What blame does Black America have in Chicago’s rising murder rate?

What blame does Black America have in Chicago’s rising murder rate?

“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.


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  • No one in the black community has the guts to come out and say what Bernie Goldman did. They will just point at the crotchety white guy and call him racist.

    When a 16 year old boy willingly beats an old man for sport, that young man wasn't "raised." He was neglected and left to run the streets.

    The black community needs more role models like yourself who can give a voice to decency and education and not a political agenda.

  • Great article! I wholeheartedly agree that no one is more responsible than parents. My only question is this: If we can agree that a prioritization of education is vital to changing a culture of violence, then who is to blame when quality education is not prioritized and when sub-par standards continue to persist in Chicago's schools for (literally) decades upon decades? To me, this is very much a policy issue that holds a mirror to the extent in which everything but education has prioritized in our City. I'm really curious about your thoughts on this!

  • In reply to Kay S:

    Thanks Kay. This was one of the articles I had trepidation when my finger was over the "post" button. I half considered sending to you for your opinion (because I value it) prior to posting, but read and reread, made adjustments and felt comfortable that this is what I wanted to say.

    Education: I agree with you that the system is broken. But my thought is throwing money into areas where the system has failed children is wrong-- if that's all we're doing. I am not an educator, but when we had children, we were told (or we read somewhere) about the importance of reading to your children 20 minutes a day everyday. The point is education starts in the home, so to change the atmosphere, parents must be involved. We can't just send our kids to school and say: be good and go learn. We need to be involved in their education. Being involved in our children's education and having respect for our teachers and the process certainly is a start-- and it doesn't rely upon someone else like the state or the city to start that process. It starts in the home and it the school with a parent's organization.

    I have a Bible that has the a hand reaching up towards the heavens and a hand reaching down toward earth-- the message being, He will lift you up, but you need to do something and reach for Him to get help. Isn't education the same way (really isn't everything the same way?) Don't we have to do something get something in return?

  • In reply to Brian C. Thomas:

    I believe that you put too much emphasis on education. Education is viewed only as a tool to make more money. Life is not about money, money, money. There are plenty of areas in this and other countries where the people are less educated and do quite well; some drop out of school and even go on to owning their own businesses and become wealthy. Emphasis should be on MORALS. Without a strong moral upbringing, children will never understand right from wrong, or their responsibility, or or outcome of their actions. Blacks are one of the only races that fail miserably in the morals department. It's why blacks riot when they disagree with something, instead of peaceful protests, it's why they commit so many crimes throughout their life, why they arguments are settled with a gun/knife instead of discussion, etc.

  • In reply to Kay S:

    Hi Kay. We live in a school district in Louisiana, We are hard working middle class people, but most of the kids in our schools are in lower income (i.e. single parent family) neighborhoods. Misbehavior abounds, so that you're kids learn how to fight before they learn Algebra. No offense, but all the policies and money in the world won't help unless we acknowledge this family problem. Dads need to raise their kids, and they are not staying with mom anymore. 2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my Name will humble themselves, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin, and heal their land.

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    In the day of my mother and grandmother the mantra was, it takes a community to raise a child, now we turn our backs, mind our business and if it doesnt affect us directly we turn a blind eye cause we do t want to get involved. Why is that? We are raising a society of children who doesnot care about their fellow man or woman for that matter. We are raising a culture of children who have no clue what accountability is because we make every excuse in the book as to why they can't do but are we telling them why they CAN do? How many of us are apart of mentoring groups? How many of us has reached out to those who can reach our lost children and said hey tell these babies your story? You have been where they are now and you can make a difference. We should all feel accountable. Just my 2 cents. This is a heated topic on one of my friends face book pages also, while its a good subject to talk about, if all we are doing is talking then we are failing.

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    In reply to Gloria Weatherspoon:

    Excellent Gloria. My mother grew up in Chicago but my father was for all practical purposes from a little Amish village - no electricity in his village until he finished HS. When I was born in 1961 my father had moved my mother and siblings to a mining town of about 10,000 people, and everyone there knew everyone, and knew their kids. Lots of community picnics, etc., organized by stay at home moms with 4-7 kids, and all those kids were 'afraid' of every adult because every adult was an authority figure. Those types of families and communities don't exist hardly anywhere anymore and there is less diffrence between white kids, latino kids, and black kids than ever before, and all are headed in the same negative direction. Your enemy will always defeat you by dividing and conquering you - who did that to the American family? While other neighborhoods are not yet seeing the same level of violence as some in Chicago - they are worse than ever too - for the same reason. Kids needs Mothers and Fathers - and Neighbors too.

