20 Mar 1998 Black Teen Suicide Study Alarming, Yet Misleading
Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 reject a recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention study on teen suicide that says African-American teens reared in upwardly mobile families are not able to cope with the “stressful” environment created by black prosperity.
The study shows the suicide rate of African-Americans between the ages of 10 and 19 has increased by 114% since 1980. In southern states, the rate has grown by 214%. Some scholars and the study’s authors say that a consequence of rising prosperity and social integration for blacks over the last few decades has caused a loss of racial identity and a distance between families, children and the community. Members of Project 21 say the situation is not so simple.
Project 21 Director Roderick Conrad said, “Headlines on the increase in the black teen suicide rate, while troubling, are hardly ‘news.’ While many loud, liberal and radical voices have decried the (quote) genocide (unquote) perpetrated by mainstream society, clearly the larger problem has always been an internal cultural suicide. How can we really be shocked at [these] numbers when ‘black-on-black’ crime — often an extension of drug and gang-related activity — has been raging for years?”
“The root cause is the chaotic result predicted decades ago by Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan,” states Phyllis Berry Myers, president of Black America PAC’s Leadership and Training Institute. “It is a liberal bureaucratic welfare state, which has eroded the most effective tools to producing stable, nurturing environments for young black Americans — an intact family and safe, effective educational learning systems.”
Robert George, a Project 21 member and adjunct fellow at the Washington-based Center for New Black Leadership says, “Given the collapse of urban family and educational institutions, should we be surprised at the spiritual emptiness which causes our young people to make often fatal choices? Whether they passively drift into the gang-war lifestyle or defiantly turn deadly weapons on themselves, the result is the same: A lack of self-esteem turning into self-hatred turning into self-destruction. Clearly, these are not factors of race — they are factors of culture, spirituality and morality. Unless a commitment is made to strengthening the basic family unit, reforming our urban schools and re-energizing the spirit of our communities, these awful numbers will only increase.”