Knockin' the Knocked-Up 

Both Nancy Cook and the NAACP are in error

Last week, I watched with growing unease the fracas surrounding the ill-advised remarks made by both Charleston County School Board Vice Chair Nancy Cook and Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott regarding an appearance Cook made on 1250 WTMA-AM's The Morning Buzz with Richard Todd.

On April 3, Cook went on the talk show to discuss a report on the abysmal high dropout rates in America's largest 50 cities. As happens on talk radio, the conversation went all cattywhompus, with Cook making a hip-shot statement about teen pregnancy.

Cook, a Republican candidate for Charleston County Council, said, "We're not standing up as people and saying that we've had enough of that. We're not paying for another baby, maybe one baby, but after that, we're taking the baby. And maybe you get sterilized. I know that sounds kind of extreme and radical..."

Jeez, Louise, I wish people would confine the crazy talk behind drained glassware in bars where it belongs.

Cook, director of Good Neighbor Homeless Shelters, was openly criticized for being insensitive to the issue of teen pregnancy and more subtly so for racism.

She released a statement in response: "What was spoken was taken out of context. I've spent my entire life helping others. The issues of teen pregnancies and high school dropout rates go hand-in-hand. We need to discuss this as an issue of personal responsibility and accountability, not government intervention. Clearly, to suggest that I would be for such a radical idea would be against my morals, beliefs, and life work."

Dot Scott demanded that Cook either apologize or resign, and enroll in sensitivity and diversity training. She also called on the rest of the School Board to denounce Cook's remarks.

Scott said, "Her words are especially offensive in the American South, where poor women were once involuntarily sterilized and often, with prejudice, labeled as unfit mothers because of their color or economic class."

I'm going to give Scott some points for presenting a reasonably accurate historical view of things, but when did sensitivity and diversity training for public officials ever do anything for young girls "in trouble"? I suspect this demand will be met with as much success as the NAACP's economic boycott of South Carolina over the Confederate battle flag.

U.S. Census Bureau data for 2000-03 shows that unmarried South Carolina women accounted for 37.2 percent of all births. Nationally, the average was 29.1 percent. In the Palmetto State, 10.97 percent of all births are attributed to teenage girls; nationally, that percentage is 7.7 percent.

The same data shows that 44.4 percent of unmarried South Carolinians giving birth live below the poverty level. For married mothers in South Carolina, it's 14.4 percent. According to the S.C. Office of Research and Statistics, one-third of Charleston County dropouts are pregnant girls.

I live around the corner from the Florence Crittendon Home, a residential facility for pregnant teenagers. Day after day, year after year, I've watched these girls stroll around the neighborhood with their swelling bellies, knowing deeply that most of them were screwed from the time they were born due to poverty and/or childhood neglect and abuse. I wonder what happens to them, and I resolve to make a donation to the facility.

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Which is little bit better than using a social ill to score political points with the crasser elements of the conservative crowd or to maintain the relevance of a national organization that is slowly becoming marginalized by its own demographic.


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