Regarding the news of four black teens in Chicago livestreaming their kidnapping and torturing of a white, special-needs youth, CNN’s Don Lemon argued that it wasn’t evil, but rather “bad parenting”.

While I vehemently disagree with Don regarding the issue of evil, his point about bad parenting is worth looking at deeper.

As previously reported on Intellectual Takeout, Chicago has a horrendous black-on-black murder problem. The latest data officially released by the Chicago Police is from 2011. It indicates that 75% of those murdered were Black and 71% of those who committed murder were Black. Furthermore, over half of offenders were aged between 17 and 25. Of the victims, 46% were between the ages of 17 and 25. So, not only is Black-on-Black crime an enormous problem, but it is actually young Blacks killing other young Blacks.

So what is the cause? Poverty? Racism? Bad parenting?


Let’s take a look at poverty in Chicago first. WBEZ, Chicago’s public media station, provides an interesting chart comparing poverty between races in Cook County:

As you can see, while there are more Blacks living in poverty, the percentage is not terribly larger than the percentage of Hispanics in poverty.  According to the latest report by the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH),

“There were racial differences in poverty levels within the CCDPH jurisdiction. Less than 5% of Whites in the CCDPH jurisdiction were at or below the federal poverty level, whereas 16.7% of African Americans (AAs) and 14.0% of Hispanics lived in poverty.

The South District had the greatest percentage of people of different races/ethnicities in poverty: 13.7% of Asians, 17.8% of AAs, and 19.3% of Hispanics were at or below the federal poverty level. The North district had the lowest percentage of people in poverty but the greatest disparity, 16.5% of AAs compared to 3.5% of Whites.”

Below is a comparison of race and poverty provided by the Cook County Department of Public Health.

So if there is only a marginal difference between the rates of poverty for Blacks (17%) and Hispanics (14%), why is it that Blacks are disproportionately responsible for the homicides in Chicago? The statistics on poverty cast serious doubt on the popular narrative that poverty causes crime. Casting further doubt on the narrative is the fact that far more Asians are in poverty than Whites, yet Asians are the least represented group committing homicides.


One cannot, in good faith, argue that poverty is causing crime in Chicago as both Hispanics and Blacks have nearly the same rates of poverty, but massively divergent rates of homicide. But what about Racism?

Again, a person could look at the rates of poverty amongst Hispanics and Blacks and argue that something is holding both minorities in poverty. Yet, when it comes to Asians, their rates of success seem to diverge greatly from both Blacks and Hispanics. Why does one minority fare better than another? Does a White society hold down races differently? Perhaps.

Additionally, though, it doesn’t quite explain why Blacks are committing so much crime against fellow Blacks. One could understand violence against the oppressors or even other minorities, but it doesn’t seem logical for an oppressed minority to vent its frustrations against itself unless there is a high level of self-hate. And, again, why is it that Hispanics who also may be oppressed by systemic racism aren’t committing the same levels of violence either against others or against themselves? The deeper cultural roots for Blacks, as a result of slavery and segregation, could be playing a strong role.

Still, while the narrative of systemic racism could be explored much, much further based on the data and considerations listed above, it doesn’t seem to fully answer why Blacks are committing so much more violence than other peoples of color, especially against their own people.

Bad parenting?

So what about bad parenting?

In 2013, CNN’s Don Lemon made a hotly debated statement about parenting after the George Zimmerman acquittal. Here it is:

“’Black people,’ Lemon said, ‘if you really want to fix the problem, here’s just five things that you should think about doing.’

The No. 1 item on that list — ‘and probably the most important,’ he said — had to do with out-of-wedlock births.

‘Just because you can have a baby, it doesn’t mean you should,’ Lemon said. ‘Especially without planning for one or getting married first. More than 72 percent of children in the African-American community are born out of wedlock. That means absent fathers. And the studies show that lack of a male role model is an express train right to prison and the cycle continues.'”

While discussing the current controversy over the four, young Blacks who kidnapped and tortured a white, special-needs individual, Don made the same point about “bad parenting”. It isn’t a new argument, but it is one that seems less discussed in the mainstream media than poverty or systemic racism. In Chicago, it is the one area in which you see a very large difference between Blacks and all other races.

In 2009, the Cook County Department of Public Health reports that the out-of-wedlock birthrate was 6% for Asians, 19% for Whites, 49% for Hispanics, and 73% for Blacks. During the same year, the percentages of women reporting no information about the father (a likely sign of a truly absent father) probably tells an even more significant story. 2% of Asians, 4% of Whites, 9% of Hispanics, and 35% of Blacks reported no information on the father in 2009. In light of the poverty statistics shared earlier, all of the data above reveal significant differences between the general cultures of the Black community and the other races, particularly when it comes to family formation. 

Based on the above data, it’s quite likely that at least three of the four Black perpetrators of torture and kidnapping were born out of wedlock. And at least one of them does not have a father listed on his or her birth certificate.

As reported in Wayward Sons, a study produced by the Third Way think tank (i.e., not conservative):

“There is a great deal of evidence that children from single parent homes have worse outcomes on both academic and economic measures than children from two parent families. As the authors note, there is a vast inequality of both financial resources and parental time and attention between one- and two-parent families.”

The study also states that,

“…most one parent families are headed by mothers not fathers, and boys appear to do relatively worse in these families, perhaps due to paternal absence.”

Many others have also made that point abundantly clear. David Popenoe, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University, argues:

“Father absence is a major force lying behind many of the attention-grabbing issues that dominate news: crime and delinquency, premature sexuality, and out-of-wedlock teen births, deteriorating educational achievement, depression, substance abuse, and alienation among teenagers, and the growing number of women and children in poverty.”

The problem of bad parenting in the Black community may actually be one of non-parenting in some cases. The family is not a popular topic in our culture. Fatherhood and patriarchy are even more unpopular topics. Yet, when we look at the statistics available, it seems we really do need to have a greater conversation about the role of family and fathers in urban, Black America.

Whether we like it or not, the family is the foundation of our society. If there is chaos in the family, you will get chaos in society.