A tragic crisis of enormous magnitude . . .

Remember when Bill Cosby told black parents and communities they would have to take responsibility for raising their young people? Remember the outcry against him for his un-whining message? Here’s very much the same message from another wise black elder, columnist Bob Herbert. “A tragic crisis of enormous magnitude,” he says, “is facing black boys and men in America.” And he pulls no punches in assessing blame:

“Parental neglect, racial discrimination and an orgy of self-destructive behavior have left an extraordinary portion of the black male population in an ever-deepening pit of social and economic degradation.”

In other words, yes, there are forces in American society working against African-Americans in general and young black men in particular–but that doesn’t absolve the black community or the individuals themselves of their obligation to work aggressively to improve the situation. Among the depressing scenarios Herbert mentions: “The astronomical jobless rates for black men in inner-city neighborhoods are both mind-boggling and heartbreaking. There are many areas where virtually no one has a legitimate job.” Another: “More than 70 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers.” And: “By the time they hit their mid-30s, a solid majority of black men without a high school diploma have spent time in prison.”


I would add that there is at least one horrible influence on black youth that doesn’t receive sufficient attention: a media-supported culture of arrogant, defiant, law-scoffing, woman-exploiting, violence-celebrating, self-glorifying superstuds. What’s to be done about such unwholesome mythologizing? Do we merely shake our heads at the rampant bad role modeling?

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4 Responses to A tragic crisis of enormous magnitude . . .

  1. Ray Harris says:

    I read Bob Herbert’s op-ed too and found it terribly depressing. I do not have a background in education, but maybe that qualifies me to “think outside the box.” I would love for Bill Gates or some philanthropic organization to do some experimenting with inner city youths. Starting at an early age, maybe 3rd or 4th grade, allow boys from high crime neighborhoods to apply for safe harbor boarding schools. The youngsters should be screened by learning aptitude and emotional stability. Parent(s) should be able to sign out their kids for weekends and holidays.
    Strict rules should be enforced as to behavior and learning effort. Each year as the first class advances, the next grade level should be added until the 12th grade is completed. Scholarship funds should be made available for those achievers desiring to attend college.

    If my theory is correct, the ghetto kids would prove they are capable of learning and civil behavior if given the opportunity of escaping from violence and intimidation. It should not take more than a few years to find if this model could be applied to ever larger student populations.

  2. Ray,

    I’m all for it! But I’d sure like to see some black entrepreneurs promoting it.

    • Ray Harris says:

      Me too. Imagine if a mogul like Tiger Woods would have channeled hundreds of millions into such a program instead of paying off a wife of 5 years because he couldn’t keep his pants zipped up. And he had a pre-nup for gawd sake!

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