March 20, 2006


Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn (ERIK ECKHOLM, 3/20/06, NY Times)

Black men in the United States face a far more dire situation than is portrayed by common employment and education statistics, a flurry of new scholarly studies warn, and it has worsened in recent years even as an economic boom and a welfare overhaul have brought gains to black women and other groups.

Focusing more closely than ever on the life patterns of young black men, the new studies, by experts at Columbia, Princeton, Harvard and other institutions, show that the huge pool of poorly educated black men are becoming ever more disconnected from the mainstream society, and to a far greater degree than comparable white or Hispanic men. [...]

"There's something very different happening with young black men, and it's something we can no longer ignore," said Ronald B. Mincy, professor of social work at Columbia University and editor of "Black Males Left Behind" (Urban Institute Press, 2006).

"Over the last two decades, the economy did great," Mr. Mincy said, "and low-skilled women, helped by public policy, latched onto it. But young black men were falling farther back."

Many of the new studies go beyond the traditional approaches to looking at the plight of black men, especially when it comes to determining the scope of joblessness. For example, official unemployment rates can be misleading because they do not include those not seeking work or incarcerated.

"If you look at the numbers, the 1990's was a bad decade for young black men, even though it had the best labor market in 30 years," said Harry J. Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University and co-author, with Peter Edelman and Paul Offner, of "Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men" (Urban Institute Press, 2006).

In response to the worsening situation for young black men, a growing number of programs are placing as much importance on teaching life skills — like parenting, conflict resolution and character building — as they are on teaching job skills.

Lucky we got our first black president in 2000.

Governor Bush delivers remarks at the Republican National Convention (August 3, 2000)

[I] come from a different place and it has made me a different leader. In Midland, Texas, where I grew up, the town motto was, "The sky's the limit," and we believed it. There was a restless energy, a basic conviction that with hard work, anybody could succeed and everybody deserved a chance.

Our sense of community -- our sense of community was just as strong as that sense of promise. Neighbors helped each other. There were dry wells and sand storms to keep you humble, life-long friends to take your side, and churches to remind us that every soul is equal in value and equal in need.

This background leaves more than an accent, it leaves an outlook: optimistic, impatient with pretense, confident that people can chart their own course in life.

That background may lack the polish of Washington. Then again, I don't have a lot of things that come with Washington. I don't have enemies to fight. I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect.

The largest lesson I learned in Midland still guides me as governor of Texas: Everyone, from immigrant to entrepreneur, has an equal claim on this country's promise. So we improved our schools dramatically for children of every accent, of every background. We moved people from welfare to work. We strengthened our juvenile justice laws. Our budgets have been balanced with surpluses. And we cut taxes, not only once, but twice.

We accomplished a lot.

I don't deserve all the credit, and I don't attempt to take it. I work with Republicans and Democrats to get things done.

A bittersweet part of tonight is that someone is missing, the late lieutenant government of Texas, Bob Bullock.

Bob was a Democrat, a crusty veteran of Texas politics, and my great friend. We worked side by side, he endorsed my re-election, and I know he is with me in spirit in saying to those who would malign our state for political gain: Don't mess with Texas.*

As governor, I've made difficult decisions and stood by them under pressure.

I've been where the buck stops in business and in government. I've been a chief executive who sets an agenda, sets big goals, and rallies people to believe and achieve them. I am proud of this record, and I am prepared for the work ahead.

If you give me your trust, I will honor it. Grant me a mandate, I will use it. Give me the opportunity to lead this nation, and I will lead.

And we need a leader to seize the opportunities of this new century: the new cures of medicine, the amazing technologies that will drive our economy and keep the peace. But our new economy must never forget the old, unfinished struggle for human dignity. And here we face a challenge to the very heart and founding premise of our nation.

A couple of years ago, I visited a juvenile jail in Marlin, Texas, and talked with a group of young inmates. They were angry, wary kids. All had committed grownup crimes. Yet when I looked in their eyes, I realized some of them were still little boys.

Toward the end of the conversation, one young man, about 15 years old, raised his hand and asked a haunting question, "What do you think of me?" He seemed to be asking, like many Americans who struggle: Is their hope for me? Do I have a chance? And, frankly, do you, a white man in a suit,* really care about what happens to me?

A small voice, but it speaks for so many: single moms struggling to feed the kids and pay the rent; immigrants starting a hard life in a new world; children without fathers in neighborhoods where gangs seem like friendship or drugs promise peace, and where sex sadly seems the closest thing to belong. We are their country too. And each of us must share in its promise or the promise is diminished for all.

If that boy in Marlin believes he's trapped and worthless and hopeless, if he believes his life has no value, then other lives have no value to him, and we're all diminished.

When these problems are not confronted, it builds a wall within our nation. On one side are wealth, technology, education and ambition. On the other side of that wall are poverty and prison, addiction and despair. And my fellow Americans, we must tear down that wall.

Big government is not the answer, but the alternative to bureaucracy is not indifference. It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity.

This is what I mean by compassionate conservatism. And on this ground, we will lead our nation.

We will give low-income Americans tax credits to buy the private health insurance they need and deserve.

We will transform today's housing rental program to help hundreds of thousands of low-income families find stability and dignity in a home of their own.

And in the next bold step of welfare reform, we will support the heroic work of homeless shelters and hospices, food pantry and crisis pregnancy centers, people reclaiming their communities block by block and heart by heart.

I think of Mary Jo Copeland, whose ministry called Sharing and Caring Hands serves 1,000 meals a week in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Each day, Mary Jo washes the feet of the homeless and sends them off with new socks and shoes. "Look after your feet," she tells them. "They must carry you a long way in this world, and then all the way to God."