  • You are dead on, my friend!! I have written a few blogs that you might be interested in reading about this topic. Please read them and tell me what you think.




  • In reply to Tracy A. Stanciel:

    Tracy, thanks for commenting and thanks for sharing the three posts you wrote. I read your "chicago homicide problems begin at home" post this morning and intended on posting that as a comment here, because I thought it was right on. As usual, I ran out of time.

  • Thank you for this article, and you are spot on! I had to chuckle at your comment about "speaking white," as I experienced that in college (along with, "you don't sound black"). I grew up in an area that was mixed, but predominately white. So when I was around other african americans who were not from my area, I often got that comment. Which is sad to hear, considering you will accomplish more, if you don't sound like you are standing on a street corner. I completed college and law school, and would not have become a successful attorney if I could not speak proper English. I'm married with two kids and my husband is a great father. But he grew up with his father (7 kids) in the home, so he had a model.
    I wish more people would address this elephant in the room. I work in law enforcement, and unfortunately see far too many young black men who have fathered 5 and 6 kids with 3 or 4 different women and they are now on their way to prison, leaving another generation without a father. It's very sad and discouraging.

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    In reply to Ladyleo:

    I want to piggyback on your comment about "speaking white." I remember getting teased many times about "talking white" when I was a kid and I used to get so pissed off about it. I started incorporating the n-word and random slang into my vocabulary to show I was "in," but when you have a family that encourages education, they couldn't care less what somebody ELSE said. I'd go to my (paternal) grandmother's house and she'd correct my vocabulary all the time. I thought it was INCREDIBLY annoying, but her constantly corrected me, my mother always providing books for me to read, my father taking me to the library and my grandfather randomly making me do assignments (like writing out roman numerals to 100 -- dumbest assignment EVER to me, at the time) made it inevitable that I would value school. Nowadays I'd read somebody the riot act for telling me I "talk white." When I got to college though that stopped. By grad school it was a given. I can still go in and out on vernacular (and grudgingly am a hip-hop fan so I'm always up on the latest slang), but I appreciate that I can mingle with both groups. I'm also appreciative that I now don't look at "talking white" as a con. I've snapped on many, many people about why it's counterproductive to think that anyone who has an education sounds "white" as if it's impossible for black people to use English correctly. Our history didn't start OFF with us not being able to speak/read. We were thrust into circumstances where reading was illegal and you'd be abused for it; people were forced to drop out of school to help take care of the land; and because their role models did not go to school they couldn't help them in school. Now? We don't live in those circumstances so there's no reason we shouldn't be learning. (Text messaging is making us lazy, too. We're shortening everything and spelling things wrong on purpose. A girl on YouTube sent me a message talking about "skool" and I died. I asked her if she always spelled "school" like that and she told me it was slang and just online speak. Online speak travels to school speak and school speak travels to assignment speak. Guess who loses?)

  • Speaking correct English will probably lead to a better job and more money. If someone tells a black kid they are "speaking white", the kid should tell them, "no, I am speaking rich".

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    Great article. I have always thought that "ghetto culture" is one of the biggest hurdles blacks face. For instance, you can earn straight A's your whole life. But does a company want an executive who talks ghetto? Can you imaging an executive of a Fortune 500 company saying "my company gots good profits. dat's da troof."
    Also, birth control is frowned upon. We all know the result of this.
    Finally, there's a lack of respect for authority in the ghetto culture. There was a situation about a month ago where a police officer asked a black woman for her license when she parked in a handicapped spot. The women responded with "I ain't givin you sh*t". She did this with her young nephew in the car. This is how kids learn.
    Thanks again for the great article.

