Thursday, March 30, 2006

The below article is taken from the NY Times - Op Ed section. I am so happy that society is talking about this issue. It is important for African Americans to discuss and debate. Enjoy the article and please discuss your thoughts. Op-Ed Contributor
A Poverty of the Mind
Cambridge, Mass.
SEVERAL recent studies have garnered wide attention for reconfirming the tragic disconnection of millions of black youths from the American mainstream. But they also highlighted another crisis: the failure of social scientists to adequately explain the problem, and their inability to come up with any effective strategy to deal with it.
The main cause for this shortcoming is a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960's: the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group's cultural attributes — its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions, and the resulting behavior of its members — and the relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing.
Harry Holzer, an economist at Georgetown University and a co-author of one of the recent studies, typifies this attitude. Joblessness, he feels, is due to largely weak schooling, a lack of reading and math skills at a time when such skills are increasingly required even for blue-collar jobs, and the poverty of black neighborhoods. Unable to find jobs, he claims, black males turn to illegal activities, especially the drug trade and chronic drug use, and often end up in prison. He also criticizes the practice of withholding child-support payments from the wages of absentee fathers who do find jobs, telling The Times that to these men, such levies "amount to a tax on earnings."
His conclusions are shared by scholars like Ronald B. Mincy of Columbia, the author of a study called "Black Males Left Behind," and Gary Orfield of Harvard, who asserts that America is "pumping out boys with no honest alternative."
This is all standard explanatory fare. And, as usual, it fails to answer the important questions. Why are young black men doing so poorly in school that they lack basic literacy and math skills? These scholars must know that countless studies by educational experts, going all the way back to the landmark report by James Coleman of Johns Hopkins University in 1966, have found that poor schools, per se, do not explain why after 10 years of education a young man remains illiterate.
Nor have studies explained why, if someone cannot get a job, he turns to crime and drug abuse. One does not imply the other. Joblessness is rampant in Latin America and India, but the mass of the populations does not turn to crime.
And why do so many young unemployed black men have children — several of them — which they have no resources or intention to support? And why, finally, do they murder each other at nine times the rate of white youths?
What's most interesting about the recent spate of studies is that analysts seem at last to be recognizing what has long been obvious to anyone who takes culture seriously: socioeconomic factors are of limited explanatory power. Thus it's doubly depressing that the conclusions they draw and the prescriptions they recommend remain mired in traditional socioeconomic thinking.
What has happened, I think, is that the economic boom years of the 90's and one of the most successful policy initiatives in memory — welfare reform — have made it impossible to ignore the effects of culture. The Clinton administration achieved exactly what policy analysts had long said would pull black men out of their torpor: the economy grew at a rapid pace, providing millions of new jobs at all levels. Yet the jobless black youths simply did not turn up to take them. Instead, the opportunity was seized in large part by immigrants — including many blacks — mainly from Latin America and the Caribbean.
One oft-repeated excuse for the failure of black Americans to take these jobs — that they did not offer a living wage — turned out to be irrelevant. The sociologist Roger Waldinger of the University of California at Los Angeles, for example, has shown that in New York such jobs offered an opportunity to the chronically unemployed to join the market and to acquire basic work skills that they later transferred to better jobs, but that the takers were predominantly immigrants.
Why have academics been so allergic to cultural explanations? Until the recent rise of behavioral economics, most economists have simply not taken non-market forces seriously. But what about the sociologists and other social scientists who ought to have known better? Three gross misconceptions about culture explain the neglect.
First is the pervasive idea that cultural explanations inherently blame the victim; that they focus on internal behavioral factors and, as such, hold people responsible for their poverty, rather than putting the onus on their deprived environment. (It hasn't helped that many conservatives do actually put forth this view.)
But this argument is utterly bogus. To hold someone responsible for his behavior is not to exclude any recognition of the environmental factors that may have induced the problematic behavior in the first place. Many victims of child abuse end up behaving in self-destructive ways; to point out the link between their behavior and the destructive acts is in no way to deny the causal role of their earlier victimization and the need to address it.
Likewise, a cultural explanation of black male self-destructiveness addresses not simply the immediate connection between their attitudes and behavior and the undesired outcomes, but explores the origins and changing nature of these attitudes, perhaps over generations, in their brutalized past. It is impossible to understand the predatory sexuality and irresponsible fathering behavior of young black men without going back deep into their collective past.
