Growing youth violence in the United States will not be resolved until we find the moral courage to address the racial issues that underlie it.
During a Chicago school visit earlier this month to the site where a black honor student was beaten to death by a mob of black students, Attorney General Eric Holder stated that growing youth violence in America is not just "a black problem," but a problem for all races. The trouble with this statement is that it is statistically untrue.
Youth violence may not be solely a black problem, but it is primarily a black problem.
Consider, by race, the contributing factors of prison incarceration and school suspension. Blacks are imprisoned and suspended three times more frequently than the rest of the US population, and as much as six times more frequently than their white, Asian, and Latino counterparts.
The question is not whether young blacks, particularly males, get involved in violent incidents more frequently than other races. The question is why.
White and black liberals blame this disparity on a racist society that misinterprets and discriminates against black culture.
White and black conservatives explain these statistics as the result of less respect for the law, caused solely by poor parenting. They cite as proof that high-achieving blacks have been well-parented.
This is not a new problem. Consider a memo written in 1965 to President Lyndon Johnson from Assistant Labor Secretary Daniel Moynihan in which the secretary expressed his great concern over the high rate of out-of-wedlock births among blacks (25 percent at that time). Unaddressed, Mr. Moynihan predicted, this large number of fatherless children would result in increasing school failure, criminal delinquency, and joblessness. Sadly, because liberals across the board condemned this call for action as racist propaganda, President Johnson didn't want to risk heated public debate and so did nothing.
The recent Chicago incident, and countless others that occur daily, are the result of not heeding Moynihan's warning 44 years ago. The previous out-of-wedlock birthrate has almost tripled, and 7 out of 10 black children now grow up not only without a father, but also in disproportionate poverty. That means millions of young kids lack adequate parental guidance to make the transition to become successful adults.
So of course unparented black kids act up and get in trouble more. Any racial group would do the same. The starting point for reducing our nation's youth violence must begin at home. We need our elected public officials to acknowledge this.
President Obama – himself black, well-parented, and successful – has a unique opportunity to start reducing youth violence by addressing this key issue. The president needs to condemn the disparity in out-of-wedlock birthrates and antisocial behavior between black youth and their peers of other races. He needs to specifically address the habit of blaming racism alone for the failure to instill proper behavior in black children.
A specific call for black parental accountability would be a strong first step in avoiding future tragedies like the one in Chicago.