OP-ED: The Race Problem Facing Black Youth


By Rev. Dr. Willie A. Douglas

There have been numerous reports and surveys regarding race relations in America. After reviewing these studies, one would believe that race is not a problem in the U.S.


Some studies have suggested that, when asked to state the biggest problem facing America, less than five percent of African Americans mentioned race relations. Certainly the tremendous social changes that have taken place in America in the decades following the 1960’s have had an affect on the country, especially on the youth.

As more Blacks and Whites work together, positive views and race relations enhance. This can be attested to the city of Stockton, CA – one of the most diversified populace of people in the nation.

To the statement: “on average, Black Americans have worse jobs, income, and housing than White people,” only approximately 35 percent of Black teens said these differences were due mainly to discrimination.

A number of complaints about issues with Black youth come from Black adults. They say today’s youth are complacent and seem less motivated to carry on “the struggle.” It has been said that Black youth are not committed to race, that they are not “race people.”

We must remember that the Civil Rights Movement did not become the cement of racial unity, or the bond of racial brotherhood many had hoped for. We were fire-hosed and cattle-prodded together; we went to jail; we were beaten and brutalized together—all because of the color of our skin. As a people, we marched together and sang “We shall overcome.”

No firm tradition of protest and struggle was established after the era and deaths of Malcolm X and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A full consciousness of our struggle, one that is handed down from generation to generation, was not developed. All attempts to maintain the fire of protest became mere whispers in the wind.

We have heard many of our Black leaders speak fervently of their dram for new social order based on equality, merit and social justice – variations on Dr. King’s, “I Have a Dream” speech. Many Americans and people around the world share similar hopes.

But no one has captured the confidence of our youth; and we must. We must help our Black youth develop an understanding and appreciation of how the benefits they now enjoy were won and what that struggle means to all African Americans, to America, and indeed to the world.

Together, the young and old will continue to grow in education, development, and leadership with a prosperous future ahead to strengthen family ties and build a solid foundation as a people.


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