Op-ed submission by Project 21

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter went where few black  leaders have gone. And I think I can count those other who did on one hand. Nutter dared speak truth to action on the critical state of black youth in this country. In an address confronting increasing youth violence, Nutter plainly declared: “Take those God-darn hoodies down, especially in the summer. Pull your pants up and buy a belt ‘cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.” (read here)

Bravo Mayor Nutter — I applaud you. It reminds me of Bill Cosby, who scolded black leaders back in 2004, crying out: “Let me tell you something. Your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 every day. It’s cursing and calling each other “nigger” as they’re walking up and down the street. They think “they hip.” Can’t read, can’t write — 50 percent of them.”

While he got a few conciliatory fist pumps, Cosby’s message back then failed to get serious traction. Black conservatives such as Clarence Thomas and Shelby Steele also warned the road to progress cannot be paved with affirmative action and social welfare initiatives, but were vilified and dismissed by the urban and mainstream media.

That may change. Mayor Nutter is responsible for the well-being of a city and for protecting the safety and livelihoods of its citizens. But while violent “flash mobs” may be on the rise and in vogue, black youth have engaged in self-destructive behavior for decades. They have been a virulent destructive force in their communities — embracing drugs and crime, leaving a lineage of illegitimacy and thumbing their noses at educational opportunities.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, more than 30 black youth were recently arrested for randomly attacking people exiting the state fair. It didn’t take long for onlookers to notice this particular flash mob mostly targeted whites. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, what started as fighting amongst black  youth turned into a “rage on whites outside the gates.” Rather than bemoaning an increased police presence at future events, Milwaukee chapter NAACP president James Hall, Jr. chastised the mob, saying, “There is no excuse for this type of conduct.”

Mayor Nutter similarly received support from the NAACP for his tough love for his city’s youth. J. Whayatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia’s NAACP chapter, said it “took courage” for Nutter to tell the truth, and saying, “These are majority African-American youths and they need to be called on it.” It’s about time the NAACP returned to the side of truth and justice!

Until recently, this problem was confined to urban communities. Now that it’s spreading, people are taking notice. The mobsters obviously think the ghetto is now too small for their devious diversions. They’ve acquired a taste for the finer sections of town.

In this bleak economy, cities cannot afford to have residents afraid to leave their homes. It’s an awakening that’s long overdue. The tough love of curfews and community action are a good start. And, while Mayor Nutter’s comments on the state of the culture is exactly what needed to be said, it was his candid spiritual estimation of the situation that gets to the root cause of the problem of the decline of morality in the black community.

“The Immaculate Conception of our Lord Jesus Christ took place a long time ago, and it didn’t happen here in Philadelphia,” Nutter noted. “So every one of these kids has two parents who were around and participating at the time. They need to be around now.”

An out-of-wedlock birthrate at more than 72 percent in America is the gaping wound. Herein lies the crux of the rising violence and the disturbing trend in black youths.Until we address the role and return of family in our community, we can count on riots to continue and worsen.

Lisa Fritsch is a member of the national advisory council for the Project 21 black leadership network and a writer and radio talk show host in Austin, Texas.