Last week, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter, Dr. Bernice King, led an impressive 50-year anniversary march honoring her father’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. President Barack Obama, along with two former U.S. presidents, and many celebrities and dignitaries were in attendance. While participating in my first ever march, I was somewhat surprised at how many necessary, relevant issues of today were overlooked and not considered by the impressive platform of speakers.
The Black community collectively faces a series of problems, each related to the others, each compounding one another, and we must face them all together. We as a nation cannot ignore any of them. Interest groups, fundraisers and politicians would like most to believe that circumstances can be changed by retooling underprivileged areas, as though people were robots, without any study of behaviors and free choices. It’s about as effective as bringing a tennis racket to a baseball field.
Those in authority have their own agenda; they treat moral transgressions like food they pass over in a buffet line—they don’t want to hear or think about them, so they don’t. Against these well-funded politicians and interest groups feasting on the “social ills” of the Black community— as though they are inanimate objects unable to make their own choices— we must affirm their freedom and look at the choices many of them make.
First, there is the family. Eighty-five percent of poor Black children live in single-mother households. Such children are four times more likely to live in poverty as those with two parents. Because a majority of Black youth is being raised by single mothers, we must study these mothers. I have found that 38 percent of these mothers live below the poverty line; 62 percent of these mothers had never been married; and almost half of them were also raised by single mothers! The lack of a proper family structure has become a revolving door of ill behavior. Is it possible that a horrible family structure could spill over to other areas of life, including employment and education?
Within the Black community, there has been much talk of bringing about a change to every person of color, and while the methods to bring about this change are constantly debated, many Black people, including myself, agree that a change is needed.
There is crime. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, while Blacks only make up 12 percent of the population, they account for 44 percent of all prisoners—the majority of any race in prison. Demico Boothe, a former prisoner turned writer, composed a book titled “Why Are There So Many Black Men in Prison?” He writes, “African-American males are being imprisoned at an alarming and unprecedented rate. Out of the 10.4 million Black adult males in the U.S. population, nearly 1.5 million are in prisons and jails, with another 3.5 million more on probation or parole or who have previously been on probation or parole. Black males make up nearly 75 percent of the total prison population.” It is estimated that one out of every 10 Black males will end up in some form of a correctional facility in their lifetimes.
There is economics and finance. African-Americans have a current unemployment rate of 17 percent, while whites have an unemployment rate of 6 percent. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the rate for unemployed Blacks has grown constantly in contrast to whites, and in some states, the unemployment rate for Blacks is as high as 25 percent. United for a Fair Economy reported that Blacks are three times more likely to be poor than whites.
African-Americans are the highest collective group, outside of Native Americans, under the poverty line ($19,500), at 24 percent. The median annual income of a Black woman with a bachelor’s degree in comparison to that of a white male is almost $20,000 less. African-Americans have a 45 percent dropout rate; whites have 31 percent rate. Black women also have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates, at 126 per every 1,000 women.
With alarming statistics in every form of modern society, we should acknowledge that there is a problem. I have a solution to many of these problems: God, the family, community and an education that balances creativity with discipline. As President Ronald Reagan said in his “A Time for Choosing” speech: “If government planning and welfare had the answer—and they’ve had almost 30 years of it [now they’ve had about 70 years]—shouldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?”
According to Pat Fagan of Family Research Council, “on every outcome,” the children who flourish most often are churchgoers with two parents, and those who fail most often are from a broken home and do not go to church. Furthermore, he notes, young Black men with married parents go to jail at the same rate as white men with married parents—there is no racial gap—and young Black men without married parents go to jail at the same rate as white men without married parents. “The reason for the education gap is not income,” he says. “It’s marriage and parents.” The same is the case for crime and drugs.
The thousands of people at that march throughout the day echoed that we need more than marches to change many of the devastating challenges in the Black community. We need to see real progress. We want to see people rise above these statistics. The old answers of government planning and welfare are not good enough. We deserve real solutions. The failure of safety nets does not justify more and more safety nets.
Armstrong Williams is the author of the brand-new book “Reawakening Virtues.” You can find more content on RightSideWire.com. Come join the discussion live 4-5 p.m. EST at www.livestream.com/armstrongwilliams or tune in 4-5 p.m. EST on S.C. WGCV, Sirius/XM Power 110, 6-7 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. EST. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.