A few days ago I popped on the Jackson Free Press website to see what's going on in the city and noticed the interview with Ward 1 County Supervisor candidate Charles Barbour. It wasn't long before I was overcome by the nausea I feel when people choose to talk about things they don't understand.
The interview started going down hill when it focused on conditions at the Hinds juvenile detention center. When the interviewer said, "I think another thing is just kids being treated the same as adults—a 12-year-old being locked up. It seems kind of crazy." His response was "Why? You want that 12-year-old breaking into your house?"
Let's just stop there. Not every child who is locked up in the detention center is there for a property crime, or even a violent crime. Many are there for incidents involving public-order violations, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. That means anything from a weapons offense to drinking under age or disorderly conduct. Yet, let's not allow nuance or fact get in the way of a scare-tactic talking point.
That would have been bad enough but, no, Mr. Barbour decided to tell the black community of Jackson what's really wrong with us. Is it poverty, unemployment, lack of access to health care, or how about the legacy and current impact of systematic oppression and institutional racism? Of course not. The real problem is black single moms.
Mr. Barbour proclaimed: "When you have 70 to 80 percent of black children being born out of wedlock into single-parent families. They (JPS) can't fix that. When you have black boys being raised up never to see how a black man is supposed to work. They're never around a positive black male role model. It's very sad, but Jackson Public Schools system cannot fix that."
I'm a single mother. That doesn't mean my children are not surrounded by amazing role models of all genders. Single also doesn't mean that a child's father is uninvolved, either. Bottom line: Whether I am married is much less of a determinate of whether my kids succeed than poverty. Resources matter. I suggest Mr. Barbour worry more about that than shaming black women for procreating when his party asks us to "choose life," no matter what our circumstances.
I'm not sure where Mr. Barbour's been, but everywhere I go I see black men working. In our schools, in churches, as firemen, police officers, doctors, lawyers, congressmen, chefs, mechanics, barbers, the mayor and the president of the United States. To say that young black men live their lives and have never been around a positive black male role model is an insult to every black man in these Jackson streets mentoring, working, running programs and just being good men.
Charles Barbour, I know many of Hinds County's problems, and one is people who think like you do.