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Future of black men critical to ‘American family’

April 23, 2007 by  
Filed under Health, News

WASHINGTON ( – National Urban League President Marc Morial, in NUL’s annual State of Black America address, this week, describes the underachievement of Black males as being among America’s greatest crisis.

“This state of underachievement, with its devastating and far-reaching ramifications, is the most serious economic and civil rights challenge we face today,” Morial says in his report, “The State of Black America 2007: Portrait of the Black Male,” a 260-page document, released this week. “It’s a problem with a major rippling effect. Not only does it impact individual Black men. It also hurts their families and communities. It’s not just a problem for the African-American community. It’s a problem for everyone in this nation.”

The SOBA report, an annual measurement of Black progress, outlines egregious statistics:

Black men are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as White men and make only 74 percent as much a year.

Black men are more than six times as likely than White men to be incarcerated and their average jail sentences tend to be 10 months longer than those of White men.

At the end of 2001, 16.5 percent of the Black male population had been to prison compared to 7.7 percent of Hispanic and 2.7 percent of White men.

Young Black males between the ages of 15 and 34 years are nine times more likely to be killed by firearms and nearly eight times as likely to suffer from AIDS.

Of single parent Black households in 2005, only 12 percent were led by men.

More than two-thirds of Black children live in one-parent households in 2005, the majority headed by women.

More than 42 percent of female-headed Black households with children were poor, compared to slightly more than 9 percent of married Black households.

“The absence of the Black man in the Black family will only lead to greater poverty for our community as a whole,” states Morial. “It helps exacerbate the disparities already existing between minorities and Whites in the United States.”

The SOBA report includes op-eds by author, speaker and educator Michael Eric Dyson, and national child advocate Marian Wright Edelman. It also includes essays by NAACP Legal Defense Fund General Counsel Theodore Shaw and noted researcher Silas Lee as well as a foreword by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

Black America is like two stories, states Obama, a leading Democratic candidate for president whom many view as a symbol of success. But, his forward tells two sides.

“One story celebrates the extraordinary fact that some of this country’s top financial institutions have Black chief executives, that a Black woman is president of an Ivy League university, that the current and previous secretaries of state are Black Americans, that a Black coach led his team to victory in the Super Bowl, that the college graduation rate of Black women has never been higher, that homeownership by Blacks is as high as it has ever been, and that Blacks have penetrated nearly every barrier in law, business, medicine, sports, education, politics and public service,” the senator writes in the SOBA foreword.

“But, another story must also be told about the state of Black America,” he states. “A quarter of all Black Americans live below the federal poverty level, a poverty rate about twice the national rate. More than a third of all Black children live in poverty and almost two-thirds grow up in a home without both parents. In some cities, more than half of all Black boys do not finish high school, and by the time they are in their 30s, almost six in ten Black high school dropouts will have spent time in prison. Half of all Black men in their 20s are jobless, and one study a few years ago found more Black men in prison than enrolled in college. The typical Black household earns only about 60 percent of the earnings of White households and has a net worth only about 10 percent that of Whites. The HIV/AIDS rate is highest for Black Americans and Blacks are more often the victims of inadequate healthcare and preventable health maladies.”

This year’s SOBA focuses on the Black male, but it says Black America in general has made little progress since last year. Last year’s SOBA reported that Black America’s “equality index” was at 73 percent of Whites. This year it’s at 73.3, the report states.

“In other words, Blacks made minimal progress on the equality front in the past few years,” the report states, but it was dismal for Black males.

“While there are Barack Obamas and Lovie Smiths out there to prove just how far Black men can go, there are many whose futures are far from bright,” says Morial. “The equality index shows us that Black men continue to lag behind their White counterparts in every major category; a disproportionate number of Black men are underperforming in our society in a variety of areas for a variety of reasons.”

Despite the obvious crisis among Black males, there were key positives pointed out in the report.

“A higher percentage of young black children are enrolled in early childhood education programs such as Head Start than young White children – 66 percent compared to 64 percent,” the report states. “And the youngest blacks have made strong improvements in the areas of school readiness – scoring at 94 percent of that of Whites, up from 81 percent in 2006.”

But, then something happens after elementary school as Blacks – especially males – begin to fall behind Whites.

“Disparities in writing proficiency scores widen as Blacks grow older. At 4th grade, they perform at a level of 87 percent of Whites. By the time they reach 12th grade, their scores are at 74 percent of Whites. And after they reach adulthood, they’re the most likely to have dropped out – 15 percent compared to 12 percent of Whites. For Black males, the percentage rises to 18 percent compared to 14 percent of White males.”

The report outlines five specific solutions for the problems facing Black America; especially Black males:

Universal Early Childhood Education, especially for children “from disadvantaged backgrounds, a leg-up when they start school.”

Greater experimentation with all-male schools, longer school days and mentoring. The combination of “mentoring and longer days help keep young boys focused on their education and away from distractions that could lead them down the wrong paths,” the reports states.

More second chance programs for high school dropouts and ex-offenders. These kinds of programs would bring “ex-offenders and disadvantaged individuals who are out of school and out of work back into the mainstream.”

Restore the Federal Summer Jobs Program to its previous state. A major scaling back of this program resulted when federal lawmakers changed the program from mandatory for states to an optional program. The Urban League proposes its restoration.

Drive home the message that education pays dividends. “Parents need to instill into their children the value of education in achieving their dreams and improving their financial prosperity.”

Concludes Morial: “Empowering black men to reach their full potential is the most serious economic and civil rights challenge we face today. Ensuring their future is critical, not just for the African-American community, but for the prosperity, health and well-being of the entire American family.”

By Hazel Trice Edney

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