- More than half of all black men in the inner city do not finish high school.
- In 2004, 72% of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless -- which includes those unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated.
- About half of all black men in their late 20's and early 30's who did not go to college are noncustodial fathers.
- Among black dropouts in their late 20's, more are in prison on a given day -- 34% -- than are working -- 30% (based on a 2000 census study).
The article, along with scholars who studied the phenomenon, attribute these staggering statistics to "terrible schools, absent parents, racism, the decline in blue collar jobs and a subculture that glorifies swagger over work." There are a myriad of different conversations to be held on this topic, but I think the breakdown of the black family is at the forefront of these issues.
As the article states, the crack epidemic of the 80's led to a steep climb in the incarceration of black men. Consequently, the sons of those incarcerated (along with the sons of those who were addicted to crack) were left fatherless. Inevitably, those boys have grown into men, without the benefit of having had a father, or some other positive black male role model around, to SHOW them how to be men. And herein starts the cycle of desperation and despair that will continue to infect our families if we don't change something.
Additionally, the article cites stricter enforcement of child support laws as a "special factor" that contributes to this "deepening plight" of the black man. "Improved collection of money from absent fathers has been a pillar of welfare overhaul. But the system can leave young men feeling overwhelmed with debt and deter them from seeking legal work, since a large share of any earnings could be seized." The article goes on to say that child support obligations "amount to a tax on earnings" to these black fathers. This mindset evidences the problems that arise when fathers are absent in the lives of their sons. Boys who grow up without fathers will more than likely grow into men who shun their parental responsibilities.
So where does the cycle start, and where does it end? Ideally, of course, black men would take care of, and serve as role models to their sons -- positively impacting their sons' lives by teaching them what it takes to be a man. However, reality is where the old African proverb -- "It takes a village to raise a child" -- comes into play. It is incumbent upon the black men who have overcome the odds to serve as role models to the throngs of young black men growing up fatherless. It just takes one person to positively impact a young man's life, and to show him another way of life.
Too many times, black men "make it" and don't look back. They take care of their families and pursue their careers, but they don't reach back into their old neighborhoods to serve as role models. THIS HAS TO CHANGE before there will be any hope for our young black men to overcome the odds facing them, and before they can learn how to be men. The cycle must be broken. And sadly, because we cannot rely upon the absent fathers of these young black men to break the cycle, successful black men (successful in the sense of "overcoming," not just financial) must step in to serve as role models.
If you haven't read the article, click here to read it: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/20/national/20blackmen.html