By Donald R. Hoke, Ph.D.
Before the rise of the welfare state in the 1960s, strong black families in Dallas lived and worked in segregate sections of the City. The key term is strong black family, defined as a father, mother, and children. It is fruitless to debate what caused the demise of strong black families since the 1950s and 1960s. However, there is no debate that children, particularly boys, do much better when raised in families with strong father figures. Rebuilding strong minority families would go far towards solving Dallas’ poverty problem. Play with this new idea.
Start with the premise that minority kids idolize local sports heroes. Every media form is full of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Suppose Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban, and Chuck Greenberg created a major, multi-decade marketing program targeting minority kids. The messengers would be minority sports heroes, current and past. The message would be very simple. Real men don’t get young women pregnant. Smart young women don’t allow men to get them pregnant. Real men and women finish high school. Real men marry smart women and start strong families.
That is it.
The marketing program would flood South Dallas and include billboards, black and Latino radio and TV stations as well as newspapers. Local ministers would welcome such a program as would such organizations as the Boys and Girls Clubs. The Cowboys, Mavericks, and Rangers social media would relentlessly blast this message to targeted audiences. I don’t understand social media very well, but sports marketing people do. Use their expertise. Posters in every school might carry Dion Sanders pointing to onlookers saying Real men finish school and marry bright women. No minority child could escape the message.
From the time a minority child learned about the Dallas Cowboys, he or she would be bombarded with the message. Finish school. Get married. Then start your family.
The message must stay just that simple. This is not about drinking or drugs or crime or school choice. Every time a minority child turns on any media, he or she must be bombarded by the same simple message. Make it cool to finish school. Make it look dumb to get pregnant or to get someone pregnant and drop out. If Dez Bryant tells minority children over and over again that Real manhood is finishing school, not getting a classmate pregnant, many if not most of those children will listen.
This must be a long-term program. A short media blitz accomplishes nothing. Dallas sports teams and their owners are immensely wealthy, which is a very good thing. Jerry and Mark and Chuck can effortlessly donate $5 million each per year for the next 25 years. Yes, they’ll get a charitable deduction. This is chump change compared with the continuing financial cost of welfare and crime, to say nothing of the permanent human cost of lost talent and human life.
The financial returns will dwarf the cost. The crime rate will go down because people in strong black and Latino families are unlikely to become criminals. When strong black families buy houses, they become investors in their communities. They will fight blight very naturally. Property tax revenues will increase, as will sales tax revenues because educated people will have jobs and money to spend. Welfare rolls will decrease, as these strong families reject welfare as a lifestyle.
The program must purchase high-profile advertising to target minority kids. That means ads in the middle of Cowboys’ games and Mavericks’ games and Rangers’ games. Yes, ads in the middle of the Super Bowl and the NBA Finals and the World Series. Public service announcements running at 3:00 AM are worthless. There must be full page advertisements in DMN as well as every magazine and newspaper these children read. Whatever these children watch on TV or on their smart phones, they must see their sports heroes repeating the simple message. Whatever these children use to entertain themselves must be the venue to reach them.
This must be a private-sector endeavor. There must be no government money and no government bureaucrats. This enables quick changes in the way the message is delivered and who is delivering it. Sports teams cut non-performing players in a heartbeat and this program must be able to “stop on a dime and give nine cents change.” The City and County can help promote the program, but must not be involved in funding or management. This is a job for the private sector, in which we Texans take such great pride.
Many well-intentioned groups have extended herculean efforts to solve the South Dallas poverty problem, all with little success. Einstein’s insanity definition fits our situation – “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Come on, Jerry and Mark and Chuck! Let’s try something different! Let’s be national leaders!