Despite the fact that much positive change has occurred to America’s political social and racial landscape, some continue the mantra of victimization that persists in painting a picture of an infantilized, helpless black population.
Case in point was today’s op/ed in The New York Times by columnist Bob Herbert. Commenting on the public flap that’s developed between Newark’s Mayor, Cory Booker and late-night comic Conan O’Brian, Herbert accurately describes urban realities in Newark as dismal and dangerous. He rightly observes that Newark is not alone in this – it’s a fact from Baltimore to East Oakland.
However, Herbert then takes a (political) left turn and attributes the woes of urban America to what he called “twisted national priorities” – something that’s been the fall-back language of the nation’s left since the Sixties.
Has he conveniently forgotten a vigorous War on Poverty that netted nothing in the reduction of poverty rates? Is he ignoring what Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned us about over 40 years ago? After years of black economic and educational progress, Moynihan warned that a collapse was occurring in urban black families that would result in chaos and crime. Of course, black leaders of that time accused him of “blaming the victim.”
Few took Moynihan’s warning seriously – pushing ahead with social engineering schemes and welfare entitlements. Today, 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock and 60 percent are raised without fathers present in the household. On this matter, the data is clear: children raised without the benefit of married parents and intact, stable families are more likely to go bad.
Recently, on the mean streets of Chicago, that “going bad” looked like a 16 year old kid getting beaten to death by a mob of thugs.
Herbert referenced this latest atrocity in Chicago, and wrongly argues that “we’ve stood idly by, mute as stone …” and claimed that Americans watched the televised video of the killing “… in ghoulish delight ...” However, it is unhelpful speculation to imagine that any sane person took delight in seeing an innocent teenager lose his life to a pack of vicious thugs.
The 16 year old who lost his life to a gang “beat-down” was Darrion Albert, who apparently was simply trying to get home at the end of a school day. In some neighborhoods this is easier said than done. In Chicago, there were 43 killings and 29 shootings of young people last year. Just since January, 40 students have been killed there in violent incidents.
Despite Herbert’s claim that inner-city violence is largely ignored, President Obama dispatched Eric Holder, the Attorney General, and Arne Duncan, his Education Secretary, to Chicago following the killing of Albert. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has chosen to throw money at the problem. Duncan announced that the school attended by the dead youth will receive $500,000 in federal money. But toward what end?
Even more useless is a new study of youth violence in Chicago, financed with $60 million in federal stimulus grants. Its brilliant analysis is that students at highest risk of violence are most likely to be black, male, without a stable home, in special education, skipping an average of 42 days of school, and having a record of in-school “behavioral flare-ups.” So, taxpayers paid $60 million to hear the things almost everyone already knew?
Herbert lists the issues facing urban communities, things that include employment, education, crime, as well as alcohol and drug abuse. All are issues that have received endless debate, attention and literally truck-loads of tax-payer dollars. Yet the problems persist. No one is more aware of this than residents of black urban communities. The U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics confirms that almost half of the people murdered in the nation each year are black, and 93 percent of those are killed by someone of their own race. They desperately await realistic answers to the problems.
Herbert rightly argues that we should think seriously about what’s going on in cities like Newark or Chicago and I agree. However honesty is demanded if that discussion is to mean anything.
In the film “Barbershop,” a character named Eddie argues that O.J. Simpson killed his ex-wife and her friend, and that “Rodney King should have got his ass beat for driving drunk.” And his final piece of working-class wisdom? For the black community to begin solving their own problems, Eddie says “black people need to stop lyin’.”