Why is there so much resistance among a large number of African-Americans to the idea of limited government?
Is it because of its association with a party they are disproportionately not affiliated with? From a pragmatic point of view, if businesses were able to operate in the most efficient manner with as little government intervention as possible so they can grow and become more profitable, that would be reasonable.
Personal responsibility is another term that conjures negative images among many African-Americans, with its association to one political party. How and when did this happen?
I grew up in a household where we had to make up our beds before we came to the table for breakfast. The notion of lounging around the house with our pajamas on, on a Saturday, was not going to happen. Each of us (I have three siblings) had responsibilities and chores, and there was no discussion about that.
There is something liberating to me about personal responsibility. I remember having a baby-sitting job in my early years so I could have my own money. I also recall applying for and receiving scholarships and grants for college so my parents would have to fork out as little money as possible to help me, which allowed my siblings at home to have more. As long as I am able, I am going to do my part. I believe most people think the same way. But somewhere over the years, I believe too many of our elected officials have gotten in the way.
THIS COLUMN was not written to debate the argument of having government-funded social programs or the need for them. I believe we are all aware of those conversations and have heard them ad nauseam . But with all of the divisiveness and in-fighting among our national political leaders and political parties, I don't see many of the social issues decreasing, do you?
Here are some statistics plaguing the African-American community.
- Black males lead the nation in incarceration. According to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, about 60 percent of Georgia black male high school students don't graduate.
- In 2009, Richmond County had 26 murders; 15 of the victims (57 percent) were black men. In that same year, of those murders, 17 of the victims (65 percent) were black. Eighty-two percent of those arrested for these murders were black men.
- The largest number of people contracting HIV/AIDS is African-American women.
- In 2009, 77 percent of the known people having abortions in Richmond County were African-American women.
- Georgia has the eighth-highest teen birth rate in the nation.
l Richmond County has two ZIP codes in the top 10 with the highest number of incarcerated prisoners -- 30906 and 30901.
There is simply not enough progress in resolving these social ills. It seems to be getting worse. With these statistics, ask yourself: Do you think they are going to get better if we maintain the same type of thinking or if we continue doing the same thing we have been doing? I think not.
This Thursday, April 15, there will be an event at Augusta Common -- the Augusta Tea Party. Thousands of people will attend, and you probably also will be able to count on four hands the number of African-Americans present. What's wrong with that picture?
Are there some overzealous individuals who may say and do things that are offensive and a little extreme? Maybe. Will there be talk against President Obama and Democrats? I would think so. There also will be discontented people who will have a lot to say about most of our congressmen -- no matter their political affiliation.
But will the primary message of the Augusta Tea Party on Thursday be limited government and personal responsibility? I think so. Why? Because those are two cornerstones of the conservative ideology. And, yes, there are more conservatives associated with Tea Parties than anyone else. But why does it have to be that way?
LET'S LOOK BEYOND the negative images the national media project about Tea Parties. Let's look beyond party affiliations and put our affiliation blinders on. What if we did something different? What if we embraced and implemented this train of thought of limited government and personal responsibility for, say, 30 days? Statistics have shown that when one does something for 30 days, it can become a habit.
What do you think would happen? Would the mind-set of an individual change a little? What would be the harm in taking personal responsibility and taking safer precautions with sex? Or encouraging kids that getting an education is really cool? Or finding a better way of dealing with anger and jealousy, and turning the other cheek?
What do we have to lose by trying and doing something a little different so we can better address the concerns that plague African-Americans?
Look at the big picture. Listen to the message of limited government and personal responsibility. I don't believe these concepts should be a political or divisive issue because they affect all of us. Ask yourself: Is there a way I can wrap my arms around these concepts, along with what I already believe?
I am asking you to step out of your comfort zone and expand your thinking to embrace concepts you've never considered before.
I'm not talking about changing your political party, because frankly I believe it's political parties, in part, that have gotten us in the mess we're in now. I believe they have helped cloud our ability to engage in a civic dialogue too. It's time to start bridging divides.
But I do want you to think about the statistics I've shared. Consider the questions I've raised, and try the 30-day exercise I've described. What do we have to lose?
(The writer is an Augusta entrepreneur and the host of a local radio talk show.)