March 14 2012
I’ve blogged on the phenomenon of minority children being suspended from school more frequently than non-minority kids.
A head-scratcher in the Washington Post (there is a link here) pointed the finger at racial discrimination. But could part of the reason be that, coming from single-parent homes more frequently than their counterparts, minority kids simply have more problems with discipline?
The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald looks at the higher rate of incarceration among black males and argues this point. Mac Donald says that attempts to prove that the criminal justice system is racist have failed.
First, the startling statistics, which debunk the idea that black males are in prison for drug offenses:
The majority of black state prisoners are serving time for violence (54 percent in 2008, compared to only 22 percent for drug crimes). The national homicide rate for males between the ages of 14 and 25 was nearly 10 times higher for blacks than for whites and Hispanics combined in 2006; in New York City, blacks committed 80 percent of all shootings in 2009, though they were only 23 percent of the city’s population; whites committed 1.4 percent of all shootings, though they were 35 percent of the population. Such ratios recur throughout American cities.
If we blame this on hidden racism, we won’t be able to do much to solve this problem. But there is a way to vastly reduce violent crime:
The most powerful antidote to this violence would be to ensure that more black children were raised by both their father and their mother. No other ethnic or racial group suffers from family breakdown to the same degree: 73 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers in 2009. While many heroic single mothers raise stable, high-achieving children in the face of huge challenges, the odds are against them. As any urban teacher will recount, black boys in particular bring enormous anger to school with them and disproportionately act out against authority. Higher discipline rates for black students reflect this reality
The issue is complicated, and it is hard to know just what can be done in the policy sphere. Mac Donald says that one place to start is public rhetoric. Our society has spent a lot of energy on demonizing smoking; perhaps a campaign to promote fatherhood might be another good cause.
As Kay Hymowitz and Charles Murray have pointed out, more affluent families recognize the value of having two parents involved in the project of child rearing. But in their condescension and fear of not appearing broad-minded, they won’t take a stand for low-income kids who deserve the same advantage.
Murray has written:
The best thing that the new upper class can do to provide that reinforcement is to drop its condescending "nonjudgmentalism." Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn't hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices.
This won’t be nearly as easy as blaming racism, and it’s not cool, something our educated New Class seems to care about far beyond the normal age, to be judgmental. But it might eventually help minority kids.