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

MrLiberty

September 5th, 2013
2:04 pm

With dozens of black elected officials under indictment, under investigation, or in prison for their crimes while in office, black youth in Atlanta certainly can’t look to the government to provide any role models. The rappers, the gang leaders, the race mongers, those who make a living off racially dividing us all, criminals in sports, criminals in church leadership, criminals in the police force and everywhere else and it is of little wonder black youth lack visible role models.

Not getting pregnant as an unwed female, not getting an unwed female pregnant, stepping up and marrying the other parent of your child, caring about your education, caring about doing a good job, teaching your children personal responsibility, teaching your child morals, reading to your child, teaching your child at home regardless of whether they attend school outside of the home or not and plenty of other responsible actions will all make a real difference and only require ADULTS to make the right choice and take the right actions.

Additionally, working to end the racist War on Drugs and working to end the welfare state and the welfare state mentality would really send the right message to kids regarding personal responsibility.

D. Blake

September 5th, 2013
1:57 pm

@insight — that’s what I’m saying. We need more grace & benefit of the doubt from one direction and more understanding of differences in cultural prioirities in the other. If a guy is going to rip you off he’s going to rip you off. If a guy is a hard worker he is a hard worker. If you base your undersanding of a person’s quality as an employee based on superficiality than you are a part of the problem.

Insight

September 5th, 2013
1:40 pm

To D Blake…how is someone going to get employed when they look like a thug, can’t speak properly, are rude, lack manners and have no basic training? first things first. You don’t just get a job; you need to be qualified for something, or at least appear willing to learn. Even if you flip burgers or greet shoppers, you need language skills, manners, proper attire, decency and most of all, a work ethic. These things are, or should be, taught in the home.

Insight

September 5th, 2013
1:36 pm

Everything boils down to choice.

Choose to do things that keep you oppressed, poor, unaccomplished, or choose education and more to gain work, advance, succeed. Choose to have unprotected sex, or get condoms. Choose to have babies out of wedlock, or wait to get married and better your child’s life. Choose to speak poorly, or learn proper English. Choose to be equipped to fight racism with intellect and respect when it rears. Choose to let your health go unattended, or take advantage of even free health clinics. Choose to take meth, or remain drug free.

Choice. We all have it, regardless of race. Make better choices, get better outcomes.

Let’s leave Sharpton, Jesse, etc out of it. No one wants to hear what they have to say at this point. New voices come forth, as in this column.

But the issue I have with Ms.Barnes’ article is at what age do the kids start getting attention and raising from “the village” that’s raising these kids? Before that village-eligible age, they are in some family, somewhere, born to some mother, etc. and may have already gotten off to a bad start.

It all starts in the home.

D. Blake

September 5th, 2013
1:14 pm

I don’t buy it. Family structure is not a goal in and of itself. Saying it is little more than ideological hokum in my opinon. Family structure may be a symptom of social health but more likely it is a convention subject to change over time. By focusing on social structures we risk repeating the mistakes of the Victorian Era by having Middle-class do-gooders attempt to impose bourgeois pretension upon lower classes.

The only way to end the cycle of poverty is to reduce the unemployment rate in the black community. It doesn’t matter if a father is at home if he’s not working.

Families are romanticized and idealized. Jobs are much less sexy. Jobs that pay a decent income are the solution to upward mobility, breaking the cycle of poverty, causing greater investment in local communities and jump-starting the virtuous cycles which will transform black America. In order to get jobs then we have to talk about integration in a meaningful sense. That integration has to include education. That education needs to begin now in our self-segregated schools and needs to not only to be informative but also cultural in all schools. We need fact-based and real-world-grounded education which is not afraid to address uncomfortable realities about class. We need reality-based social skills lessons which will help low-class folks appear outwardly acceptable in the eyes of those who hold the privilege and teach upper-and-middle-class folks to see across that social divide with grace and the benefit of doubt.