Second, it is often assumed that cultural explanations are wholly deterministic, leaving no room for human agency. This, too, is nonsense. Modern students of culture have long shown that while it partly determines behavior, it also enables people to change behavior. People use their culture as a frame for understanding their world, and as a resource to do much of what they want. The same cultural patterns can frame different kinds of behavior, and by failing to explore culture at any depth, analysts miss a great opportunity to re-frame attitudes in a way that encourages desirable behavior and outcomes.
Third, it is often assumed that cultural patterns cannot change — the old "cake of custom" saw. This too is nonsense. Indeed, cultural patterns are often easier to change than the economic factors favored by policy analysts, and American history offers numerous examples.
My favorite is Jim Crow, that deeply entrenched set of cultural and institutional practices built up over four centuries of racist domination and exclusion of blacks by whites in the South. Nothing could have been more cultural than that. And yet America was able to dismantle the entire system within a single generation, so much so that today blacks are now making a historic migratory shift back to the South, which they find more congenial than the North. (At the same time, economic inequality, which the policy analysts love to discuss, has hardened in the South, like the rest of America.)
So what are some of the cultural factors that explain the sorry state of young black men? They aren't always obvious. Sociological investigation has found, in fact, that one popular explanation — that black children who do well are derided by fellow blacks for "acting white" — turns out to be largely false, except for those attending a minority of mixed-race schools.
An anecdote helps explain why: Several years ago, one of my students went back to her high school to find out why it was that almost all the black girls graduated and went to college whereas nearly all the black boys either failed to graduate or did not go on to college. Distressingly, she found that all the black boys knew the consequences of not graduating and going on to college ("We're not stupid!" they told her indignantly).
SO why were they flunking out? Their candid answer was that what sociologists call the "cool-pose culture" of young black men was simply too gratifying to give up. For these young men, it was almost like a drug, hanging out on the street after school, shopping and dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music and culture, the fact that almost all the superstar athletes and a great many of the nation's best entertainers were black.
Not only was living this subculture immensely fulfilling, the boys said, it also brought them a great deal of respect from white youths. This also explains the otherwise puzzling finding by social psychologists that young black men and women tend to have the highest levels of self-esteem of all ethnic groups, and that their self-image is independent of how badly they were doing in school.
I call this the Dionysian trap for young black men. The important thing to note about the subculture that ensnares them is that it is not disconnected from the mainstream culture. To the contrary, it has powerful support from some of America's largest corporations. Hip-hop, professional basketball and homeboy fashions are as American as cherry pie. Young white Americans are very much into these things, but selectively; they know when it is time to turn off Fifty Cent and get out the SAT prep book.
For young black men, however, that culture is all there is — or so they think. Sadly, their complete engagement in this part of the American cultural mainstream, which they created and which feeds their pride and self-respect, is a major factor in their disconnection from the socioeconomic mainstream.
Of course, such attitudes explain only a part of the problem. In academia, we need a new, multidisciplinary approach toward understanding what makes young black men behave so self-destructively. Collecting transcripts of their views and rationalizations is a useful first step, but won't help nearly as much as the recent rash of scholars with tape-recorders seem to think. Getting the facts straight is important, but for decades we have been overwhelmed with statistics on black youths, and running more statistical regressions is beginning to approach the point of diminishing returns to knowledge.
The tragedy unfolding in our inner cities is a time-slice of a deep historical process that runs far back through the cataracts and deluge of our racist past. Most black Americans have by now, miraculously, escaped its consequences. The disconnected fifth languishing in the ghettos is the remains. Too much is at stake for us to fail to understand the plight of these young men. For them, and for the rest of us.
Orlando Patterson, a professor of sociology at Harvard, is the author of "Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The following article is one that many African American women including myself talk about in hair salons, over coffee at trendy urban coffee shops, in nail salons and other places where women gather? I know dozens of wonderful, smart, sexy, financially stable African American women. All single, with no kids. In their 30's and 40's searching for a good man. Not willing to settle for the "baby momma dram, the no job, bad credit, no asset's, womanizing, good sex is all I have to offer - man! They want more! They want a man to be a man! This may sound harsh. I love African American men! Love them! Let me be clear. I want to marry a African American man. I turn down dates and offers from white men all of the time. Yet, the years and the numbers are taking a toll on me. Perhaps, it is time to say "yes" to a few of the multiculutral date offers, I receive. 'Marriage Is for White People'
By Joy JonesSunday, March 26, 2006; B01
I grew up in a time when two-parent families were still the norm, in both black and white America. Then, as an adult, I saw divorce become more commonplace, then almost a rite of passage. Today it would appear that many -- particularly in the black community -- have dispensed with marriage altogether.
