Former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert called for increased attention to poverty facing black America in a lecture Thursday evening.
Sponsored by the Georgetown University Library Associates and the Ellen Catherine Gstalder (COL ’98) Memorial Lecture Fund, Herbert’s lecture primarily focused on the crises that African Americans have experienced and continue to face since the recession.
“We don’t even hear much about it,” Herbert said. “The media can tell us all about Kim Kardashian and who wore what to the Oscars but poverty? Not so much.”
Herbert said that while the economic downturn impacted all Americans, the real tragedy of the United States’ current state can be found in the lives of African Americans.
“While the suffering has been widespread, the worst of the pain has been endured by black Americans,” he said. “And that situation is getting worse, it’s not getting better.”
Herbert spoke about the high unemployment rate for African Americans.
“There are black neighborhoods, and I’ve visited many of them, where hardly anyone has a legitimate job,” he said. “These are neighborhoods where all hope seems to have been lost, where the children themselves seem never to have learned how to dream.”
According to Herbert, many people fail to see the situation of African Americans as worse than any other group in the United States.
“Forget about a recession, there’s a full-blown depression in black America,” he said.
The lack of father figures for black children is a rising problem that can be especially detrimental to the development of young, male African Americans, Herbert said.
Herbert said he was lucky to have his father and several uncles as positive mentors in his life.
“I had father figures galore in my life,” he said. “Compare that life to the lives of so many children, and not just black children, growing up today without fathers in their lives.”
Herbert appealed to Americans to work harder to keep families together. He said he is hopeful that the situation for African Americans will improve.
“Do we have any reason to be optimistic? I hope so,” Herbert said. “Blacks in America have a long and proud history of overcoming hardship and injustice. It’s time to do it again.”