Don't Tread

September 5th, 2013
1:06 pm

If you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime (regardless of what gender/race/ethnicity you belng to).

If you do the crime, you belong in prison, at a minimum. No “get out of jail free” cards.

All_Doomed

September 5th, 2013
1:00 pm

@BOT @ 8:00, I totally agree with you.

We have to look at this situation from a different angle. The race angle is just us continuing to circle the wagon. The blame game gets us nowhere and we don’t have much more time to waste.

There are definitely problems in the black community that have gone on far too long without being addressed – education, single-parenting, welfare abuse, crime. In my opinion, these ills stem from a lack of self-worth and that lack of worth has been perpetuated thru the media. All we see are negative portrayals of Blacks in today’s society. Our first Black president can’t even get the respect that he rightfully deserves. The results however, affect us all regardless of race. We are all suffering as a result and will continue to until we put some changes into action. My suggestions (not in any particular order):
1. Tighten government aid
2. Stop the idolization of celebrities and promote true icons and legends who are making/have made a positive impact on society
3. Provide training opportunities for blue-collar paying jobs
4. Provide manufacturing plants and other blue-collar opportunities
5. De-criminalize non-violent crimes such as marijuana use
6. Stop racial profiling, our police forces should have more important things to focus on
7. Introduce and enforce curfews and truency laws
8. De-glamorize becoming a ‘baby-momma’, ‘baby-daddy’
9. Hire teachers who truly want to teach and give them the necessary tools at ALL schools
10. Provide opportunities to re-train parents who are underskilled for today’s info tech world

Bernie

September 5th, 2013
12:18 pm

AtlEng @ 12:04 pm – Your point has NOTHING to do with the main discussion of this article. You my friend are in a Fantasy Land only people of your ILK continue reside. Try to pull your Head out of all that is DARK and look around you. Such statements are easy to spout and a seemly QUICK FIX! but it does nothing to address Prison overcrowding and the daily introduction of New Young Black Youths to a Prison Culture that is teaching them how to commit more crime to inflict upon ALL of us once they are released.

Today, 10,000 will got to Prison, tomorrow another 10,000 and the day after! for years to come. what are we to do about them? We cannot hold them behind Bars forever!

Just telling them to go to school,start a business and America will Love YOU is a CROCK and you know it!

We MUST Do More!

AtlEng

September 5th, 2013
12:04 pm

Anytime we want to commemorate a Black inventor or genius, you should re-think statements like “Whites don’t care” or “The US is not fair to us.” People like our ancestors HAD to deal with REAL encounters of bigotry to rise to the top. Stop looking at time during our ancestors as a symbol of what we can’t do. Look at what they gave up for us to do better. We are squandering it. I mean, if we still had to endure what our ancestors did, more than half of us wouldn’t survive. Heck, we couldn’t survive the March on Washington in dress clothes. ( I know I couldn’t.) You don’t like what’s going on; or how an industry treates you? Start a business. Go to school. Learn. Better yourself. The opportunity is there. If you’re smart, no one can take that from you, period. Find a way to succeed.

Bernie

September 5th, 2013
11:50 am

Morris Devereaux @11:21 am – White America has NEVER CARED! so this BS excuse that they did care should cease. Their only response has been MORE Policing and Build MORE Jails and Prisons. Their solution has been to LOCK them ALL UP! Guess what! we did just that and this is the result.Increased recidivism. A revolving door if you will.

Now we are dealing with the result! Many of US knew that building more Jails and Prisons was not the solution. Now the CHICKENS Have COME HOME TO ROOST! We can No longer build enough Jails and Prisons to hold we are sending to PRISON today. The cost of incarceration is climbing exponentially and we can no longer accept its cost and expense. The real problem all along has been what are we going to do once they are released. The Prisons of America have become Higher Institutions of Criminal learning for these Youths. Not until we come to terms with this awful fact, we can only expect more.