But as a black woman, I have witnessed the outrage of girlfriends when the ex failed to show up for his weekend with the kids, and I've seen the disappointment of children who missed having a dad around. Having enjoyed a close relationship with my own father, I made a conscious decision that I wanted a husband, not a live-in boyfriend and not a "baby's daddy," when it came my time to mate and marry.
My time never came.
For years, I wondered why not. And then some 12-year-olds enlightened me.
"Marriage is for white people."
That's what one of my students told me some years back when I taught a career exploration class for sixth-graders at an elementary school in Southeast Washington. I was pleasantly surprised when the boys in the class stated that being a good father was a very important goal to them, more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title.
"That's wonderful!" I told my class. "I think I'll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children."
"Oh, no," objected one student. "We're not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers."
And that's when the other boy chimed in, speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth: "Marriage is for white people."
He's right. At least statistically. The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Such statistics have caused Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman to point out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country.
How have we gotten here? What has shifted in African American customs, in our community, in our consciousness, that has made marriage seem unnecessary or unattainable?
Although slavery was an atrocious social system, men and women back then nonetheless often succeeded in establishing working families. In his account of slave life and culture, "Roll, Jordan, Roll," historian Eugene D. Genovese wrote: "A slave in Georgia prevailed on his master to sell him to Jamaica so that he could find his wife, despite warnings that his chances of finding her on so large an island were remote. . . . Another slave in Virginia chopped his left hand off with a hatchet to prevent being sold away from his son." I was stunned to learn that a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today, according to sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin.
Traditional notions of family, especially the extended family network, endure. But working mothers, unmarried couples living together, out-of-wedlock births, birth control, divorce and remarriage have transformed the social landscape. And no one seems to feel this more than African American women. One told me that with today's changing mores, it's hard to know "what normal looks like" when it comes to courtship, marriage and parenthood. Sex, love and childbearing have become a la carte choices rather than a package deal that comes with marriage. Moreover, in an era of brothers on the "down low," the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the decline of the stable blue-collar jobs that black men used to hold, linking one's fate to a man makes marriage a risky business for a black woman.
"A woman who takes that step is bold and brave," one young single mother told me. "Women don't want to marry because they don't want to lose their freedom."
Among African Americans, the desire for marriage seems to have a different trajectory for women and men. My observation is that black women in their twenties and early thirties want to marry and commit at a time when black men their age are more likely to enjoy playing the field. As the woman realizes that a good marriage may not be as possible or sustainable as she would like, her focus turns to having a baby, or possibly improving her job status, perhaps by returning to school or investing more energy in her career.
As men mature, and begin to recognize the benefits of having a roost and roots (and to feel the consequences of their risky bachelor behavior), they are more willing to marry and settle down. By this time, however, many of their female peers are satisfied with the lives they have constructed and are less likely to settle for marriage to a man who doesn't bring much to the table. Indeed, he may bring too much to the table: children and their mothers from previous relationships, limited earning power, and the fallout from years of drug use, poor health care, sexual promiscuity. In other words, for the circumspect black woman, marriage may not be a business deal that offers sufficient return on investment.
In the past, marriage was primarily just such a business deal. Among wealthy families, it solidified political alliances or expanded land holdings. For poorer people, it was a means of managing the farm or operating a household. Today, people have become economically self-sufficient as individuals, no longer requiring a spouse for survival. African American women have always had a high rate of labor-force participation. "Why should well-salaried women marry?" asked black feminist and author Alice Dunbar-Nelson as early as 1895. But now instead of access only to low-paying jobs, we can earn a breadwinner's wage, which has changed what we want in a husband. "Women's expectations have changed dramatically while men's have not changed much at all," said one well-paid working wife and mother. "Women now say, 'Providing is not enough. I need more partnership.' "
The turning point in my own thinking about marriage came when a longtime friend proposed about five years ago. He and I had attended college together, dated briefly, then kept in touch through the years. We built a solid friendship, which I believe is a good foundation for a successful marriage.
