Mr. President, it’s your move.
The heat of public reaction from the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin murder trial is starting to cool.
Now the first black president has a chance to use his unique standing in black America to move beyond the racial static. He can help future Trayvon Martins – poor, young, black American men – avoid falling into more trouble and off America’s ladder of upward mobility.
Bill O’Reilly passionately made the point on his show this week when he said it is time for “straight talk and I hope the president is listening because we need him to lead on this issue.”
And the issue O’Reilly loudly nailed to the presidential wall for priority action is the high number of young black men who are victims of violent crime, who are convicted of violent crime and end up in jail for breaking the law.
“The statistics are overwhelming,” O’Reilly said. “Here is the headline: Young black men commit homicides at a rate ten times greater than whites and Hispanics combined.” And the root cause of the problem, O’Reilly said, is “the disintegration of the African-American family.”
It is hard for O’Reilly to make this point and get young black men or civil rights leaders to listen.
When a white conservative raises the issue of black men and crime, especially after the overwhelming white Republican support for a verdict that gave no justice to the black family of a murdered teen, a lot of people are going to see it as trying to shift the focus to problems in the black community. They also dismiss it as an attempt to distract black people from their outrage over recent events.
That is why it is time for people who care about black America to act.
That is why O’Reilly is exactly right to point to the black man with the highest level of credibility in black America since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – President Obama – and challenge that man to deliver the message to black America that it is time to focus on fixing the black family and helping young black men get on the road to success.
Bill Cosby, the famous comic entertainer, has a lot of credibility in black America. He has tried to deliver the message that there is map for young black men to find success. I wrote a book about Cosby’s epic effort, it's called ‘ENOUGH: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America – and What We Can Do About It.”
But no one has the chance to deliver that message as powerfully as President Obama can right now. He is in a unique historical position, with a singular pulpit from which to speak and act to do something incredible to help young black men benefit from the opportunities in our great country.
Here is what he should say clearly. The road to success is plain as day.
1. Stay in school and graduate from the highest level of school – but absolutely, no excuses, graduate from high school.
2. Take a job and hold it, no matter what job, no matter if your friends put you down for ‘flipping burgers.’ Use the job to get experience, make contacts with business people, and build a resume.
3. Marry after you have finished your education and while you have a job.
And the final step is important for you and for the future of your family and your community:
4. Don’t have children until you are 21-years-old and married.
Imagine if President Obama repeated that message over and over, ignoring the phonies who want to focus only on “systemic” racism as the reason for high rates of poverty, involvement with crime, and incarceration among black men.
Imagine if the president delivered that message despite attempted to intimidate him by civil rights leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson who said the president deserved to be castrated for calling for black men to be good fathers.
Imagine if he decided to deliver that message and by-passed the so-called ‘racial experts’ and academics who prefer to look at America’s troubled racial history – slavery and legal segregation.
The answer is the president could make a difference in millions of lives and build a legacy on par with Dr. King.
And that message is a proven solution. Here is the track record for that solution as I wrote about it in my book, "ENOUGH: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It." “The poverty rate for any black man or woman who follows that formula is a mere 6.4 percent…in other words by meeting those basic requirements black American can cut their chances of being poor by two-thirds…even white American families have a higher poverty rate than black people who finished high school, got married, had children after 21 and worked for at least one week a year.”
The key for black women is also in the formula – do not have a baby outside of a strong marriage. Over a third [35 percent] of the black women who have children out of wedlock – now tragically more than 70 percent – live in poverty.
By comparison, only 17 percent of black women who are married live in poverty. And black children with both parents at home have a better chance for success, fewer dealings with the police, higher graduation rates and are more likely to marry before they have children.
Marriage and the presence of adults as role models and loving disciplinarians is absolutely critical helping young black men build the self-esteem that puts them in position to make good decisions that lead to the road to success.
As usual, my pal O’Reilly puts it more bluntly: “Right now 73 percent of all black babies are born out of wedlock. That drives poverty and the lack of involved fathers leads to young boys growing up resentful and unsupervised. When was the last time you saw a public service ad telling young black girls to avoid [out-of-wedlock pregnancies]? Has President Obama done such an ad?”
There’s nothing that could be done for young black men that’s more powerful, that would help them more, than strong fathers who are present in strong families.
Mr. President, it is your move.