NAACP leader issues call

Published 1:10 am Sunday, February 13, 2011

Staff Writer

The president of the local NAACP is issuing a call to community leaders who could help identify — and perhaps address — problems facing some members of the black community.
These problems and their proposed solutions will be the topic of a meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. March 12 at the Alpha Life Center on Griffin’s Beach Road in the Washington area.
People from 21 counties in eastern North Carolina will be representeda at this meeting, said Bill Booth, president of tahe Beaufort County NAACP.
“Leave your titles and your importance or whatever at the door and let’s be about addressing these problems,” he commented. “We can’t expect the law enforcement to do it, we can’t expect the schools to do it, we can’t expect others to do it. We as a community need to begin to address these problems.”
Difficulties Booth would like to see addressed include what he sees as a lack of minority hiring in municipal government, plus high-school dropout rates and incarceration rates among young black men and retraining the unemployed or underemployed.
Unemployment is significantly higher among blacks, especially black men 20 years old or older, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website.
In January, the unemployment rate for white civilian, noninstitutional workers was 8 percent nationwide. The unemployment rate was 15.7 percent for black workers in the same category.
Booth indicated he sees chronic unemployment problems in the local black community.
“Let’s put it on the table and be adults enough to be able to address it,” he said. “That’s the way I see us moving forward.”
Some of these issues are systemic and must be tackled from within, according to Booth.
“Not saying that it’s a racist thing, it’s a seeing the problems and addressing the problems thing,” he said.
Incarceration rates
Documents provided by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office revealed the number of nonwhite male detainees admitted to the county Detention Center exceeded the white male detainee population for all but two months of 2010.
The jail’s nonwhite male population, carried over from the preceding month, was the largest in May 2010, when 66 detainees fitting that description were housed. In the same month, 24 white male detainees had their jail stays carried over from April.
Also in May 2010, the number of white male detainees admitted to the jail was 100, while the number of admitted nonwhite male detainees totaled 80.
School dropout rates
Numbers provided by Beaufort County Schools show that, in the 2008-2009 school year, black male students comprised 30 percent of the public school system’s dropout population, while white male students made up 24 percent of the dropouts.
“For the 2008-2009 school year, Beaufort County Schools saw an equal number of black and white (male and female) students drop out of school,” reads information provided by the school system. “The 2007-2008 school year recorded 61 white students as well as 61 black students who dropped out in grades 9-12.
“The 2008-2009 school year saw 64 students of each ethnic group drop out of school in grades 9-12. Numbers from these school years are improvements (from) the 2006-2007 school year where 70 white students and 66 black students dropped out in high school.
“Statistics from 2008-2009 show a 6% difference between black male dropouts and white male dropouts.”
Don Phipps, Beaufort County’s public-schools superintendent, responded to questions about the numbers in an e-mailed statement.
“We know there is more work to be done when it comes to lowering drop out numbers among all student groups in Beaufort County,” Phipps said. “Teachers and administrators work with families and our social workers to identify our at risk students early. The earlier they are identified, the earlier interventions will be put into place to keep that child on track to graduate. We will continue to look at schools such as Southside High School, who now has a minority graduation rate of 90%, to see where we can strengthen our other efforts and keep more students of all groups in school.”
Official response
Beaufort County Commissioner Ed Booth said he hadn’t spoken with Bill Booth about the March meeting, but added he shared some of the NAACP leader’s worries.
“Some of the concerns I have in the community is the unemployment rate,” said Ed Booth. “If the unemployment rate in Beaufort County is 10 percent then it’s a lot higher in the minority community.”
Asked if he believes racial discrimination plays a role in hiring here, the commissioner said, “Everything is not racial. Sometimes people have to be made aware of these things. Then again, some of us have to put ourselves in positions to be qualified for these jobs. You’ve got to do the extra effort.”
Ed Booth added he’s been working for months to put together some kind of initiative that would link black youths who have committed crimes with jobs “where they can have some kind of honor and dignity back.”
In theory, this program would expand the undertakings of local organizations like the Purpose of God Annex Outreach Center, said the Democratic commissioner.
“If you keep them down they’re going to stay down,” he said of black young people.
Stan Deatherage, one of Booth’s Republican colleagues on the county board, responded to a question about these ideas via e-mail.
“Some commissioners may feel called to initiate some truly innovative policy to effect change in this arena,” he said. “For my part: It is all I can do to endeavor to keep Beaufort County from going broke without raising taxes.”