But -- if we had married, I would have had to relocate to the Midwest. Been there, done that, didn't like it. I would have had to become a stepmother and, although I felt an easy camaraderie with his son, stepmotherhood is usually a bumpy ride. I wanted a house and couldn't afford one alone. But I knew that if I was willing to make some changes, I eventually could.
As I reviewed the situation, I realized that all the things I expected marriage to confer -- male companionship, close family ties, a house -- I already had, or were within reach, and with exponentially less drama. I can do bad by myself, I used to say as I exited a relationship. But the truth is, I can do pretty good by myself, too.
Most single black women over the age of 30 whom I know would not mind getting married, but acknowledge that the kind of man and the quality of marriage they would like to have may not be likely, and they are not desperate enough to simply accept any situation just to have a man. A number of my married friends complain that taking care of their husbands feels like having an additional child to raise. Then there's the fact that marriage apparently can be hazardous to the health of black women. A recent study by the Institute for American Values, a nonpartisan think tank in New York City, indicates that married African American women are less healthy than their single sisters.
By design or by default, black women cultivate those skills that allow them to maintain themselves (or sometimes even to prosper) without a mate.
"If Jesus Christ bought me an engagement ring, I wouldn't take it," a separated thirty-something friend told me. "I'd tell Jesus we could date, but we couldn't marry."
And here's the new twist. African American women aren't the only ones deciding that they can make do alone. Often what happens in black America is a sign of what the rest of America can eventually expect. In his 2003 book, "Mismatch: The Growing Gulf between Women and Men," Andrew Hacker noted that the structure of white families is evolving in the direction of that of black families of the 1960s. In 1960, 67 percent of black families were headed by a husband and wife, compared to 90.9 percent for whites. By 2000, the figure for white families had dropped to 79.8 percent. Births to unwed white mothers were 22.5 percent in 2001, compared to 2.3 percent in 1960. So my student who thought marriage is for white people may have to rethink that in the future.
Still, does this mean that marriage is going the way of the phonograph and the typewriter ribbon?
"I hope it isn't," said one friend who's been married for seven years. "The divorce rate is 50 percent, but people remarry. People want to be married. I don't think it's going out of style."
A black male acquaintance had a different prediction. "I don't believe marriage is going to be extinct, but I think you'll see fewer people married," he said. "It's a bad thing. I believe it takes the traditional family -- a man and a woman -- to raise kids." He has worked with troubled adolescents, and has observed that "the girls who are in the most trouble and who are abused the most -- the father is absent. And the same is true for the boys, too." He believes that his presence and example in the home is why both his sons decided to marry when their girlfriends became pregnant.
But human nature being what it is, if marriage is to flourish -- in black or white America -- it will have to offer an individual woman something more than a business alliance, a panacea for what ails the community, or an incubator for rearing children. As one woman said, "If it weren't for the intangibles, the allure of the lovey-dovey stuff, I wouldn't have gotten married. The benefits of marriage are his character and his caring. If not for that, why bother?"
Joy Jones, a Washington writer, is the author of "Between Black Women: Listening With the Third Ear" (African American Images).

