Progress

More
If you are like me--black, coming of age in the 90s, in inner-city America--then you doubtlessly remember than the Crack Age likely takes up significant real estate in your memory. When I consider the years between, roughly, 1986, and 1996, I think of three things--Guns, HIV and Teen Pregnancy. Those (of course along with crack) were the terrors of that period. When those terrors show signs of abating, it is important that the change not go unnoticed.


The birth rate for U.S. teenagers fell 9 percent from 2009 to 2010, to 34.3, the lowest level ever reported in the seven decades for which a consistent series of rates is available.
The decline has been most precipitous among black girls. In 1991, there were 118 babies born per thousand black teenage girls. In 2010 there were 51.5. As someone who remembers 1991, a time when at least one girl--and usually more-- in every class was either pregnant or already had kids, this is welcome news. 

There is still a racial disparity--though nowhere near what it was. But more importantly progress has meaning. Progress is not an end-point. When you say "We've made progress" you are not saying "We shall now disarm." You are saying "We have won some battles." 

I came up in the era when people thought the inner-cities were going to turn into Mad Max. Whatever else has gone wrong, that hasn't happened. That fact does not fit neatly into the black pathology narrative. Or into the notion that somehow every generation of young people are worse than their parents. But it is the truth, nonetheless.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Sad Desk Lunch: Is This How You Want to Die?

How to avoid working through lunch, and diseases related to social isolation.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

From This Author

Just In