"Nothing is going to change in Black America for the better as long as you have 72.5% of all the babies born with no father around," said Bernie Goldberg, on Monday night’s O’Reilly Factor. He was speaking in reference to the violence on Chicago’s streets.
Over the last several weeks, we have been inundated with stories of dozens of black youth dying on our streets. The violence is so bad, our city has made national news. Chicago neighborhoods have turned into war zones.
Over the last several weeks, we have heard criticism of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy for their failure to be able to stem the violence. At least one alderman has decried the use of "New York tactics" to combat Chicago street crime. Really? Blaming the mayor and the police is utterly ridiculous. Unless Emanuel and McCarthy leave their homes every weekend and shoot black children on the south and west sides, placing blame on them– rather than the shooter– will just allow the problem to get worse.
Is Bernie Goldberg right? And why hasn’t anyone else noted the high out of wedlock birthrate in our community? Not the mayor, not the Chicago media and not the Chicago Tribune, although they all to some extent dance around the situation.
Part of the problem is us: Black America. Our leaders (with notable exceptions, like Pastor Corey Brooks and educator Tim King) have been silent too long and now we’re in a position where violence in our neighborhoods is worse than Afghanistan.
Why are our children killing our children? What did we do wrong? What is our responsibility for the violence?
Why is some old crotchety Fox News contributor the only voice I’ve heard this summer telling us that maybe, just maybe, the fact that over 70% of children we give birth to are out of wedlock might play a role?
If we are fathering children and leaving, is crotchety old Bernie Goldberg wrong when he calls that "voluntary abandonment?" And if that horrific term applies, what are we doing to stop it?
If we are not parenting our children, then why is Emanuel to blame when our child kills? We can’t just keep on playing the race card ourselves without taking responsibility for our child’s actions. I don’t think Rahm Emanuel fathered a bunch of children in Englewood and then escapes back to Ravenswood when the shooting starts.
Mitt Romney had an excellent opportunity to speak to the black community when he was in front of the NAACP last week. You can’t blame Romney for not saying: "look, its going to be tough finding gainful employment for a pregnant 17 year old girl." But at that same convention, why are we not asking "why are our 17 year old girls having kids?" Why is the NAACP not asking the following questions:
– What sort of employment opportunity is society supposed to have available to a 17 year old mother without a high school diploma? What is the likelihood that she is earning the same amount as her white childless counterpart in 10 years? And if she’s not earning the same amount, is it racism or is it the result of her own (and our own) choices? And if she has less opportunity than her childless counterpart, what are we doing to change the decision making process?
– How are our young people supposed to compete in a society without a high school diploma when college graduates are finding they can’t get jobs?
– If that’s true, doesn’t it make sense to place more value on education? Why is "speaking white" a bad thing if it means you sound educated?
– What is the born out of wedlock rate for black children? Is it 72.5% as Bernie Goldberg claims?
– If the children borne out of wedlock rate is 72.5% for black children does that put the vast majority of our children at a distinct disadvantage upon birth?
– If our children who are having children are jobless with very little education, doesn’t that put their children and that family at a greater risk of poverty?
– If that’s true, doesn’t it make sense to chip away at the children borne out of wedlock rate while stressing the value of education?
– Why wouldn’t we find ways to chip at that rate, rather than point the finger at the Mayor of Chicago?
These aren’t new concepts. Michael Jackson sang about it in his 1983 Thriller album. In Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ he sang:
If you can't feed your baby (yeah, yeah)
Then don't have a baby (yeah, yeah)
And don't think maybe (yeah, yeah)
If you can't feed your baby (yeah, yeah)
You'll be always tryin'
To stop that child from cryin'
Hustlin', stealin', lyin'
Now baby's slowly dyin'
So why do we continue to have children we can’t afford and aren’t there to parent?
We will have to get used to the violence in our city unless we (Black America) are able to adhere to some basic concepts:
1. We need to value education. Our schools are not New Trier. But, if we start to value an education and what it can do for us, and we not only preach to our children the importance of education but continue by devoting time and energy to education in the home, our schools will get better. You’ll find that our teachers and administrators will work with students who want to learn and parents who want their children to learn. If we don’t send our children to school with respect for not only education but also their teachers, then our children won’t learn. And we can’t blame teachers for failing to teach children who respect neither the process nor teacher.
2. Do not get pregnant (or get someone pregnant) until you are done with your education. College is tough enough only juggling studies. If you add a child, although college graduation is not impossible, it is much less likely. We need to put ourselves in position to be able to afford our children. To be able to afford their clothes, to afford food, to afford a suitable place to live. If college isn’t your thing, get some work experience, knowledge, training and confidence that you can live on your own. That will give your child a sense of security, so they don’t have to get it from the streets.
2b. Do not get pregnant (or get someone pregnant) if you can’t afford your child. Newsflash: If you are 17 years old and not the child of an independently wealthy person, you cannot afford to have a child. If you don’t have a good paying job with benefits, you can’t afford the child. I hate to get all Suze Orman on you, but it’s true.
3. When you have children, PARENT. Be a good mother. Be a good father. Be present. Be available. Love your children.
Adherence to these rules doesn’t mean violence will end tomorrow. It won’t. But, the failure to do so guarantees the violence will not only continue, but get worse in the generations to come.
I just don’t understand how we can have a conversation about our kids dying in the street without discussion whether we have done something to put them there. It certainly isn’t fair to place blame on our mayor for a murder someone else’s son committed. And until we decide to parent our children and try to guide them to a better place in life– through preaching and more importantly through example– unfortunately, we will continue to see body counts rise as the mercury does.