Last week I wrote a piece about the controversial anti-teen pregnancy campaign in New York City. The campaign features both Black and white babies on billboards with cautionary captions on the sides of buses.
For some in the African-American community this campaign reinforces negative racial stereotypes and promotes negativity, low self esteem, and shame in African-American teens who are either pregnant or have children. In my opinion this represents the height of hyper-sensitivity. Nothing more than emotional responses based on personal experience, and void of analytical thinking. In my opinion this is the absolute best ad campaign that N. Y.C has ever conceived.
The latest objection comes by way of an article in the New York Times written by Gloria Malone entitled, "I Was a Teen Mom, and I'm Just Fine". Malone is the head of an organization called "Teen Moms NYC" an organization which offers support, and resources for teen Moms.
"These ads do not explain why New York City, which thankfully makes birth control accessible to youth, has only recently begun requiring that comprehensive sex education be taught in all its public schools. Nor do they offer teenage parents any support for how to get out of poverty and provide their children with a more stable upbringing. Until that happens, there will always be teenage pregnancy and teenage parents.
Malone, who became a mother at age 15, then went on to say,
"I was a good student and determined to apply to college. But after I had my daughter, my high school guidance counselor refused to see me and help me with my applications. She never expected me to graduate. Most people, even within my family, assumed I wouldn’t amount to anything and would be dependent on government assistance for the rest of my life.The blame, shame and stereotypes expressed by so many others simply told me to give up. But, I also had a few people who encouraged me not to listen to the stereotypes. People like my chorus teacher, who allowed me to show up a few minutes late to class, so I could pump breast milk first; my economics teacher, who congratulated me on having a healthy child and reminded me that he was proud of me for not giving up; and the nurse at my daughter’s doctor’s office, who told me I was doing a great job and to keep it up. These bits of encouragement are what kept me going. Thanks to them, I graduated with honors and went on to community college. Today I am a student, an advocate for young parents and, above all, a proud mom.
Stereotypes and blame do not stop teenagers from engaging in unprotected sex or discourage teenage pregnancy. They simply keep teenage parents from seeking the help and support they need. The only tools that have been proven to prevent teenage pregnancy are comprehensive sex education, birth control and abstinence."
Gloria Malone is a success story. But unfortunately she is the exception, and not the rule. In an extremely visual, media driven world, mass media is the best way to drive any agenda, or a reasonable point home, and while I do not agree with stereotypes some have the ring of truth, and others are simply based on facts. The ugly truth is the fact that that only 40 percent of all teen moms finish High School. The vast majority of teen Moms drop out long before graduation day. A little more than 50 percent of all N.Y.C teens finish High School all together. So, while I do agree that it is a good thing that NYC public schools have included sex education as a part of their curriculum, in order for any learning to take place, students must first attend school. As long as there are even a few children who do not learn this curriculum there will always be a disconnect. So if it takes a rolling billboard to get their attention, so be it.
I'll take proactivity over reactivity any day. Especially if being proactive could positively impact a child's life.