Thursday, March 30, 2006

Apologists Hurt the Black Man

In her column of 28 March in the Lexington Herald-leader, Merlene Davis remarked that a recent news account (Herald-Leader, 20 March) dealt with the fact that the plight of black men in the U.S. is worsening. This is what she said, “The story out of Baltimore said ‘data paints the most alarming picture yet of ravaged lives and, the scholars say, of a deepening national calamity that has received too little attention.’ On March 22, there was no follow-up, no outrage, no one incensed that in this nation an entire group of people is dying just as assuredly as if they had contracted bird flu. No one seems to care.”

It’s hard to imagine a statement like that, in the first place, but it’s even harder to imagine one so broad, as if black men could fall off the face of the earth, and no one would bother to see where they landed. She’s right in calling attention to the matter, outlined by Erik Eckholm of the New York Times News Service, but blatantly wrong in accusing everyone – except perhaps her – in not being outraged, either from the standpoint of compassion or one of disgust. Eckholm called attention to an amazing phenomenon concerning black men, namely, that in the country’s inner cities he is an exception if he graduates from high school, legal work is scarcer than ever, and incarceration rates are climbing even as urban crime rates decline.

Davis offered this quote: "I see the syndrome occurring, yes," said David Cozart, community involvement manager at LexLinc, a non-profit organization that coordinates services for low-income Lexington residents that lead to self-sufficiency. "It is the cyclical phenomena of fatherlessness." This is Davis’s interpretation of what Cozart meant: “What he's saying is that because this nation began severing black fathers from black children back in slavery, then continued that amputation with welfare regulations, we now have multiple generations of black men who don't understand true manhood.”

And therein lies much of the reason that the situation is as bad as it is, namely, that black males of today are incessantly indoctrinated by people like Davis, who have huge audiences, with the notion that they are the victims of slavery that ended 140 years ago, and that the white men of that era and the government of this era are responsible for the fact that black men are disadvantaged and don’t understand “true manhood,” though she didn’t explain how “true manhood” differed from any other kind of manhood. Victims, of course, are to be pitied and cared for, as well as understood, so they’re not expected to do anything for themselves.

Davis misstates the situation when she talks about this nation severing black fathers from black children as a continuing matter dating from the 1860s. It’s true that the obvious consequence of the behavior of black men who don’t finish school is that they will not get good jobs and thus are faced with the option of either working at what they can do, no matter how unskilled or low-paid, or turning to crime for sustenance and/or drugs for continual highs, a perpetual form of escapism from facing life. By their mid-30s, six in ten black men who have dropped out of school have spent time in prison. By this time, they also have either deserted families or sired thousands of children without benefit of marriage, the latter involving much the greater proportion. In other words, the concept of traditional family has been almost completely ignored, the result being the enormously high number of households headed by black women, with fathers who are totally undocumented and therefore totally without responsibility for their own offspring.

It has not always been that way, Davis’s inference to the contrary notwithstanding, not to mention her denigrating of black men who for years before 1960 looked after their families. A good method of approaching the reality is to look at the illegitimacy rate, since single women with illegitimate children are left to themselves, with a huge amount of help from the government, to conduct their fatherless families. In 1960, the rate of illegitimacy among blacks was 23.6% of births, meaning that 75% of black families could be assumed to be headed by a man and wife. Now, that rate is 70%, probably much higher in places like New Orleans, the logical conclusion being that currently only 30% of families are headed by both parents. So, there has been a long period of time since the Civil War when black men have known what Davis would probably call “true manhood.” There’s no blame to be placed on the society or black men for black-family disruption, since, comparatively at least, there was no significant disruption prior to 1960.

Perhaps Davis is at her misleading, distorting best in blaming “welfare regulations” for the problem, when she would be accurate in blaming “welfare entitlements.” By 1970, after the welfare enactments of the 60s, that illegitimacy rate had climbed to 37.5% (increase of 59%), as people realized that government checks were out there for the taking. The number increased another 32% by 1975, thus more than doubling in 15 years, and plateaued more or less in the 90s, reaching 70% by 1995. Whites have also gotten into the act, with illegitimacy rates increasing from 3 percent in 1960 to 28.5% in 2002 and probably 30% by now, for a probable increase of 900%. Disgusting!

If Davis wants the public to take notice of the problem, she needs to quit blaming the public for a bad situation obviously brought about by the best intentions of the public, through its lawmakers, to gain for blacks, men and women, perks that their forbears could only dream of. Notwithstanding all the contradictions to the contrary, quota systems, for instance, have been in place for decades, actually bringing about “reverse discrimination” and lawsuits resulting from it.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, at yearend 2004 there were 3,218 black-male-sentenced prison inmates per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,220 Hispanic-male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 463 white-male inmates per 100,000 white males. Even assuming a degree of societal impact causing the black-male problem, is it reasonable to simply accept as normal the fact that black men are headed to prison in numbers seven times more than that of white men or almost three times more than that of Hispanic men? No. Their problem, by far in the main, can no longer be laid to racial profiling, bad childhoods (although admittedly there’s a generational component), or much of anything short of the willingness to get by, no matter how and no matter who gets hurt, especially their illegitimate offspring. With a country trying to cope with eleven million illegal immigrants, millions of them simply wanting to work, this hugely inordinate group of black men either sit in jail or roam the streets. Until Davis can convince her own community that it must get its act together, she is simply blowing in the wind. Actually, she needs to get some kind of message to black women, who themselves share equally in this abysmal circumstance. It takes two to tango…also to raise a family.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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