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    In reply to Mike Smith:

    For shizzle. Tru dat. But consider this - since my Engineering brain never went and got an MBA, I am now judged by the high and mighty as insufficient for Management, so I am subjected to the directions of some who are 10-20 yrs younger than me. The Wall Street Journal says that college graduates need to look for jobs in Asia, yet Immigration is allowing nearly 1 million immigrants in here, LEGALLY, many from Asia, every year. What do those things teach our kids? What are they to prepare for? And where are we if we actually need to convince them to speak properly? Did someone forget to tell them they are competing with everyone on the planet, and if Asian kids are speaking 2 languages but they can't even speak one, well, uh.

  • A home shapes a child for the future. Children learn what they live. If a young male sees, literally or figuratively, that his father can have sex with no responsibility that child will do the same. If a young girl sees their mother being used by men they will assume that is how it works.

    You can take a child from the inner city to the top school in the country and if they were raised with no values they will fail. Just as if you were to take a well raised child from a good home to a poor school. They will do whatever it takes to get the best education.

    The key is the home.

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    I agree on all counts and understand why you hesitated to post it. It's always easier to point the blame at someone else instead of looking at our own circle, but this time around it's us. I used to think my mother putting me in after-school programs and constantly putting me in Girl Scouts was dumb. I did not understand why she wouldn't let me hang out with random friends on the block (regardless of the gangs, the shooting, the drug dealing, etc.). I just wanted to hang out, but she wasn't hearing ANY of that. Now when I walk down the street and see random kids hanging in alleys or in my old south side neighborhood hanging on the block, I appreciate her making sure I never had any idle time SO MUCH MORE. It is possible to be able to raise a family as a teen mom, but it definitely takes a village. My mother was a teen mom when she had my older brother. However, she also had my grandmother and our entire family looking out for her while she got an Associate's degree. She was also deadset on me and my brother having a different family. My father adopted my brother when he was 7 or 8, then I came along, and we ended up being The Cosbys (married parents, daughter, son, dog and fish). But I did notice I was in the minority growing up and got plenty of questions like, "Your father actually LIVES with your mother?" "Your parents are married?" But I had a lot of positive males around me (grandfather, father, godfather, older brother) who stayed out of trouble, which by default kept their eyes on me and me out of trouble, too. I used to believe, "Well, if my mother can raise a kid as a teen and still be winning then it can be done" but now I realize she really did slip through some seriously hard obstacles. I have no desire to have children, but if I did, I definitely would copy off of her no-nonsense ways about me staying (and graduating) not only high school but college. (Side note: I also think we need more television that encourages school. When I was coming up, I had "Wonder Years," "Blossom," "Saved by the Bell," "A Different World," "The Cosby Show," "Cris Cross" and a bunch of other shows that either involved school or revolved around school. I wanted to be on "A Different World" so bad it hurt! I was obsessed with that show and my mother loved watching it with me so we could talk about college. And I went all the way to grad school. Nowadays kids just have reality TV and TV is making us stupid instead of inspired.) Anyway, great post.

  • Love it! I wish more had the guts to spell it out. Black or white, purple or green, I see these problems every day. I'm a speech pathologist and go into homes to work with my patients. I see young moms with multiple kids that have different fathers. I just don't get it. Why is that ok? Why is it ok to live on welfare? It just seems that there is no shame anymore and that only the "lucky" ones can have a good life. You'd think that it would become so tiring after a while living such a life that it would motivate moms to improve their lives and that of their kids. Educations is the key and for more to speak out against the blase attitude of having all these kids and not taking responsibility for them.

  • The problem with the "black community" is that it needs "leaders." No other racial or ethnic group needs a camera hungry minister to urge people to get an education, stay out of prison, get a job and procreate responsibly.

    Black immigrants from Africa and Latin America show up and get down to business. They'll park cars, drive a taxi, work in a hotel, wash dishes...hold down two or three jobs...whatever it takes to make it.

    But, for some reason, "African Americans" need some minister to walk across the country or sit on a roof to get "inspired" to clean up their own lives and their own back yard.

    It's comical.

  • Mr. Thomas,

    Thank you for an excellent article. It is FAR past time to call out this problem. And this is certainly a big one.

    Thank you for having the courage to discuss this. I hope other black leaders will focus on this.

    Throwing more money at this problem is NOT the answer. Giving more money to unwed mothers so they can keep producing children is definitely NOT the answer.

    Personal pride leads to personal responsibility.

    I love Chicago and I love America and it's very sad to see our culture and society faltering.

