Editorial, Banner Staff, 11/21/2002
Few would refute the assertion that
socio-economic conditions for African Americans are less than ideal. In 2000
there were 22.1 percent of blacks living below the poverty level compared to
only 9.4 percent of whites. In that year 572,900 black males were in prison,
60 percent of the total black and white male population.
If good home training is essential for progress
the future looks bleak. In 1999 only 37.6 percent of black children under
the age of 18 lived in two parent homes. A much higher percentage of white
children, 75.3 percent, were raised with both parents. That is not to
suggest that a child living with a single parent or someone else is doomed
to failure, but clearly life is much more difficult.
Two Roxbury social workers, Sekou Mims and
Larry Higginbottom, and a psychologist Omar Reid are writing a book in which
they describe “post-traumatic slavery disorder” as the psychological
syndrome responsible for the broken families, crime, drug abuse and low
academic achievement common in some segments of the black community. Perhaps
the general interest in reparations for slavery has induced them to look so
far back for the cause of the present malaise among blacks.
One could argue quite persuasively that the
post slavery period in America was even more psychologically damaging. Life
under slavery was horrendous, but blacks survived with dreams of imminent
freedom. With emancipation their dreams became a nightmare. Slaves were
simply turned out with no possessions, no funds, and no way to earn a
living. Freed slaves became the victims of bigots who were free to oppress
them without fear of interference from law enforcement. Blacks with the
temerity to object were often lynched.
Life for blacks was brutal and short. A black
man born in 1900 had a life expectancy of only 32.5 years. By 1950 the life
expectancy for a black man reached only 59.1 years, not old enough to
benefit from Social Security. Those old enough to remember life before 1964
are aware of the rank racial discrimination which hindered professional
advancement for even the most talented blacks. Racial oppression was so
great that it absolved any black from personal responsibility for failure.
Now that there is a substantial measure of
opportunity, perhaps the deviant behavior that the authors have observed is
the result of a fear of failure. Many do not know how to succeed, but since
others have survived racial discrimination and achieved their professional
goals, that is evidence it can be done. Much of the psychological depression
blacks suffer is the result of the horrendous treatment in America in the
137 years since the end of slavery.
Kudos to Benjamin