The Law of Probability
The universe operates pursuant to a number of well-known natural laws, e.g., gravity, attraction, gestation and relativity, just to name a few. However, contrary to popular belief, the universe is anything but absolute. It is neither constant nor certain and reality, such as it is, guarantees nothing. “The universe is instead governed by the probability, likelihood, or odds that a particular thing or outcome will occur. This is the law of probability, the most dominant rule in the universe.
Concordantly, success is a matter of tilting the odds in one’s favor by doing those things which enhance the probability of a favorable outcome. Like Einstein’s famous E = mc2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared), success equals thinking the right thoughts followed by taking the right actions, (S = r.t. + r.a.).
Like the universe from which it springs, the “success formula” is not absolute. But if one hews to the law of probability by thinking the right thoughts and taking the right actions, one tilts the odds in his/her favor. Success cannot help but follow.” This reality brings me to the subject of today’s blog.
Professional basketball player, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder recently won the National Basketball Association’s (NBA), Most Valuable Player award. During a moving acceptance speech, Mr. Durant tearfully thanked his single mother who was present during the ceremony, for his accomplishment. Between the two of them many a tear was shed.
Since then, the two have received universal praise, he for his basketball prowess and acceptance speech and she for being the paradigm of a strong, self-sacrificing single mother. Without question their accomplishments are praise worthy.
Nonetheless, the situation raises a number of significant social policy issues. First, does single motherhood tilt the law of probability in our individual and collective favor? Stated differently, does single motherhood make it more probable than not that the mother, her children and society will prevail?
Second, is the apparent focus of African-American males on being professional “ballers” the right thoughts and actions? Put another way is our over reliance on careers as professional athletes and entertainers in our individual and collective best interest?
Finally, does the publicity surround the award and attendant speech convey a helpful message to a community desperate for role models, eager for success stories? Or does said attention communicate a message that courts disaster?
As to the first issue, Blackacre is persuaded that raising children as a single parent, whether male or female is not in our individual or collective best interest. There is no question that single women can successfully raise children into responsible adults. It happens every day and clearly mother Durant did so to her ever lasting credit. Nonetheless, successful single mothers are the exception not the rule. And there is little question that single parenting decreases the odds of our success on an individual as well as a group basis.
According to a recent study, 72% of African-American children are born to single black females. By comparison, the rate of white children born to single females is 24%.
Needless to say, child rearing is no easy tasks. It is expensive, and the results uncertain, even under the best of circumstances. And the irrefutable evidence shows that children of single female parents as compared to those from duel parent family’s, suffer a host of challenges including: 1) greater and earlier sexual activity, 2) drug and alcohol abuse, 3) sexual abuse, 4) child abuse, 5) criminality, 6) psychological and emotional problems, 7) criminal victimization and 8) poverty.
Worse the pattern of single motherhood is self-perpetuating. Thus, the danger it presents to single mothers, their children and society at large is generational. Single motherhood is therefore a prescription for enduring poverty and forever hopelessness.
When children are raised in a two parent home by loving parents in a committed supportive relationship, the law of probability is significantly tipped in our favor. The odds of success are further supported by child-rearing in an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, siblings and in-laws.
As to career paths, it is quite understandable that many gravitate to sports and entertainment. Basketball is a world-wide endeavor that has made many of its participants both wealthy and famous.
Yet, there are only four professional basketball leagues in the U. S. i.e., the NBA, the NBA Development League, the International Basketball League and the Premier Basketball League. The NBA is composed of 30 teams with a maximum of 15 players per team, for a total of 450 players. There other leagues have 10 teams apiece with anywhere from 10 to 15 players per team for a maximum of 450 additional players. The grand total of professional basketball players in the U. S. therefore tops at 900 players. That millions of minority males would choose a career path with a mere 900 available positions is abhorrent to the law of probability.
The law of unintended consequences is the final point of discussion. This rule states that no matter how carefully, how diligently an enterprise is planned, some result will occur that is wholly unexpected.
In keeping with this law, Blackacre cannot help but wonder if all of the attention paid to the Durant matter, does us more harm than good. We are concerned that we are sending the wrong message.
Given the overwhelming evidence of the problems attendant to single motherhood, we may be justifying, glorifying even venerating this practice. If mother Durant can raise a wealthy, professional athlete, the message is that it is alright if not preferable for others to bear children out-of-wedlock; that they too can beat the odds. Hence, we should not be surprised when some young women with a house full of children defiantly boast, “I don’t need no man?”
We may also be sending a similar missive to our young men, by indicating that it is permissible to father children but not to raise or support them and that responsible fatherhood is neither necessary nor required. Nor do we believe it wise to place professional athletes on a pedestal or to steer at-risks males towards a path that precious few can successfully tread.
We instead argue that society is better served by exalting the unspoken heroes who toil in anonymity rather than the famous upon whom the spotlight always shines. We are wiser to focus on the rule rather than the exception; to revere the ordinary rather than the favored.
In conclusion, we mean no disrespect to either single mothers or professional athletes. The ones here are worthy of esteem.
But these are public policy questions with which we must grapple. As always, Blackacre’s goal is to honestly address these issues and to facilitate their successful resolution.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO, Blackacre Policy Forum