    The black community needs more leaders like you. God bless.

    Sorry this post is a little disjointed, but I don't really have time to write everything that I'd like to. I just wanted to thank you for your courage and for writing about this.

  • Brian,

    Your comments are appreciated. However, the arguments you make are not new and have been repeated quite often in times of crisis within "the Black community." This is not to suggest that it takes new arguments to generate solutions to long-standing, old problems. However, I have learned many times that part of the problem in finding viable solutions lies in the very nature of how the problem is analyzed and framed.

    You weave together many important insights to make your arguments. However, some of the threads are a bit weak and some of your juxtapositions might do more harm than good. For example:

    1. Generalizing about "the Black community." Although one death of a Black child is too many, it becomes too easy to suggest that the entire Black community is complicit. You move from a correct focus on the shooter to what seems to be an unsubstantiated condemnation of all Black parents and community members. That may be just a bit unfair. Should we all be concerned? Of course? Are we all to blame? Not so sure about that. Also, Mitt Romney addressed a group of Black people, he did not address "the Black community" which are much more complex than you suggest.

    2. A recreation of the welfare queen?: In my view, that is what you essentially do with your repeated references to, and caricature of, the 17-year-old mother. A few more lines in your narrative would have allowed you to parse the "72.5%" that you mention. Instead, we are left with the impression that most Black babies are born to teenage moms and that those kids are destined to be shooters and killers. This reminds me of folks who like to point out that XX% of crimes are committed by Black people but who fail to mention that this is not the same as saying that XX% of all Black people commit crimes. The people who commit these crimes are, in fact, a small percentage of Black communities. And it doesn't help that you stretch "out of wedlock" to mean "no father around." Not excusing out-of-wedlock births but that does not mean that the father is not around.

    3. Can't blame the Mayor: Of course, the Mayor has not killed any Black children. However, if you are suggesting that public policy has no influence on neighborhood conditions and violence, then you are sadly mistaken. Consider school closure policy that forces children to cross gang lines. This is not an excuse for violence, just pointing out the complex intertwining of these factors. Why no world-class schools in the "hood"? And please don't mention the mirage created by Tim King. That is a feel-good story with an unexplored hidden side. Let's talk about world-class neighborhood, non-charter schools.

    4. Blacks don't value education: This is a tired, worn-out argument not supported by real data, historically or present-day. The historical record shows that Black folks have always prioritized education. Check the scholarship of James Anderson (U of I), Theresa Perry, and Heather Williams, just to name a few. If you don't like that, read the ex-slave narratives. Present day, on just about every survey of education, Black students express the most positive attitudes toward education. The data is very clear on that. The attitude-achievement paradox is something you might consider reading up on. Why do Black kids value education so much (and demonstrate brilliance in so many other areas) but experience schooling as they do? It is more complicated than reading to them 20 minutes a day. Also, notice the difference between education and schooling.

    5. Acting white: I am very familiar with this line of research and the researchers who initiated it. Most recent empirical data shows that this has much less of an impact on academic behavior than has been touted and misrepresented by the media. It sounds sexy but in reality has very little impact on student achievement. In fact, data shows that Black achievers serve as role models for other students. In addition, the globalization of popular culture, especially hip hop, has blurred the lines about what it means to "act white."

    6. Indictment of Black parenting: Somewhat astounding. You provide a singular, very narrow depiction based on the 17-year-old mother. That is a good strategy for supporting your argument but you fail to point out that Black parenting is and always has been complex. Are you suggesting that the 17-year-old mother is an accurate depiction of the Black family? You oversimplify and, in doing so, reify a stereotype.

    Again, I appreciate the arguments and various sub-points but your oversimplification and lack of data cannot be excused, even if well-intentioned.

  • In reply to chicagoprof:

    [[4. Blacks don't value education: This is a tired, worn-out argument not supported by real data, historically or present-day.]]

    Blacks have the highest drop-out rate in the city, and probably in the country.

  • In reply to IMHO:

    Thanks for your comment. However, I urge you to consider how much of the dropout rate is due to push-out and mis-education. This is not meant to deflect the issue but all kinds of statistics can be cited in a vacuum. How do YOU explain the drop-out rate that you cite? Your argument seems circular: Blacks have the highest drop-out rate because they don't value education. And the high drop-out rate proves they don't value education. Would you be surprised to learn that among some Asian sub-groups, the drop-out rates are just as high, if not higher. Again, let's not simplify the issue and generate lazy arguments.

