Monday, March 31, 2008

Omaha World-Herald Finally Discovers Elephant in Living Room

Almost a year ago, the Omaha World-Herald began a series on the plight of the black community centered in North Omaha. Finally, the OWH reports on the out-of-wedlock birth crisis at the heart of the situation.

After a couple months last year reading coverage that ignored the main problem, I couldn't stand it any longer. The commentary below was published in the July 18, 2007, OWH as a Midlands Voices column.

Obstacle to Progress: Out-of-Wedlock Births

By Chip Maxwell

The writer is a Douglas County Board member and a former state senator. He was development director for four years at Jesuit Middle School in north Omaha.

In recent months, proposals involving north Omaha have poured forth. All offer promise, but a key factor needs more attention.

In an April 15 World-Herald news story on poverty in north Omaha, someone said the “profound indifference” of whites was the main reason for the situation. The quote was presented as a boldfaced graphic with the story.

But white dollars and volunteers from throughout the metropolitan area flow into north Omaha to help Catholic schools with primarily black student bodies. All Our Kids, TeamMates and Building Bright Futures also come to mind as examples of groups promoting white involvement in north Omaha.

I’m not trying to whitewash reality. Our nation had a century of slavery followed by a century of American-style apartheid. There are serious problems in race relations. Omaha is not immune.

But let’s be clear about the main problem facing north Omaha: Too many people are producing too many children out of wedlock.

World-Herald columnist Harold W. Andersen has been the only prominent voice to directly state this truth. Many people are afraid to discuss it because of race, but race isn’t the issue. Out-of-wedlock birth is a growing problem among whites and Latinos.

The issue is that no community can prosper if out-of-wedlock birth becomes the norm.

My ethnic ancestors were once the poster people for this community-crippling behavior. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, social scientist and U.S. senator, noted in 1965 the rising out-of-wedlock birthrate in the African-American community and warned of a possible communal meltdown. In sounding the alarm, he cited as an example “the wild Irish slums of the 19th-century Eastern Seaboard.”

Moynihan wrote: “A community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future — that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder — most particularly, the furious, unrestrained lashing out at the entire social structure — that is not only to be expected; it is very near to inevitable.”

The pioneers of political correctness denounced Moynihan, but obviously he nailed it.

The 19th-century Irish-American community pulled out of the communal death spiral by re-establishing the norm of producing children within the two-parent family. There is an important difference between then and now: The Irish weren’t encouraged to stay in a self-destructive cycle by an entitlement ideology that says fathers are optional and that people have a right to produce children out of wedlock while expecting others to pay for it.

Educational achievement is crucial to north Omaha’s success. But — bashers of public schools, take note — education works only if most students show up for school ready and willing to learn. That requires stable families with mothers and fathers who prepare their children to function in society. Then teachers can be educators instead of social workers trying to control too many dysfunctional students.

Before the double whammy of riots and increases in out-of-wedlock births in the late 1960s, north Omaha was a thriving center of commerce and culture. Education, jobs and economic growth are necessary for revitalization, but they require a solid social structure.

The April 27 World-Herald had a front-page story about a coalition to empower north Omaha. Its covenant for empowerment includes a call to “develop and understand the benefits of healthy marriages and stable families.” Without that, forget about communal empowerment.

Life doesn’t always follow the ideal script of marriage and two-parent family. I know single parents who have made heroic efforts to give their children a chance at a good life. As a society, we must help when there are deviations from the script.

But we must not abandon the script. It has been validated by generations of experience as well as modern social-science data.

When out-of-wedlock birth becomes the rule rather than the exception, it is a socioeconomic disaster for communities as well as individuals. Anyone who denies this is an enemy of progress for north Omaha.

1 comment:

OmaSteak said...

Welcome to the "Great Society" brought to us by vote buying progressive politicians of the 1960s and the media-driven spread of secular humanism as the dominant philosophy "guiding" our society. Why is any productive citizen being taxed to support such unproductive and destructive behavior? It's stupidity of the highest order being rewarded by the removal of real consequences now spanning generations. Unless/until we as a society are willing to let people like the mother in the article with 12 kids starve if not supported by some private charity, we are in serious trouble of all joining her hopeless and penniless state in the future. A local UNO professor was recently speaking in glowing terms about economic conditions in "progressive" Cuba by saying, "at least they are all equally poor"!