The black out-of-wedlock birthrate has reached 72 percent, according to the most recent data.
The educational performance of black boys continues to fall in relation to other groups, by a margin so wide - and worsening - the Council of the Great City Schools calls it a "national catastrophe" deserving much more attention and coordinated effort to combat than currently exist.
All the while, I'm hoping I don't screw up (at least not too much) in the parenting of my 9-year-old black son.
The out-of-wedlock and achievement gap numbers keep me on edge. I know the challenges - those real and perceived - that may come my son's way. I'm just not sure I've figured out the best way to prepare him without lapsing into the type of thinking that would imperil rather than enhance his development.
It's the kind of delicate balancing act my parents conducted while raising me and my eight brothers.
On an intellectual level, I know there are mitigating factors in both those ugly realities. The Census Bureau years ago found that roughly a third of the rise in the black out-of-wedlock birthrate was due to young, black married couples choosing to have fewer children while the average number of kids for black single-mothers was stable or slightly growing.
The overall 72 percent rate also doesn't take into account the difference between a single-mother who has a strong support system through extended family and friends and a single-mother who is struggling on her own with multiple kids.
The children of the mothers in the former group are more likely to avoid the social maladies that befall those in the latter.
But those are only mitigating factors. There's no getting around that the rate is too high to establish long-term healthy communities, and we should be just as worried about the average educational performance of black boys.
According to the report from the Council of the Great City Schools, the achievement gap, which is widening between white and black boys, is not only a result of poverty. Here are the most disturbing findings of the report:
Black male students who don't live in poverty perform no better in math and reading than poor white students, and black male students "without disabilities do no better than white males with disabilities."
That's in addition to black males being less likely to participate in academic clubs, more likely to be suspended, more likely to be retained in a grade and drop out at a higher rate than their white counterparts, all factors that heavily contribute to a black male unemployment rate that is twice the national average and an over-representation in the prison system.
Disparities in sentencing, the poor quality of teachers available to the average young black males and other structural and racial inequalities heavily contribute to those numbers. But they don't explain them all. Something more sinister is happening, something more personal.
Because of the presence of those continuing legacies from our ugly past, black people must place a premium on the factors we can control, such as adopting smarter study habits and being more deliberate about making wise personal choices that affect our lives long term, and not enough of us have adopted that attitude.
For several weeks now I've been traveling around the area and speaking with groups about difficult subjects. Between now and Black History Month, I want to convene a frank public conversation about this subject as well.
I know it won't be easy. It is one issue that is too easily distorted by misleading or out-of-context facts, stereotypes, myths disguised as common sense and political ideologies that have become sacrosanct and discourage real introspection.
It is a landmine of a subject for all of those reasons.
Still, I hope others are willing to partner with me.