  • In reply to chicagoprof:

    People who value education have books in their homes and spend time with their children teaching them to read and think.

    Go to the homes of children and evaluate the environment. Are there books prominently displayed? If not, then I say that's because the family didn't value education.

  • In reply to chicagoprof:

    Chicagoprof, again, I thank you for your comments-- I just respectfully disagree (at least in terms of Chicago). According to a University of Chicago study form 2006, only one in 40 black males from CPS eventually obtain with a bachelor's degree. That's 2.5%. That, coupled with the dropout rate, is not valuing education.

    We must do more. That-- 2.5%-- has to be unacceptable.

  • In reply to Brian C. Thomas:


    I respect your view as well. And I also hear what IMHO is saying. I am very familiar with the report that you mention. Make no mistake, we share a concern about the underlying issues. However, I caution against the conceptual leaps in some of the arguments you make. Let's agree that the 2.5% is low and unacceptable. That is not a point of contention. But to suggest that number is proof that Black males don't value education is not a strong argument, in my view. A college degree is not a total measure of whether one places value in education. We could extend that argument ad infinitum to say that folks who don't have Master's degrees don't value education as much as folks with Bachelor's degrees and so on. No, this is not about semantics. Yes, we know that a college degree results in higher lifetime earnings but who has access to a college education does not always reflect the value that is placed on it. And while it is probably better to have a college degree than not, let's not overstate it. The degree itself does not level the playing field. In fact, the playing field is unequal at all levels of the spectrum. Again, the degrees are important but the degree is the outcome. Let's not overlook the factors that prevent people from getting them or simplify to say they don't care.

    Also, I was very serious about the push-out issue mentioned above. It is very real, even moreso in some of the highly touted charter schools, locally and nationally. In addition, you have several other well-documented issues that indicate Black males, in particular, have a very different schooling experience in relation to other students: disproportionate assignments to special education and reluctance to assign Black males to the gifted track, to name just two. These are well-documented findings.

    As I stated above, you are putting forth a circular argument: the high dropout rate is proof that Blacks don't value education. Blacks don't value education, hence the high drop-out rate. You provide no proof that Blacks don't value education. You just assert it and then use the drop-out rate to justify the claim. You overlook everything in between, like the survey data mentioned above, documented disproportionate treatment, and data such as that contained in the link a little further down.

    It would be a very safe bet that among those "dropouts" who don't value education, there is a great deal of brilliance and stellar intelligence. What is it about the schooling process that mitigates that? To chalk it up to the simple conclusion that Black folks don't value education, with no supporting evidence, is a bit disingenuous. But for the sake of argument, let's say Black children don't care about education, their families don't read to them, they have all kinds of cultural and environmental deficits, and so on. Then, overcoming those circumstances clearly make Black children among the most resilient on earth, who still show up wanting to learn.

    With respect to IMHO and the claims about books. Let's agree that books in the home are important. However, books in the home are not the only measure of literacy or a complete characterization of the literacy practices in homes. Black children engage in a number of literacy and orality practices in the home that, in some instances, provide them with a wider range of literacy experiences than many White children, for example. Why can't schools build on those literacy practices in the same way they build on the practices stressed in many White households? To suggest that Black children cannot "think," as IMHO does, is very revealing. Think about the profound, global effect that Black children's literacy and orality practices have had on the world at large. Black children's literacy and orality practices have been adopted by children across the ENTIRE globe. Yet, the big take way we are being asked to accept is that they don't value education and, according to IMHO, they are illiterate. In fact, many Black children are bi-literate, able to master the nuances of both "Standard" English and Black English Vernacular.

    Sorry, but I cannot and will not buy this nor the sweeping simplicity of the arguments made in the original post. As I said, we share a concern with some of the underlying issues but I prefer data and historical record rather than perception and stereotype to support my views.

