17 Sep 2013
- Written by Tony Nichelson
It is impossible for intelligent people to look at the situation faced by young urban men in America and not conclude that something is very wrong with the group. Whether it is self-inflicted or caused by sinister external forces, the fact remains that millions of black boys have been systematically excluded from the American mainstream.
Incarceration is the most visible evidence of their plight, but mental illness, poor health, educational deficiencies, chronic unemployment, illiteracy and immature decision-making are all personal characteristics of the six-million troubled souls who can not contribute anything to their race or culture, at least not in their present state.
The problem begins with poor parenting at the earliest stages of development for urban boys... this fact is nothing new. Some people should never have had children. Parents who don't read to their children before age five, and who speak broken English or "Ebonics" and use profanity around their toddlers, have set the stage for pre-K and elementary school communication lapses. The lack of comprehensive cultural development or positive, early initiatives for children, especially boys, leads to idleness and mischief, characterized most often by vandalism and trespassing charges or arrests.
Layer upon layer of silly and unproductive media options, along with the new "Blacksploitation" films, videos and cyber-images only add to the hardening of the boys' personalities and open defiance, with a willingness to be incarcerated, or seek placement in alternative school settings. It amounts to a "parallel universe" for young urban men who don't really see themselves as a part of "the American mainstream." It's not something they recognize or feel a part of. It's been that way for 40 years.
So the black community often finds itself asking, "Where are the well-groomed, intelligent, well-spoken, crime-free young men that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights protesters dreamed about?" How is it possible in 2013 that so many young men are on probation or parole, while so few are in colleges, universities, or trade schools? How is it possible that so few young men have any hope or plan for a healthy, well-adjusted family life of their own, with a wife and legitimate children?
And finally, how is it possible after so many struggles over the centuries that the African-American community would have no answers to the genocide taking place in American cities every day, losing 10-20 black males to murder and intra-racial violence every 24 hours?
In Memphis, it becomes obvious to even the casual observer that the majority of black people are poor, moderately educated, and unable to muster the will to challenge the status quo. Harvard and the University of California at Berkley recently published the results of a study that says Memphis is "the most economically segregated city in America." Its schools are among the lowest performing in the state, and its infant mortality rate approaches that of Third World nations. In 2012, local politicians surrendered the City's 100-year-old school charter, and watched as its suburban municipalities fled the newly created "unified" school system like scalded cats... perhaps rightly so.
In Memphis, a child born into poverty has a 97 percent chance of never making it out due to a horrible public transportation system and a chronically under-performing school system that has been in place for decades and corrupted by ambitious politicians using the school board to position themselves for higher office.
While the City of Memphis is predominately African American, the total dollar amount of minority contracts with the city and county governments is an unbelievable one tenth of one percent. rising to a high of one percent, briefly, a decade ago.
Nearly 100,000 ex-offenders walk the streets of Memphis every day without a driver's license or the right to vote. They return to neighborhoods in North and South Memphis (directly from prison settings) to share new criminal tactics with the boys we reference in this essay.
It must be said that there are many good things about living in Memphis, but this isn't the place for those near-delusional references. This essay is to inform the reader about the real fact of Memphis being as close to Johannesburg, South Africa during the height of Apartheid as it could possibly be.
• Complete control of the local economy and the education systems by wealthy whites;
• Complete control of the juvenile incarceration system by predominately white administrators:
• The complicity of black "leaders" in the 30-year decline of the middle class and of black neighborhoods throughout Memphis:
• The large, uneducated population of low-skilled laborers at the economic mercy of the transportation and hospitality industries.
All of this creates the appearance of a de facto southern plantation circa 1855, rather than a thriving American city where every child born here has a legitimate chance to prosper.
Apartheid lives in Memphis, with no easy way out.
(Tony Nichelson is a Memphis radio host and founder of The 110 Institute and "Man of the House" Mentoring. He is currently publishing a Literacy Workbook & Behavior Guide for urban male students. For more information, visit manofthehous.net for.)