Sunday, July 28, 2013

Moving On Up

Last week I wrote (before Bill O'Reilly said essentially the same) that the only sure way to change things for the African-American community is from the inside-out.  It seems all of the energy right now is focused on outside forces.

The protesters and polemicists who want to keep complaining and agitating about the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial would be well advised to look inward.

Where are the voices talking about the nearly three out of four African American children born out of wedlock? Where are the voices decrying the culture among black youths that seems to glorify drugs and violence?  Where are the voices speaking out about the fact that only 54 percent of African Americans are graduating from high school?
Crime is largely a function of poverty and poor home environments.  The absence of a father in the home is a significant factor in this equation. 
Failure to complete high school is almost a certain path to poverty in this day and age.  We are spending massive amounts of money on welfare and other programs to help the poor but you hear little about the massive failure of young African Americans to graduate from high school.  We are spending enormous sums of money on the symptoms but pay little attention to the underlying disease.

Why is this so important? It is because out of wedlock births and failure to graduate from high school are almost certain to lead to poverty.

William Galston, who was an advisor to President Clinton, has spent a good part of his career studying the causes of poverty.  He concluded that in order to avoid being poor you just needed to do three things, (1) graduate from high school, (2) wait until getting married to have children, (3) wait until age 20 to have children.  His research indicated that only 8 percent of young people who followed these rules ended up poor.  However, breaking just one of these rules means a 79 percent chance of ending up below the poverty line.

The New York Times recently reported on a recent study that also seems to reinforce the importance of these factors, among others, in income mobility (being able to move up the economic ladder).

The researchers found four broad factors that appeared to positively affect income mobility.

  1. Poor families are more dispersed among mixed-income neighborhoods.
  2. There are more two-parent households.
  3. There are better elementary and high schools
  4. There is more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups
The Times article say that what they found "surprised" the researchers? Really?  Isn't it obvious that you are going to fare better in life if you learn early to deal with many different types of people rather than live in a closed world, you have two parents, get a good education and go to church? Perhaps this is only a surprise to liberal academics and New York Times writers.

Here are two other conclusions that the researchers came to that also "surprised" them.
  1. Larger tax credits for the poor and higher taxes on the affluent seemed to improve income mobility only slightly.
  2. There was only modest or no correlation between income mobility and extreme wealth in a region. 
Again, should that be a surprise?  

The study also found that race did not play a part in lower income mobility. Both Black and White residents in in metro areas with large African-American populations had lower upward mobility.

There is no question that certain people are born into much more favorable circumstances than others.  In fact, as Warren Buffett has said (as quoted in his biography, The Snowball), anyone born in the United States won the birth lottery as compared to the rest of the world.

I’ve had it so good in this world, you know. The odds were fifty-to-one against me being born in the United States in 1930. I won the lottery the day I emerged from the womb by being in the United States instead of in some other country where my chances would have been way different.

Would you rather be poor in the United States or in Bangladesh, Burma or Burundi?  Poor is a relative term.

The point here is that we have no control over our birth.  Prince George was born last week and does not have any idea right now that he won the Super Lotto of birth lotteries.  DeShawn who was born in Grady Hospital in Atlanta on the same day is not so lucky.  Sumon in Bangladesh is unluckier still.

We also have little control over the behavior, bias and blather from other people.

What we can all do is take control of our place and position in life by doing all we can with what we have.  That starts with looking inside ourselves first before looking outside.  Understanding that we have more control over our life than anyone else.  Understanding that life is often not fair but we are in the best position to change other people's minds by our attitudes, actions and willingness to take accountability when it is necessary.

There is a ladder to success in America but too few African-Americans are taking the necessary steps.  One of the problems is that when an African-American speaks out about the issue they are called an "Uncle Tom" or worse as CNN's Don Lemon found out recently. 

Here is the transcript of what Lemon had to say which focused on five things that black people (young men in particular) need to think about doing if they want to fix the core problems in the Black community.  Notice how aligned these are with the research above on income mobility.

  1. Hike up their pants and dress appropriately
  2. Remove the n-word from their vocabulary
  3. Take care of their communities
  4. Finish high school
  5. Lower the rate of children born out of wedlock

It is time for action and accountability in the African-American community.  Who is going to lead the way?  Thank you, Don Lemon, for stepping out.  Who else is willing to lead people up the ladder?

We certainly don't see it from Hollywood anymore.  We used to see examples on television like The Jeffersons, The Cosby Show and Room 222 with strong and successful black male role models.  What are we getting today?  Real Housewives of Atlanta and Basketball Wives lead the pack?  Can't liberal Hollywood do better than this?

"Moving On Up"
Theme Song of the TV show "The Jeffersons" (1975-1985)

The cast of The Jeffersons

Well we're movin on up, To the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up
To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.
Fish don't fry in the kitchen;
Beans don't burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta tryin'
Just to get up that hill.
Now we're up in teh big leagues
Gettin' our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it's you and me baby
There ain't nothin wrong with that.
Well we're movin on up,
To the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up
To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

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