  • In reply to chicagoprof:

    [[With respect to IMHO and the claims about books. Let's agree that books in the home are important. However, books in the home are not the only measure of literacy or a complete characterization of the literacy practices in homes. Black children engage in a number of literacy and orality practices in the home that, in some instances, provide them with a wider range of literacy experiences than many White children, for example. Why can't schools build on those literacy practices in the same way they build on the practices stressed in many White households? ]]

    Dude, either kids can think and read and write, or they can't. When you're filling out a job application, no one gives a good goddamn about whatever alternative practices may have existed in your house or in your 'hood.

    If and when you get to college, you either know how to write a term paper or you don't. You either have the discipline to sit down and read a book or you don't.

    Spin it any way you want and write all the long, bloviating comments you want...if parents don't flood their houses with books then I call b.s. on all their claims.

    Every child, given the right support and stimulation, will learn to read.

    That support and stimulation must come FIRST from the parents.

  • Thanks everyone for all the great comments. One thing I have always appreciated-- and I have been lucky I suppose-- is that I have written about some provocative issues (I was especially critical of Danny Davis and Carol Moseley Braun during the mayoral election, for example) and the more difficult the topic (in terms of things we aren't terribly comfortable talking about, specifically race and its intersection with politics), the better the commentary is. All of your comments should be the basis for a larger discussion.

    Thank you all for the thoughtful comments.

    I have to get back to work, but I wanted to send that quick thanks out there. I'll have more to say when I have a bit of time.

    Maroonsista: thanks for noting that posting something like this isn't done easily. It wasn't, but I felt comfortable it was what I wanted to say.

    Chicagoprof: thank you for your comments. And I agree. I did generalize. I had to to make my point without writing a book. But if there is some truth to the generalizations, and people in social work/medicine/law/law enforcement will tell you that there is truth to them, then let's move past the fact that I am generalizing and ask the question whether its a problem that unmarried 17 year olds with little education are having kids? Is that a lifestyle we want to promote? Does that help the community? And if we agree that generally, it has a negative impact on the community, instead of saying we shouldn't generalize, let's figure out how to decrease the number of our children are having children.

    Too much to say-- I'll continue later. Thanks Chicagoprof for your thoughtful comments.

    Again, thanks for all the great comments!

  • In reply to Brian C. Thomas:

    Thanks to you, Brian. We certainly don't have to agree on all the points. But I do appreciate your viewpoint and your providing a forum for thoughtful discussion. And yes, we can agree that we should be concerned about 17-year-old mothers. The key is to situate and frame that issue in a way that doesn't reify stereotypes, caricature and simplify our communities and families, or obscure relevant data that helps to understand the complexity of the issues or that could help generate meaningful solutions. Looking forward to the comments of others.

  • In reply to chicagoprof:

    Folks might also be interested in this article regarding myths about Black education:


  • History: Slavery, after slavery was abolished prison.
    Generational poverty. Great migration North. "White Flight" to suburbs under the same legislation that created public housing. Public housing did not allow for able bodied man to live in public household with family. Lack of lasting opportunity for community growth. Manufacturing jobs going going gone.
    Alcohol, depression and a community flooded with drugs. Constant sustained assault.
    Civil rights! Goodbye shopping in the black community, hello Macy's!
    More drugs and guns! The "ghetto economy" Lack of aspirations.
    Leaders murdered: Malcom, Martin, Hampton.
    Get out of prison: Celebration! Graduate college: Sell out "talkin white". Crabs in a barrel.
    Sustained negative images projected over the "tell lie vision" T.V. Best weapon ever!
    HipHop vibrant and beautiful turns into BET ass shaking gangster rap. Have you listened to WGCI lately? Yeesh.
    Divide and conquer!
    I often find myself pondering this "black community"... where are they/we?
    Anywho check out the aboriginal American (Indian) community. Constant Sustained Assault.
    So yeah, I have no idea how to heal this continuing damage. It really makes me sad.
    Fathers fathers fathers!
    Rant over! Move along.
    Welcome to Weapon World. Your Welcome.

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    In reply to WeaponWorld:

    Divided and conquered - correct. Who did it to us? You blacks and we middle-class whites? Who did it? My white ancestors came though Canada and Upstate New York, we did our own logging and farming and mining and industry - no blacks within 300 miles around here still and none within 1000 miles in slavery days. Who divided and conquered us? Who is dividing and conquering the families and communities of Europe, of Asia, etc. etc., etc. Who? Who is your enemy who is the same as mine?

