11/20/10 — Tough talk: City Council is right -- there is a real problem to talk about

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Tough talk: City Council is right -- there is a real problem to talk about

Nobody wants to talk about it -- not really.

So, the prompt from a news report that many, many young black males are making choices that leave them with few options other than crime and irresponsible parenting is usually only enough to result in a shake of the head, but nothing else.

At least, until now.

The reality is that we know that there are problems in the black community -- and in many other communities as well -- when it comes to directing young people on the right path.

We see the results of these misfires every day when we look at the crime reports and hear the stories about unwed mothers, low graduation rates and youths who think their futures lie in drugs or welfare.

Many of us do not know how to help -- or even if it is our place to speak out. All we know is that the problems that we read about in those news reports are affecting us -- our schools, our wallets and our community's future.

So while we might have already known that there was a problem that needed to be addressed -- and while others have also said there were issues to be discussed and action needed -- Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen's comments, and those in the past from Mayor Al King, should be heeded now.

It is time for a community summit as Allen suggests -- and not the same, old feel-good recitation that has happened in the past.

It is time to stop pretending that schools can fix this problem by themselves and that irresponsible parenting and bad home lives are not factors in how these children are growing up.

It is time to acknowledge that these young people bear some responsibility, too -- and that there will be some who will choose not to be reached, no matter what we do to help them.

It is time for tough talk, no holds barred and no defensive postures. It is time to acknowledge that this is everybody's problem, whether we think that assessment is fair or not.

Let's face it. If no one is going to address the real problems, the roots of these issues -- and black community and church leaders are not willing to sit down to talk about what they can do, too -- there is nothing to talk about and no solution on the horizon.

The futures of these children depend on a realistic appraisal of the challenges they face -- and developing an action plan to stop more of them from making the choices to drop out, to do drugs or to have a baby, or two, at 16. That is the only way to turn the statistics around.

The truth is that we have a stake in this fight. We can build more prisons and juvenile detention centers or we can find a way to reach these young people.

But we cannot do it if we are not willing to look at the cold, hard facts -- and to make decisions based on reality, not on some touchy-feely interpretation of do-gooder policies.

What we are doing now -- the money we are throwing at the problem, the leadership we are listening to and some of the programs we are funding -- is not working.

It is time to talk -- as a community -- about what the next step should be -- sooner rather than later.

Published in Editorials on November 20, 2010 11:32 PM