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T.R. Fehrenbach: Culture keeping blacks oppressed

May 12, 2007 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( About a month back, the National Urban League presented a statement to the National Press Club devoted to the “black male crisis,” saying that this country risks losing its “greatest untapped resource.”

In “State of Black America 2007,” the League said: “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.”

The report, filled with both commentary and statistics, measured disparities between blacks and whites across five categories: economics, education, health, civic engagement and social justice.

Accordingly, black men are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as whites and make only 74 percent as much. They are seven times more likely to be in jail, and they stay there longer. Young black males are nine times more likely to be killed by firearms and about eight times more apt to get AIDS. Improvement in these areas in recent years is minimal.

Well, yes: That’s all true. We’ve been told this, too, for years. Things were supposed to change with the banning of overt discrimination. Somehow, the stats just don’t much improve.

However, more black children are enrolled in Head Start and similar programs percentage-wise than whites. Black children’s scores have improved, nearly matching the white, and in terms of literacy many are ahead of whites.

But here’s where it all goes sour. Through elementary school, blacks statistically are doing well — at fourth grade, 87 percent of white proficiency. But by 12th grade, they are far behind and many have dropped out — a horrendous figure in most states. Thus we get the statistics rendered above.

The league proposes five major policies to equalize the balance: Provide early education for all children but especially the disadvantaged; create all-male black schools with more days in school; give dropouts and ex-offenders “second chances“; restore the federal Summer Jobs Program; drive home the message that education counts.

It asks corporations, government and other organizations to bring about comprehensive solutions to stop black males from dropping out, dying younger and earning far less money than white counterparts.

Yes, more programs. And, of course, more money. All well and good. But the Urban League pointed out the problem and proposes cures. It does not diagnose the cause of the disease. Which is like treating yellow fever with a thermometer.

Until both the black and white communities face the causes frankly and work toward improvement, I think we’ll be from here to Chicago short of solutions.

The problem is a culture — black culture or urban culture or whatever you want to call it — that at street level prevents young blacks from entering Main Street.

Young black heroes are not scholars, MDs, 9-to-5 types, husbands, fathers, CPAs. The females in their world are rarely girl-you-marry types. Listen to so-called “hip-hop” and you catch on fast. Blacks are not inferior — black urban culture, however, does not work in America.

Everybody, black and white, with a modicum of sense or education knows or suspects this. However, it ain’t politic to say it. Nor to state that the only viable culture, the only one in which a man can work, profit, get ahead and live a useful life, is the majority culture. There is no other economic, scientific, educational or civic establishment. This may be unfair; it simply is.

What’s outside it? Sports, entertainment (the two are the same), crime and jail.

We need to understand that providing “good” role models is not enough — the bad ones must be condemned, by politicians, preachers, parents and baddies themselves.

Expect little progress until it happens.

By T.R. Fehrenbach

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