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    Excellent column. I've come to the realization that however well intentioned the "Great Society" experiment was, the idea that the government should get involved in building permanent housing for the poor was ultimately a profound failure. Giving temporary help to those in need should have been the goal of public assistance. Section 8 seems like a much smarter method of helping the needy as the ability to turn off the spigot quickly is a huge advantage for the taxpayer and a great way to motivate the recipient. Welfare has destroyed many communities by sapping the ambition from those on the dole. When you force the father out of the home as a condition of receiving assistance, the problem is made worse, as we see today. The problems will not be solved quickly in the best of circumstances, but if the source s of the problems aren't quickly identified and acted upon, the solutions won't take place at all.

  • This was interesting reading. Although we know the answers to the problems in the black community we choose to not answer it directly! The answer- The Black Man. In our community all you have to do is be a man to impress others I mean really just be a man. Simple-A man should be more easily accessible to the youth for them to gain a better understanding as to what the WORLD has to offer them. The problem with the youth needs to be addressed by US. In years past and I mean YEARS we have been good at identifying the problems without a reasonable solution. Yes we have social injustices that need to be addressed and corrected by US. Chicago men should take back their neighborhoods and engage the youth instead of turning the other way when we see them potentially doing wrong. Somehow we became scared to question and correct the site of our children. We can clear the air by saying we are certainly misguided by relying on the mayor or police to correct the problem. I personally speak to the young men in my hood as I walk to the store. I have begun to open the door for them to talk with me and I play loud church music as I roll down the street in my Audi so they know gangster music is not what motivates me, I switch up time to time with other genre but never degrading music! I get the head nod when I pass the bystanders. A class in community engagement should take place with the black men of the community and we should walk our neighborhoods daily and speak with the youth. All kidding aside if mayor want to do somethings 1- Pay for classes to be taught in the community on how to engage the people. 2-Pay for youth programs for cleaning up some of the bad areas that have been neglected to be bring back pride to the community stake holders. Then from there black men should be able to take it, yes it may seem a little confusing to other cultures that we should have this but we are different in so many ways that I believe this is a best practice approach to help service ourselves

  • What is the major difference this year than last year, an increasingly dire economy, ever tightening funds from every avenue and change in policing policy. In previous years the police would deploy specialized tactical units to hotspot flare ups squelch the violence. This is like triage on a wound and often left scars of its own.

    There are several issues, the first being the canard about single moms. If it is really as simple as having two parents then stop promoting policies that provide benefits to those that need them if there is no father. That is not a racial issue, but a class issue. Next, there needs to opportunities for people to take care of their families and themselves, economic opportunities. If we do not provide hope and a reasonable means to achieve stability there can be no hope. We can provide a trillion dollars to bail out the banks and the financial system and then leave hundreds of thousands of home boarded up further blighting communities. Why not create policies that get these vacant homes to people who could use them, give them a sense of ownership and something to work for as well. We might then see communities blossom.
    This is really not a race issue, but a class issue. You are now seeing these same problems in poor urban typically white neighborhoods throughout the country as well. As a nation, a people and as voters we need to decide what our real values are and what we want to accomplish and push for those mandates. As long as we focus on Wall Street and let Main Street rot this will be an ever expanding problem that cuts across racial lines.

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    What blame does Black America have in Chicago’s rising murder rate? by Brian C. Thomas, July 17, 2012 at 7:11 am
    CNN iReport: President Barack Obama's Style of Representing Blacks in Chicago and Beyond, is Using His Influence to Keep You in Prison, Including the Possibility of Un-Constitutionally Merging You With Terrorist Prisoners from Gauntanamo Bay!
    .......and it is not just the black youth, who face this music, because believe it or not the means to legally acquire, possess, maintain, continue to hold and expand upon the necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, or even assets, must include, one or more of the following:
    1. Gainful employment opportunity
    2. being a heir to assets, an avenue that few inner-city black men, women, and/or his or her siblings fall in this category.
    3. Hitting one or more substantial lottery wins.......the chance being either extremely slim or nil.
    4. Competent Representation in an elected official, lawyer, journalists, organization, etc., etc., to provide sufficient protection of the inalienable rights of a U.S. descendant of slavery property owner, so that an owner make use of Constitutional protections to keep property legally earned or acquire.
    Item (4) being the most important of all, because without Constitutional protections you, meaning an owner can lose everything that you have earned by the criminal, unethical, wrongful acts of a city, state, or local government official, private individual, or public or private business.
    Property in One's Labor by Adam Smith

