Black Teenage Pregnancy Stereotypes…Or Are They?

Recently, my brother called to vent about an NPR report on teen pregnancy. Apparently a brouhaha had developed among some in the black community who saw the report as “racially biased”. They felt it reflected negatively upon African-American and Latino women.  As a Washington D.C. based attorney, my brother tends to approach social issues differently than I do. He’s far more pragmatic in his thinking, much younger and very deliberate; even cutting at times.  For me, one of the advantages of getting older is being able to look back on what has not worked. As an ultra-liberal, I tend to rely more on historical accounts as predictors of trends and change.

Ironically, we walked away finding agreement on one basic belief: it isn’t a stereotype if it’s true.

In fairness, the teen pregnancy debate has raged in minority communities for decades; the numbers have ebbed and flowed for generations. At the core of the debate is one unmistakable fact; people really don’t have to get pregnant.  Out-of-wedlock births really are a matter of choice, a lack of foresight, and sheer irresponsibility. Fight the stereotypes as we might, being sexually active and getting pregnant really are two totally different issues.

Worse still is our inability to speak frankly about young men who exhibit no sense of commitment or responsibility in sharing in the care and support for the child they helped to create. Can anyone blame outsiders from looking astounded and disgusted at such behavior?

Statistically, the numbers of children born to young African-American and Latino mothers, albeit down from a decade prior, should horrify us.  In communities rife with violence, poverty, and educational deprivation, sexually irresponsible behavior portends a perpetuation of powerlessness and dependence among our people. For children born from unplanned and often unwanted pregnancies, poverty, limited access to an adequate education, and a propensity for repeating the same cycle is often the result.

According to one source, 48 percent of non-Hispanic black women get pregnant before age twenty.  Of this group, 97 percent are unmarried and have little recognizable means of financial or emotional support.  Less than 23 percent of fathers remain in the lives of the child, or offer any financial assistance.  Sadly, more than a quarter of teen mothers will be pregnant again less than two years after giving birth the first time.

In a nation replete with wealth, access and opportunities, it is imperative that we demand focus from each other. Although there are exceptions to any rule,  to posit that a future facing these children is bleak is nothing less than an understatement!

Let us be clear, we have become a society bent on technology and a sense of the immediate: we do a disservice to young people when we make excuses for their irresponsibility.

If we are troubled at society’s tendency to lambast us with stereotypes, then let’s begin with corrective actions that make such claims lies, and not accusations verifiable with a simple Google search!

3 thoughts on “Black Teenage Pregnancy Stereotypes…Or Are They?

  1. I couldn’t agree more with this article. It really is time that the African American and Latino communities take more responsibility for “shaming” teen pregnancy and not allowing excuses to persist. WE also need to stop talking about raising men and start raising men. That starts and exists on a generational level…and it’s personal! Legislation, schools, parents and the community can’t do it by themselves as separate parts. Each are parts to a greater whole and they must all work together.

  2. Recenty, the City of New York launched a new campaign to to reduce teen pregnancy in the city that has stirred significant controversy. The ads are placed stategically in subways and in specific communities on specific subway lines.

    The messages on the posters are not subtle, and they’re not meant to be: a crying toddler with the caption, “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen,” reads one, while another shows a little girl saying, “Honestly Mom… chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?”

    In the City’s usual abrupt, offensive way, the messages are abhorant and need to be removed and someone needs to be flogged and fired. Take a look.

    Read more:

  3. Sir I could not agree with you more! This is an issue that is repeatedly presenting itself in my research findings for my dissertation work. It is so disheartening and tragic on so many different levels. As a people we are in a constant state of familial crisis. What was once blatantly wrong now in many ways is socially acceptable. There’s no shame, embarrassment or humiliation anymore. Now getting pregnant for the girl and the for the father (boy) to be is a badge of honor. Our families are deteriorating faster than we can keep up. I am a firm believer in the whole village to raise a child principle. The age of the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents is getting younger every day. With the absence of mature responsible adults giving birth so went the ability and seemingly the desire to teach morals, values and ethics.

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