The woebegone account that follows, as published Sunday in the Omaha World-Herald, might be the most depressing -- and infuriating -- thing you read all day. Consider this fair warning.
Now, on to a tale of complete cultural meltdown:
Both Keyana and her mom, Samona Jones, were pregnant before high school. Samona was 13; Keyana, 14.I DON'T THINK you can overstress how dysfunctional every aspect of life has become among this country's underclass. Of course, it always has been thus. Now it's that and the kitchen sink.
Samona dropped out of eighth grade, never married and had more babies.
Keyana adores her mom but dreams of a different life. She wants to travel. Move to a bigger city. Maybe become a lawyer.
She can't do that with a house full of kids.
"Who's got my brush?" Samona yells.
Today mom and daughter are both getting ready.
Keyana is taking daughter Lauren for her 18-month well checkup.
Samona also is seeing a doctor. She's 31 and soon to deliver her 12th child.
And more than 75 percent of blacks in Douglas County who gave birth were not married. That compares with 24 percent for whites and about 49 percent for Hispanics.
In 2002, the most recent year for which comparisons are available, the Omaha area ranked seventh worst in teen births among blacks. More than 22 percent of blacks who had babies were teens, a share that beat New Orleans and Chicago.
Of about 800 births to Douglas County teens in 2007, 36 percent, or 283, were to black teens. Overall, the county's population is about 13 percent black.
Says Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research: "As long as half of black families with children under 18 are headed by a lone female and as long as a quarter of young black males who are out of prison and out of school are not even looking for work, the poverty numbers for blacks are not going to come down much, no matter how good the economy is and no matter what new social programs the politicians try."
Teenage pregnancy has become so accepted, sometimes even planned, that a counseling center in north Omaha dropped crisis from its name. Ads now emphasize its quality medical professionals.
To an extent, the relative wealth of "middle-class, white America" counteracts some of the worst consequences of a chaotic embrace of thuggery, baby-mamas and baby-daddies. But it can't not steadily undermine those things that make a bourgeois life possible in a modern society -- self-restraint, education, a strong work ethic, the support of a relatively cohesive family unit.
Again, from the World-Herald:
The Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy reports that a baby is nine times more likely to grow up poor if mom is unmarried, a teen and a high school dropout than if none of those factors exists.WHEN FACED WITH the complete collapse of a social structure -- when deviance become normative, in societal terms -- it seems to me that we have nothing in our secular civic or governmental toolboxes that can effectively address the problem.
Bottom line, says the Children's Defense Fund, odds are greater that poor children will lag in health and educational achievement. They're more likely to get in trouble with the law.
Omaha suffers from a toxic poverty blend that goes beyond money woes, said Franklin Thompson, a city councilman who teaches about race at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
He said the black community is gripped by a "culture of poverty" in which the so-called gangsta side of hip-hop marketing brainwashes youngsters into believing, for example, that speaking intelligently is "acting white."
So encompassing is the culture that those in it settle for less and adapt to an underclass lifestyle, Thompson said.
A strong generation of upwardly mobile minorities could help reverse such self-destruction with role modeling.
But, Thompson said, "Omaha lacks a sizable homegrown black middle class to help mentor children and undo some of the damage that has been done."
IRONICALLY, that "killer app"-- the societal "troop surge," if you will -- is the only weapon we have left . . . or at least the only one we have left with wonder-working power.