainees were from single parent homes. With the growing number of “fatherless” males these numbers will only rise. Yet we continue to celebrate when another unmarried woman has a child. Personally, I cry for that child.

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

September 5th, 2013
7:17 am

Deborah, I thought you said you were open-minded? I recited a fact for you and your mind refused to accept it because it didn’t fit in with the narrative you have built up in your mind. Try to wrap your brain around this:

Blacks males are 5.5% of the US population. Black males are 5% of all college students. What is so pathetic about that? Sounds representative to me.

On the other hand, White males are 32% of the population but make up only 27% of the college population. Not representative.

As for you working with “hundreds” of girls over the years, you do realize that you didn’t work with ALL the Black girls, right? What about the ones you didn’t meet? Do you understand the difference? I doubt it.

Now I would love to discuss this with you further, but I have to go to the job that Andy and you think I don’t have.

Morris Devereaux

September 5th, 2013
7:15 am

The biggest single social problem facing America, for ALL races, is the huge increase in single, unwed mothers. Yes, this impacts black families the most, but the rates for these single, unwed mothers are rising across the board.

What happens in these households is typical and predictable, a young mother with no help and typically little higher education, has to work outside of the home to bring in minimal wages. She doesn’t have the money to pay the high costs of daycare, so her children are frequently left to their own devices, with little or no parental guidance. When these young boys reach puberty and become bigger and stronger than their mother, there is little she can do to control them. Because she was unable to give them the guidance they needed when young, they don’t listen to her now. Because she has limited education, she neither knows the value of higher education nor how to help them get that education and as young men with hormones raging, they seek out action, adventure and sex.

Go back fifty years and you find young women being ostracized for getting pregnant before marriage. Society now embraces those same young women. When you approve and reward behavior, you’re going to get more of it rather than less.

So we can talk about this all we want, but until you embrace some of the old-fashioned ideas that DID work without throwing in the silly race and slavery card, you’re going to get the “new-fashioned” result that you’ve engineered.

Andy

September 5th, 2013
7:14 am

Of course you do, you think the “majority” of the Black community was raised by the government, whatever that means. That tells me everything I need to know about you. And Deborahinathens thinks that based on a conversation she heard between TWO young men that the entire Black community does not have moral fiber. Good grief.

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9 out of 10 black children under the age of 18 will eat from food stamps at some point in their life. This is just one of example of the government raising a majority of blacks.

Andy

September 5th, 2013
7:11 am

@Andy, so you actually think White kids don’t break the rules?

I said disproportionately break zero tolerance rules/laws.

Just like the disproportionate number of black males who don’t graduate HS and are in prison compared to white males.

DeborahinAthens

September 5th, 2013
7:06 am

No, Mrs. Norman Maine, my conclusions are after working for years with these black mothers. Hundreds of them. Clarke County has one of the highest poverty rates in the state, right here in the shadow of UGA. I drive down streets during the day and see young black men, pants hanging down, strutting around, sitting on front porches and stoops. No education, no jobs, no hope. If one of my sons had tried to walk out of the house dressed like a thug, I would have slapped ‘em up side the head. And I tried to instill honor, decency and respect for women. Both are married. Both have families. I hope the morals they were taught are the bedrock that will last their entire lives, and they teach the same values to their kids. By the way, my husband and I are not religious, don’t go to church. I look at the black religious “leaders” and shudder. The black community is certainly NOT getting guidance from most of them.

DeborahinAthens

September 5th, 2013
6:54 am

Mrs. Norman Maine, how on earth do you extrapolate that the pathetic 5% of black college attendees is higher, proportionately than white males? Do the math. That is not true. But that is beside the point. You don’t have to go to college to marry your children’s mother. You don’t have to go to college to be in the trades. There is a sneering attitude among young black high school students towards academics. Why is it that black mothers don’t encourage academic achievement more than athletics or trying to “score” big with buying three hundred dollar sneakers to sell on EBay? You know why? Academics achievement is HARD and requires a lot of parent involvement. When you have three kids, no money it’s hard to be involved.

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

September 5th, 2013
6:50 am

Of course you do, you think the “majority” of the Black community was raised by the government, whatever that means. That tells me everything I need to know about you. And Deborahinathens thinks that based on a conversation she heard between TWO young men that the entire Black community does not have moral fiber. Good grief.

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

September 5th, 2013
6:47 am

@Andy, so you actually think White kids don’t break the rules?