After a recent string of violent assaults and vandalism by groups of black teenagers in Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter took to the pulpit at his church last weekend to tell black youth they’ve failed — at everything.
"You’ve damaged yourself, you’ve damaged another person, you’ve damaged your peers and, quite honestly, you’ve damaged your own race," Nutter said at Mount Carmel Baptist Church.
"To our young people, if you want black folks, white folks, Latinos, Asians or anybody else to respect you and not be afraid when they see you walking down the street then leave the innocent people walking down the street and minding their own business alone," Nutter went on to say.
Nutter, who identifies as a what he calls a "proud black man", went on to call absentee fathers "sperm donors" and "human ATMs."
"That’s part of the problem in our community," Nutter told the congregation. "Let me speak plainer: That’s part of the problem in the black community… We have too many men making too many babies they don’t want to take care of and then we end up dealing with your children."
"I am a proud black man in this country," Nutter said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It was a message that needed to be said. It needed to be said at this time. … People have had enough of this nonsense, black and white."
Nutter is following the mantra of his fellow Philadelphian Bill Cosby who blames everything on parents and never mention any of the real structural issues like inadequate jobs, housing and schools that many of these families face.
"This is about personal responsibility," Nutter told the AP in an interview. "We have to be very straightforward."
What Nutter didn’t mention was that this year Philadelphia recorded record jobless rates that exceeded the U.S. average. In the second quarter of 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported black or African American adults in Philadelphia had the highest unemployment rate at 14.9 percent, while Philadelphia’s general unemployment rate was 6.7 percent.
Nutter also didn’t mention that of the largest 75 cities in the country, Philadelphia ranks 64th on how much it spends per resident on parks and recreation, and their the nation’s fifth-largest city.
Many of the hard issues black families in Philadelphia deal with are same ones Nutter has the power to change. Perhaps that’s the straightforward discussion Nutter should have with himself to make sure these young black youth have some sense of opportunity and promising future.