African-AmericansAs we come to the end of the 20th...

SATURDAY MAIL BOX

February 27, 1993

African-Americans

As we come to the end of the 20th century, it is painfully obvious that the situation in the African-American community is rapidly approaching a critical mass.

In city after city we see the results of a decreasing middle-class tax base, a crumbling infrastructure, a loss of industrial jobs on an almost Depression-era scale and a sky-rocketing rate of violent crime.

Quite frankly, there is no magic salvation in sight; the order of the day in the new presidential administration is -- cut.

We have to realize that no massive amount of federal dollars is going to the major cities. Looking at the reality of the situation, we must remember that this is the president of middle America -- not the cities.

Will Bill Clinton do what he can to help the cities? Probably. But realistically that help is in short supply.

African-Americans in the cities must be made aware of the new global dynamic -- we are in a computer-base, high-tech world. It has to be realized that what industries you had in this country have gone to Mexico, Taiwan and South Korea. And they are not coming back.

What business enterprises that have remained in this country are not generally the type that require massive pools of labor.

Hence, cities with high crime rates, poor infrastructure and pools of relatively unskilled people are no longer necessary. This is what African-American leaders need to tell our people living in the cities, especially here in Baltimore. Things will go from bad to worse, but they will never be as they were before. And people need to be clear on this point.

And although we in the African-American community may find this idea not to be "politically correct," we will have to learn to do the things necessary to insure our survival and escape this delusion that someone else will be responsible for the survival of our community. It's not going to happen.

We have to start to select our political leadership with more care, to make sure that these leaders will have our best interests at heart.

We have to assume responsibility for our children and not think that social services departments, schools or courts are supposed to fulfill our responsibility as parents.

For the state to come into our community and insert instruments into our daughters to prevent pregnancy and offer vasectomies to our incarcerated men is not only an example of giving someone responsibility for our lives, it also has, whether intended or not, the echo of a "final solution."

Why do we have the staggering amount of out-of-wedlock births in our community? Is this situation encouraged by the present social welfare system? Let's find out. And if it is, let's scrap the system.

Also, there is something wrong with the way we raise our children, especially our male children. It is obvious when we look at last year's murder rates in Baltimore, Washington and other cities that we in the African-American community have lost something in the child nurturing process -- we have to get it back.

Our community has to develop its own businesses because no one else will, or should.

Our leadership needs to tell us that.

We have to educate ourselves. No one invests in a community where on any given school day, thousands of students are roaming the streets as they are in Baltimore. Nor will they deal fairly and responsibly with an area where many people speak English as if it were an alien tongue.

Those fortunate few African-Americans who have made some slight economic headway are still part of the African-American community. They shouldn't forget that and should go out in the community to serve as advisers, counselors, entrepreneurs, mentors and friends.

There comes a point in time when slogans don't help, when the usual modes of behavior become obsolete.

We have to demand of our leadership that they be honest with us. And most importantly, African-American people must start dealing with the reality of our present situation, or we shall surely become obsolete.

Robert C. Gumbs

Baltimore

The writer is secretary for the Baltimore NAACP's Committee on Crime.

County Schools

The current and continuing controversy over the new grading system in the Baltimore County Public Schools brings to mind the book "Future Shock" by Alvin Toffler, published in 1970.

Under new superintendent Stuart Berger, changes being made in the county schools are implemented rapidly and are profound in nature. Anyone involved with the schools, parent or educator, who has not read "Future Shock" should do so.

The Baltimore County public school system has, over the years, been a traditional system with changes being made as needed but usually only after lengthy study and trial.

To be sure, there have been excellent programs that have gained national attention as being progressive in both the curricular and administrative realms, but for the most part the system has been based on a solid, chain-of-command, closely-knit administrative structure with few flights of fancy or experiments out of the mainstream.

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