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

CONCERN MOTHER

September 5th, 2013
10:05 am

OOH Thank God…………………..we’re talking about it……………………we as parents must come together and make ways to help our young people……..the struggle to get here,wasn’t easy..we have to stop talking and starting doing……..in New York,two died using the drug MOLLY which has taken over the our neighborhoods………….some of the rappers are making music glorifying it and the radio stations are giving them all the air play the love of money…….I go the the king march every the last 30 yrs…………..you can count the number of successful young people in the music industry who come just say thank you MLK and others for making a way………somebody please tell me how to help my young brothers and sister…..we need to address these drugs call…MOLLY….LEAN…ZANTAX

Jimmy

September 5th, 2013
9:59 am

As long as politicians buy black votes with free handouts as a reward for having kids black women will not marry period.The more kids the greater the welfare check and increases in the EBT cards.It is not just black women,whites and hispanics know how to play the game also.Reduce the benefits and increase the qualifications for same.Drug tests on a regular basis before you get free ANYTHING.

KatyWatts

September 5th, 2013
9:51 am

I just have one question. Where were Jessie Jackson & Al Sharpton when that poor Austrailian was murdered and where were they when that baby was murdered in Brunswick? They are the absolute worst examples of justice and equality of anyone in modern media.

Jewell Powell

September 5th, 2013
9:33 am

Mr. Badie, I read with interest your column today,especially where President Obama said “he would do everything in his power to fight gun violence and press congress to pass common-sense reforms”.
I think Dr.Melody T. McCloud had it perfect in her column dated Sept.5, It doesn’t matter the color of our skin, what matters is what’s taught at home. Fathers in the home ,education stressed,respect for self and others. Guns will always be available to those that want them. We need to teach our children respect,and give plenty of LOVE to them.When we do this I believe they will respond likewise.

Dejay

September 5th, 2013
9:28 am

Boy did this ‘conversation’ get off the rails in a hurry…

While one can try to blame the plight of Black America on slavery, you have to recognize this fact; the percentage of black children born in wedlock was well over 70% several generations after the Civil War. And in those generations, you didn’t see anywhere near the crime, drugs, and debauchery in most of the areas as you see today. You didn’t see scores of unemployable (not just unemployed; big difference) black folks draped in tattoos from head to toe and wearing pants down to their ankles as anyone can easily find today.

So what happenned? Black women were swayed by the women’s lib/feminist movement into being convinced that they were also being ‘oppressed’ by their black men even though there was/is clear evidence that it never took place. Hence, the welfare state was created, giving many of these women rent subsidies, Section 8, food stamps, WIC, EBT cards, free/reduced school lunch, etc. with the clause being in most cases that the black man had to go leave. Statistics clearly shows that the onset of single black mothers escalated around the same time as these laws were being implemented.

As time went on, many of these women became entitled to having their new husband, the government, to be there to bail them out of any and every predicament they came across. Meanwhile, the sons they had didn’t get to see a single male role model during their ‘tender years’; well, not one you’d want them to emulate. So without a moral compass to help steer them in the right direction, they found their pathway via street gangs, fast women (more on that in a minute), and the ‘thug life’ that gained mainstream popularity during the gangster rap era of the late ’80s/early ’90s. Suddenly, it became the cool thing to skip class, have sex in middle school, deal drugs, confront cops, smoke weed, and just act all out of place; the ones who didn’t were ridiculed in their own neighborhoods and schools to no end. They were accused of ‘acting white’ and were called ’sellouts’ when their families did the right thing and moved out of these areas once they were able to afford it (no small wonder why so few go back after leaving).

Meanwhile, the daughters that these ’single, independent’ black women raised were also taught to be just as entitled as their mothers to be given everything without the virtue of hard work. Many of them (NOT ALL) realized that all they had to do to get a place of their own was to have kids. And since the wayward, drug dealing, gun toting, uneducated guys looked so fascinating, they quickly attached themselves to those guys while ignoring those who wanted to improve their lives by going to college and persuing a viable career and/or business. They were also misguided into believing that the ‘thug life’ their men were living out was just a phase; that with a little help from her, he would soon transform into a loyal, responsible, church going, six-figure making man she envisioned herself being with since watching those Disney movies at age nine. When that doesn’t happen and they’re left with those 3+ kids to deal with on her own, she’s embittered into believing that ALL men are like that. So she calls herself now being a ’strong independent woman’ who is the mother and the ‘daddy’ to her kids; even though it was her poor decisions that got her there. And why not? She has Oprah and virtually every daytime talk show backing her up. She has the church, which spends Sunday service after Sunday service villifying men while absconding women of every past, present, and future transgression; yet they wonder why so few men want to go nowadays. And she has the government in her hip pocket, which becomes more aggressive by the passing day with VAWA, no-fault divorce, Title IV-D, and the like.

While women have become empowered over the last forty years by more programs and funds being shuttled their way, men (especially black men) were ignored. There is almost a 3:2 ratio of women graduating from college (even more pronounced when it comes to black women to black men); yet the White House is calling upon more programs to be created to get even MORE women (including black women) into school. As for the guys? Well, they’re told to just ‘man up’ and find a way to support the kids they fathered without having an education and/or training to get a job that pays. Yeah, they had a hand in creating those kids but the final decision was still the women who knew in advance that he was lacking, yet had unprotected sex with him anyway.

Perhaps, Bill Cosby was right after all. In fact, I know he was…

BuckeyeGA

September 5th, 2013
9:09 am

A point that seems to be missing is how much economics are a part if the issue. The stats I see stated above doesn’t break down to economic level. Single parent homes will be seen more frequent in homes with a lower poverty level. That would be true among all three races.

Desiree

September 5th, 2013
8:52 am

Dr. McCloud, to say that whites don’t “own” their racism enough is a pretty blanket statement to make. Blacks can be just as racist. And not everyone is.

Grrrrr

September 5th, 2013
8:52 am

@Tonyc, September 5th, 2013 7:57 am, very well said, and thank you.

John

September 5th, 2013
8:46 am

You are right when you talk about the breakdown of the black family. That’s where everything starts. Think about it, there are no more yes maam or yes sir in the black family. No respect is being taught at home. I agree about a lot of the younger males and females need to have more pride in themselves to become decent humans and stop looking for handouts, start working for theirs. It does take a village to raise a family properly, and our communities need to stop turning the cheek, acting scared when we need to step up and take our communities back.

joe

September 5th, 2013
8:43 am

Melody is correct on most of her points. The decay of the black family is the major issue here. The fathers simply are not around to raise their kids the right way. Thus, black male teens turn to the street for guidance and they are misled. For the overwhelming majority, basketball does not provide a way of life. Neither does rap or hip hop, and neither does dealing drugs.

But sadly, its seems those are just about the only avenues black teen males want to take. I see so many black kids dribbling their basketballs to the local parks, instead of carrying their backpacks to the library. Education is the only sure way to advance one’s self in today’s world. Sadly, until the black family makes a comeback, these problems are bound to continue, no matter what Obama or Reed try to do.