Challenge from Within | Sojourners

Challenge from Within

EACH DAY, 1,118 BLACK TEEN-AGERS are victims of violent crime, 1,451 black children are arrested, and 907 teen-age girls get pregnant. A generation of black males is drowning in its own blood in the prison camps we euphemistically call "inner cities." And things are likely to get much worse.

Some 40 years after the beginning of the civil rights movement, younger black Americans are growing up unqualified for gainful employment even as slaves. The result is a state of civil war, with children in violent revolt against the failed secular and religious leadership of the black community.

Consider the dimensions of this failure. A black boy has a 1-in-3,700 chance of getting a Ph.D. in mathematics, engineering, or the physical sciences; a 1-in-766 chance of becoming a lawyer; a 1-in-395 chance of becoming a physician; a 1-in-195 chance of becoming a teacher. But his chances are 1-in-2 of never attending college, even if he graduates from high school; 1-in-9 of using cocaine; 1-in-12 of having gonorrhea; and 1-in-20 of being imprisoned while in his 20s. Only the details are different for his sister.

According to James A. Fox, Dean of the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, from 1990 to 1993 (the last year for which detailed national data are available) the overall rate of murder in the United States remained virtually unchanged. For this same period, the rate of killing at the hands of adults, ages 23 and over, actually declined 10 percent; however, for young adults, ages 18-24, the rate rose 14 percent, and for teen-agers it jumped a terrifying 26 percent.

Currently there are 39 million children in this country under the age of 10-more young children than we've had for decades. Millions of them live in poverty. Most do not have full-time parental supervision at home to shape their development and behavior. And these children will not remain young and impressionable for long.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1996
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