By Phillip Jackson
The previous generation of young Black males was destroyed between 1985 and 2005. No amount of crying, cursing or hand-wringing can change this because that generation is gone! We need only walk down any city street in almost any predominantly African American community to see residue of the broken lives -- millions of young Black men nationwide. Few people spoke out effectively and even fewer engaged in actions to prevent this silent genocide. The mass destruction of Black American males has been effectively ignored by almost everybody—the government, the media and most of the philanthropic community. Even most of our Black churches and Black communities still stand by and watch the horrific loss of our young Black men.
The resulting negative educational, social, spiritual and economic impact of a generation of Black males’ shattered lives is also ultimately a devastating loss to our entire society. Of course, every single young Black man will not be lost, but here are the facts: Only 2.5 out of 100 of the 102,000 Black males in Chicago public schools are projected to graduate from college by age 25 with at least a bachelors degree (From High School to the Future, Consortium on Chicago School Research, University of Chicago 2006). And only 19 percent of Black males in Indianapolis and 20 percent in Detroit even graduated from high school in 2006 (Given Half a Chance: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males, The Schott Foundation for Public Education).
Testimony before the U.S. Congressional Joint Economic Committee in 2007 revealed that only 50 percent of Black men in New York City were employed and that, nationally, 72 percent of Black male high school dropouts were unemployed. Recent crime data from Youngstown, Ohio, a city with a 44 percent Black population, showed that young Black men between 15 and 25 years old were either perpetrators or victims of 90 percent of Youngstown’s murders. In 2008, Chicago had more than 500 murders, mostly of young Black and Latino men. The Justice Policy Institute predicts that one out of three Black males born after 2001 will spend time incarcerated.
All of these statistics, representing the general condition of young Black men in America today, forecast an abysmal future for Black America. These inexcusable catastrophic outcomes constitute an unnatural disaster. Black America, along with all of America, pays dearly for its collective ineptitude and willful neglect of the nurturing, mentoring, educating, developing and saving of young Black men. No plausible justification exists for a country as great as America to lose another generation of Black youth.
Ask yourself: Who are young Black women going to marry? Who will be good fathers to tens of millions of Black children? Who will build and maintain the economies of Black communities? Who will be the anchor upon which to build strong families in the Black community? Who will young Black boys emulate as they grow into men? Will Black America be a viable and valuable community in 20 years? Or is the better question: Who cares?
Will the election of America’s first Black male president cleanse its conscience for destroying a past generation and absolve it of guilt for annihilating the next generation of young Black males? What a cruel hoax to believe that if a Black man can become president, then Black men do not have problems that America is obligated to address. Yet Black America cannot trade one Black man in the White House for the million-plus Black men languishing in American jail houses and millions of Black boys failing in American school houses.
In the absence of broad public policy ushering in comprehensive systemic changes, future generations of young Black males are destined to continue destroying themselves, their families and their communities. American social, economic and governmental systems have greatly contributed to the destruction of young Black men who have, in turn, become weapons of mass destruction against Black American communities. All the while America continues its moral high-ground façade concerning international human rights.
Those voices who call for Black men to “step up and be men” are not only wasting their breath but are also part of a seemingly intractable problem. Correcting the issues of Black men will require a comprehensively structured, sufficiently financed, professionally managed, ethically led and committed multi-pronged effort to systemically address and shift the cascading negative outcomes for Black men and boys.
The real shame of this catastrophe is not that America can’t save young Black males; it is that America won’t save young Black males! The resources required are miniscule compared to recent governmental bailouts and expenditures. Saving young Black males is an investment in America! It is as much a spiritual battle as it is a physical and emotional battle. A successful effort to save young Black males must also address habits, attitudes and behaviors that have pushed Black men to the precipice of irrelevance, obsolescence and nonexistence. To date, precious little is in place to stop the on-going destruction and annihilation of young Black males.
Phillip Jackson, Founder and Executive Director
The Black Star Project
3473 South King Drive, Box 464
Chicago, Illinois 60616
773.285.9600 or email at email@example.com
January 3, 2009