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An Appropriate Role For The NAACP In Charlotte

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Kojo Nantambu, the head of the Charlotte chapter of the NAACP, made local, regional, and national headlines recently with his claim that Charlotte is a bastion of racism.  Mr. Nantambu moved to have Charlotte punished by losing lucrative basketball tournament income from the CIAA and the NCAA.  Many Charlotte political leaders, while late to the discussion, have in one form or another, begun to refute his claims.

Mr. Nantambu may or may not realize it, but the influence and role of the NAACP has changed over the past decades in America.  I can recall in the early 60’s in small town Virginia taking the “black lady” who helped clean our house twice a week to the edge of town by the railroad track where a muddy dirt road led to a shanty of a house where she and her husband lived.  We certainly were not racist, but others, especially in the south in the days of separate bathrooms and drinking fountains, were.  This was the decade of the Greensboro sit-in, the Selma march, and of course the rise of Dr. Martin Luther King to a position of prominence in the civil rights movement and prominence in ending racial discrimination in America.  The NAACP was central to this struggle and while the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown versus the Board of Education to end segregated schools set new legal guidelines against discrimination, legislation cannot and never will end prejudice in the soul.

America, and Charlotte, in 2011 is light years from the civil rights struggles of the 60’s.  Today, African American leaders are prominent throughout government and business all across the country.  Voters, in 2008, even elected an African American as President of the United States.  What a fitting tribute to those who struggled against discrimination 40 years ago.  For most intents and purposes, the original role of the NAACP to end discrimination against African Americans has been accomplished.

What hasn’t been accomplished though is to win the war against poverty for African Americans and for all Americans for that matter.  If the NAACP wishes to continue its role as a leadership organization for the African American community, showing leadership in this cause is a fitting role.  Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, in his 2010 report “Married Fathers: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty” details the causes of poverty in America today.  Read the report  HERE.

Among the report’s findings that need to be fully understood by Mr. Nantanbu and by anyone who truly wants to get at the root cause of poverty are:

“The principal cause of child poverty in the United States is the absence of married fathers in the home.”1

“In 2008, 37 percent of single mothers with children were poor, compared to 6 percent of married couples with children.  The higher poverty rate among single-mother families is due both to the lower education levels of the mothers and the lower income due to the absence of the father.”2

“Out of wedlock childbearing varies considerably by race.  In 2008, 40.6 percent of births in the U.S. occurred out of wedlock.  Among white non-Hispanics, 28.6 percent of births were outside marriage.  Among Hispanics, the figure was 52.5 percent, while among blacks it was 72.3 percent.”3

“The black out-of-wedlock childbearing rate has always been somewhat higher than among whites.  However, prior to the onset of the War on Poverty in 1963, the rates for both whites and blacks were comparatively low.  In 1963, 3.1 percent of white children were born out of wedlock.  By 2008, the number had risen to 28.6 percent.  In 1963, 24.2 percent of black were born out of wedlock.  By 2008 the number had risen to 72.3 percent.”4

These sobering numbers leave no race, white Americans included, any room for absolving them of desperately needed change.  They are in fact, tragic…over 1 in 4 white American children are now born out of wedlock…half of Hispanic American children are born out of wedlock…and almost 3 out of 4 African American children are born out of wedlock.

And the effect of the father in the home cannot be underestimated and is quite pronounced.  “Children from single-parent homes are:

*More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime

*Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems

*Roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from schools and

*A third more likely to drop out before completing high school”5

The report continues…“The effects of being raised in a single-parent home continue into adulthood.  Comparing families of the same race and similar incomes, children from broken and single-parent homes are three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30 than children raised in intact married families.  Compared to girls raised in similar married families, girls from single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to have a child without being married, thereby repeating the negative cycle for another generation.”6

And the decline of marriage causes poverty in future generations as well with children from single parent families being 50 percent more likely to experience poverty as adults when compared to children from intact homes.7

I can’t think, then, of a more worthwhile cause for the NAACP to undertake than that of reducing poverty in the African American community.  An initiative led by Mr. Nantambu to inform their members and those of the larger African American community to the causes and solutions to the problem of poverty would let everyone know that the NAACP is committed to the welfare of their race in this generation and beyond.  The NAACP’s New “War On Poverty 2011” could set the standard for initiatives by leaders of other races in America, and the considerable talents of the African American faith community could provide an excellent mechanism to begin the education process.  What types of slogans would be chanted at a march for this new initiative…”get your degree to get out of poverty…”or ”husband and wife…it’s the way to a better life…”  We’ll have to work on that one but the truth sometimes is difficult to take.   The point is that if we don’t begin to talk about this we won’t implement the solutions and another generation will be lost to poverty.

We and Mr. Nantambu could not have a higher calling.

Notes:

1         “Married Fathers:  America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty,” by Robert Rector, The Heritage Foundation, June 16, 2010.

2         Ibid.

3         Ibid.

4         Ibid.

5         Ibid.

6         Ibid.

7         Ibid.

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