The random acts of violence and vandalism by groups of African-American teens on March 22 in downtown Louisville raised the hair on the back of the necks of a city. Throughout our city many citizens are asking, “Why?” Others are expressing fear, frustration and outrage by pointing the finger at the African-American community and expressing displeasure with the parents of the teens involved. They are focusing on the breakdown of the family as the fundamental source of weakness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70 percent of African- American children are born to unwed parents and reared in female-headed households. I believe this social phenomenon has undermined the role of men and resulted in many giving up their responsibilities as fathers and providers.
However, there has been a developing trend on the part of fathers to play a more meaningful role in the lives of their children. A survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics showed, despite the fact that African-American fathers are highly likely to live apart from at least one or more of their children; they were just as involved as dads from other races if not more involved. Nonetheless, fathers seeking to be a part of this growing trend face enormous barriers.
Two years ago, I pledged to use my position at Plymouth Community Renewal Center as a bully pulpit to advocate on behalf of African-American men. My vow was out of frustration with community leaders who responded to the 2012 brazen triple homicide in western Louisville by pushing for more youth programs despite the fact that over a third of the homicide victims and perpetrators in 2011 were both adults and African-American men. At the time, I posted on Facebook that any action plan addressing this problem of violence in western Louisville was doomed to fail if adult men between ages 18-35 were not taken into account.
I echo that sentiment as it relates to the March 22 incident. Any action plan that does not invest in the success of young African-American men will not effectively address the “tangle of pathologies” driving teens to believe it is OK to wreak havoc on a community.
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SOURCE: The Courier-Journal