Friday, March 17, 2006

Chuck D - I love you! First of all, I am an old skool hip hop person. I love old rap music. 80's, 90's and a few songs in the 00. However, I can not listen to the stuff that is played on most urban "pop" music stations. It is HORRIBLE! It is sickening. What happened to rap music? Why did we lose control? Below is an article from Chuck D. I don't normally agree with everything that he says, however, I agree 100% with this article. The music is POISON and it is sad what is happening to our youth. Read and enjoy.....The Bitch Slapping of Blackfolk Using The Hand of Hip Chuck DThe news at the time was on blast about Busta Rhymes' bodyguard being murdered while protecting his jewels for his star-studded video and current hit song, Touch It. The 'stop-snitching stench' aroma, on a viral pass-around, had everyone who saw 'what, who, when, and why' acting suddenly like dumbass living mutes. @#%$ so bad that Busta flew 3000 miles to supposedly finish the video, via Jimmy Iodine's poisoned, deep pockets. This was typical of the madness surfing atop the platform of hip hop in 2006, enough to make one of the chief creators scream stop. Uptown in Harlem at the 126th Street's Black Slave Theater, a massive town hall meeting was called by Afrika Bambaataa's ZULU NATION, about the climate of the radiation of a radio, TV, movie nation; and how to stop and fight the control-towers that be. The severe lack of balance coming via the frequencies of the air, was akin to toxins pouring into the 9th ward after the levee expl- ur um, break. Anything but a building full of bitter old hip hop headz, folks were motivated to finally answer to the responsibility and accountability of being grown. Those that claim they can't see the poison are duped by the same reasons it's effective. Usually poison is hidden in something deemed good for you. Poison has to be clearly identified with danger signs, death, skulls, bones etc. to keep the not knowing, unreading, and naive (usually children) from ingesting it. Speakers like Ernie Pannicioli, Rosa Clemente, Shaka and others from the Zulus, Grandmixer DXT and yours truly spoke to the room, of the clearly converted, about really forcing the balance from rap/hip hop being the millennium COINTELPRO. Yes, the new counterintelligence program steering the masses toward the two booming industries of jail and death. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. But then again the continued bitch slapping of blackfolk using the hand of hip hop takes place as the masses, who are considered asses, are too blind, deaf, and dumbed down to see or hear it. Or too numb to feel it. Testing a sane one's sanity, I say. And when I know something I say something. But do a 360 degree turn of your head.... In Selma, Alabama it was the 41st anniversary of the civil rights march across the Edmund Pettis bridge while many of the acts involved had 'mafia', 'gangsta' and 'nigger' running rampant in their names, lyrics, and imagery; as well as it being blastcasted across the Alabama urban airwaves. Tables of CDs, DVDs and T-shirts of slain rapcats, seem to parallel the ones of Garvey, King, X, and Harriet. Bootleg CDs from the 60's-70's sang about love and happiness as the 90's-06 CDs and DVDs centralized on drug-pimp-thug lifestyle. Have we gone forward or back? I wondered as I stared at the Edmund Pettus bridge hearing "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" in the background. Two weeks prior I approached BET's topdog Stephen Hill during the Grammy rehearsal about the imbalance of their programming since Teen Summit and Tavis Smiley. All he answered was he didn't want another FRANK'S PLACE know bad number ratings, only conscious folk watching it, ( i.e. too smart = no paper). Wondered what women thought about pimpin not being easy in '06. Then again if the president of MTV, BET, and Radio One are all black women, then why are the images of black women at its lowest?? Yeah, don't let me tell yall, do some work and google Debra, Christina, and Cathy....Death Any Child? Then again the ultimate pimp flask got one from white America, on the heels of Halle getting the bitch - ho treatment and Denzel doing Superthug. Saw Kimora Lee Simmons has a book out called Fabulosity, caught it on CNN as they search for more streetcred...cannot even take the news when they feed the drug of America - celebrity to them asses. I did a career day lecture booth at my youngest one's school as the 7th-8th graders asked who really won Flavor Of Love? Repeatedly asked did I have any money or was I rich... Instead I pointed to my head and said with my college degree in 1984 I'd always be rich (as in enriched) and knowing it would pale in these 'white written for black consumption hustle and flow and get rich and die tryin times'. Russell and all the superstars on the radio-TV-movie stage increasingly find it easier to avoid the masses and broadcast to them asses. Get that money from those who barely have it, and stack and brag about them chips and chicks in the back. Dig this - it's really hard out there to defend against the wave of ignorant acceptance. Forget about them town halls being called ineffective. If anything they need to be held weekly, even daily in fact. A reminder of waiting for something to acknowledge and reward you, beyond recognizing self is like smiling at a bag of purchased cotton you just picked on a field. I'm not a pessimist about hip hop, I love the platform and its value to the world, history, etc. The historical fact on the surface says Triple 6 Mafia from Memphis winning the first Rap Academy Award for an original song is thirty-five years after Sir Isaac Hayes won the first. Two different times in Memphis, mind you. Dwelled on the negative as usual, you might say. But I know when my head and heart feels bitch-slapped without having a chance to raise up, breathe, swallow a positive thought and get my back straightened after manning the burden. And so It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp... but damn in anybody's right mind and soul why shouldn't it be?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Claude Allen - My comments are as follows. Claude Allen is a decent, honorable man. I will not and don't believe the comments that are being written about him. I know him as a man of impeccable character and moral fortitude. I believe this is a case of racial profiling. I won't believe any other explanation. This is a sad day for the Allen family. I am deeply saddened by the news and the media coverage.