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?