Government cannot do this work. It can feed the body, but it cannot reach the soul.

Yet, government can take the side of these groups, helping the helper, encouraging the inspired. My administration will give taxpayers new incentives to donate to charity, encourage after-school programs that build character, and support mentoring groups that shape and save young lives.

We must give our children a spirit of moral courage because their character is our destiny.

We must tell them -- we must tell them -- we must tell them with confidence that drugs and alcohol can destroy you, and bigotry disfigures the heart.

Our schools must support the ideals of parents, elevating character and abstinence from afterthoughts to urgent goals.

We must help protect our children in our schools and streets, and by finally and strictly enforcing our nation's gun laws.

But most of all, we must teach our children the values that defeat violence. I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life -- the life of the elderly and sick, the life of the young and the life of the unborn.

Good people can disagree on this issue, but surely we can agree on ways to value life by promoting adoption, parental notification. And when Congress sends me a bill against partial-birth abortion, I will sign it into law.

Behind every goal I've talked about tonight is a great hope for our country. A hundred years from now this must not be remembered as an age rich in possession and poor in ideals.

Instead, we must usher in an era of responsibility.

My generation tested limits, and our country in some ways is better for it. Women are now treated more equally.

Racial progress has been steady; it's still too slow. We're learning to protect...

... we're learning to protect the natural world around us. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back.

At times we lost our way, but we're coming home.

So many of us held our first child and saw a better self reflected in her eyes. And in that family love, many have found the sign and symbol of an even greater love, and have been touched by faith.

We discovered that who we are is more than important than what we have. And we know we must renew our values to restore our country.

This is the vision of America's founders. They never saw our nation's greatness in rising wealth or in advancing armies, but in small, unnumbered acts of caring and courage and self-denial.

Their highest hope, as Robert Frost described it, was to occupy the land with character. And that, 13 generations later, is still our goal, to occupy the land with character.

In a responsibility era, each of us has important tasks, work that only we can do. Each of us is responsible to love and guide our children and to help a neighbor in need. Synagogues, churches and mosques are responsible, not only to worship, but to serve.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 20, 2006 8:21 AM

Black men weren't left behind, they were tripped up and deliberately kept back by the poverty pimps and liberal Democrats who used them to gain power and money for themselves. Welfare destroyed the family so few positive black male figures are in their lives, the drug culture puts them in prison or the cemetery, the unions keep them out of good job opportunities and the public schools tell them they're too incompetent to compete in the "white" world and need to stay in custodial care in order to survive.

It takes an unusually determined young man to overcome this massive wall and enter into American society.

Bill Cosby found out what happens when a black millionaire dares lift his head over that wall and tell it like it is. Perhaps that's why few other black sports and entertainment figures have done much of anything to help these boys.

Posted by: erp at March 20, 2006 10:39 AM

The hip-hop, rap culture does not promote much beyond jumping around, now does it?

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 20, 2006 11:17 AM

Illegitimacy is the downfall to any society, 34% of all American children are born illegitimate. The black illegitimacy rate is 68%. The white illegitimacy rate is 23%. A vast majority of these children have very little contact with their biological fathers. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this will leads to many more problems.

Posted by: pchuck at March 20, 2006 11:57 AM

I haven't read the entire article, and refuse to register to be able do so. Have they figured out yet that this is the classic absent father syndrome? Or is that still utterly foreign to feminist sensiblilties?

Posted by: ghostcat at March 20, 2006 1:27 PM

I should suggest that all men must be disciplined to the ways of civilization. All means all.

Where parental and familial neglect results is failure to accomplish this, the task is left to policemen and judges.

Based in a city with a "minority majority" population, where as our mayor put it, "The brothers and sisters are in charge," I am more inclined to view the matter as an individual and not a racial problem. There are an awful lot of melanin-endowed gentlemen here speaking standard English, lestening to civilized music, pursuing careers and education and caring for their families.

For the others we have a good, big Department of Corrections and a liberal, shall-issue concealed-carry permit system.

Posted by: Lou Gots at March 20, 2006 1:38 PM

Im a black man myself in college attaining a Political Science/U.S. History degree, so that I might be able to get my Law degree! My father wasnt there for me, though he was not the typical young, poor Black father that evades his responsiblities(his family), as he has money! I am blessed to have a strong, supportive family, though! But, as to the question of Black men lacking in eduation, wealth, etc-- it really does start with self-responsibility! Im personally sick and tired of the anti-establishment folk that blame everything on the "system"! Now, dont get me wrong---Yes, that "evil institution" that was slavery did a number on our race and literally put us behind 400 years! Thats indisputable! But, at some point--we must(as menfolk) understand that those Black men that were slaves had an unrelenting burning in their stomachs to do better and to escape if they could! They might have been afraid to do so, but I can guarantee-they kept that goal of freedom at the forefront of their minds! Likewise, Its my belief that mind should be put over matter---we dont have nearly the obstacles to overcome as they did! Now, this is really an oversimplified version and of course when you get into the fine details, its more complex and involves much sociological&political studying--but I feel that the first step is to say:Im Going to do better, because I am better--better than what I am portrayed as in the media and better than what I am expected to be! If we dont achieve that level of self-respect first, then we cant do much when it comes to solving the more difficult problems that lie before us. So, I hope this is the direction that my fellow "brothas" start to head in! I know that instead of just talking about it---I will be using my skills and knowledge to advance the cause of particularly African-American men! I seriously hope more people would do the same, instead of simply finding someone or something to blame!

Posted by: Jeremy at March 20, 2006 9:10 PM

Jeremy, It'll be interesting to see how your views go over with the African-American leadership. Check back and let us know.

Posted by: erp at March 21, 2006 2:11 PM