    “The property which every man has in his own labour, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable. The patrimony of a poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his hands; and to hinder him from employing this strength and dexterity in what manner he thinks proper without injury to his neighbour, is a plain violation of this most sacred property. It is a manifest encroachment upon the just liberty both of the workman, and of those who might be disposed to employ him. As it hinders the one from working at what he thinks proper, so it hinders the aothersa from employing whom they think proper. To judge whether he is fit to be employed, may surely be trusted to the discretion of the employers whose interest it so much concerns. The affected anxiety of the law–giver lest they should employ an improper person, is evidently as impertinent as it is oppressive.”
    ........lack of competent representation, lack of sufficient gainful employment opportunities, lack of the necessary resources to sustain life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, make the black community extremely vulnerable to be fodder for the system, fodder such as penal incarceration, senseless black on black genocide, etc., etc., a dismal environment that creates profitable ventures that keep others gainfully employed, while U.S. born black men, women, and/or siblings extinct.

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    Great article! The day the so-called Black leadership start to protest in these murderous neighborhoods, in front of anti-Black woman and Black family entertainment artists and their companies, then the "Village" will take notice.

    Until that happens (when hell freezes over), it is us to those living in those types of communities to escape to a better environment. The current Black community is deadly poison. There must be a new Black community created. Until then, this circular argument will continue.

  • To solve any problem you must get to the root of the issue--the Cause of Gun Violence and Suicide is Poverty and Mental Illness.

    For example, Chicago's poverty rate among black people is #1 in the nation at 32.2% AND Chicago leads the nation in Gun Murders in 2012 (over 500).

    Mental Illness = Reason for Mass Shootings and the #1 cause of death by injury in the USA--Suicides.

    -Raise the Federal Minimum Wage: Currently 45% below the 1968 rate (AFI).
    -Gang/Suicide Prevention: Early school-based social skills training, counseling, mentoring, and parent training for early detection.
    -Education Finance Reform: More funding for poorest schools.
    -Incentives for Job Creation in poor areas.
    -Job Training for at risk youth.
    -Drug Treatment costs ~75% less than prison and re-arrest rates are ~26% lower.


  • I just got back from Bucktown Pawn up on N Milwaukee. I bouts me a 12 gage Mossberg to protec myself. The next nigga that bust out my window for crack is goan to get ther behind full of buckshot. Black folk started this anhd black folk should end it.

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    How can Black parents read to their children when they are functionally illiterate? Currently the illiteracy rate in the Black community is approaching 50%.. If "you don't read, you don't know and will never find out.." Please read my latest book" The Unfinished Business of the Civil Rights Movement: Failure of America's Public Schools to Properly Educate its African American Student Populations.." Its currently available on Amazon.com, or Rosedogbooks.com..

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    Some of the worst kids have fathers around. I grew up with a man in the house and would have had a happier childhood had I not. If dad is selling drugs, beating up mama, etc, how does having him around help? Yes, 72% out of wedlock births is ridiculous. But it just shows that there is a lack of character on both sides of the equation. Women choose fathers for their children. Women raise male children in all populations, but only ours grow up calling us whores. Why is that? I've seen women around here with children that they just simply were not ready for and are not. Mothers transmit values to children and that is true in all populations. You've got mothers turning the other way as their sons commit crimes. Why? Because instead of using some birth control and going back to school so that they can meet their children needs and some of their desires, they live off of the spoils of their sons' crooked behavior, treating little boys like they are the men of the house. The sexism is over the top. Black men cannot take this job or that one, because it is women's work. Never mind that getting hired as a CEO generally requires a college degree. But hey, many have simply decided that crime pays better than an education. Character be damned! We need to spend a few generations wandering in the dessert. We need to better understand the roles that mothers and fathers play in all populations. Children learn from both parents. I can also teach my son how to be a man by setting limits with men as a woman. Not putting up with certain types of behaviors... Men teach daughters how to choose men.

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