Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A need to address the continuing crisis for black families - by Walter Backstrom

Every day, my father, his brothers and sisters talk on the phone about family and other related issues. I once asked my uncle, "Why do you guys talk so much?" He uttered three words — family comes first. The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom of those words.

The latest report from the Council of the Great City Schools, titled "Call for Change" on the status of the black family, has just been released. Those figures, as usual, brought a lump in my throat and pain in my soul. I will not bore you with the same mind-numbing numbers that we already know.
Here are some other ones:

• "Today the number of children born into a black marriage averages less than 1 child per marriage. 'The birthrates of black married women have fallen so sharply that absent out-of-wedlock childbearing, the African American population would not only fail to reproduce itself, but would rapidly die off.' " "The Abolition of Marriage," by Maggie Gallagher, p. 120.

• "During the days of slavery a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents than he or she is today." Andrew J. Cherlin, "Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage," revised, p. 110.

• "As recently as 1960, three-quarters of African Americans were born into a family of a married couple." Christopher Jencks, "Is the American Underclass Growing," p. 86, Table 14.

• "Today only one-third of black children have two parents in the home." Family Structure, Child Trends Databank, based on 2010 census Ddata.

These numbers should grab the attention of anyone who cares about black children, especially those parents who selfishly have taken the easy way out and abandoned their children.

I was lucky. I was raised in a two-parent family. My father was very strict. My mother was very loving. I cannot imagine my life without both of them. They sheltered me from a world that was often hostile toward black children. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

The condition of the black family — and in particular, the black male — continues to be in a state of crisis. I know people will blame the usual suspects — white people, Republicans, the tea party, etc.
My questions are — where are the black churches, where are the wealthy blacks, where is our first black president? I will tell you where they are: MIA (missing in action).

They are unfocused and, to a large degree, uncaring. There is an old saying that goes like this: "No one will do for you what you need to do for yourself."

I will admit there are many people hard at work on helping the black family. However, we need much, much more. I am a small-government conservative. I am also a believer and because of that and the tragedy I see every day, government can and must help.

The "war on poverty" in the 1960s unfortunately also became a war on the black family. U.S. Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, a liberal icon from New York, warned against policies that splintered the black family. He was called a "racist" by the politically correct crowd, a word they still enjoy using.
The awful reality is that he was right and we have reaped what we have sown. We have been too busy watching TV, doing drugs, or whatever.

Heavens! These are our children! They look to us for love and guidance and we have told them "no."
According to syndicated columnist Bob Herbert, "This is not a fight only for blacks. All allies are welcome. But the cultural imperative lies overwhelmingly with the black community itself."

Walter Backstrom is a longtime South King County resident and active participant in the area's schools

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