Archive for March, 2010

It’s Time to Do Something!

I recently had dinner with a good friend of mine and the topic of Black people doing something about our current crisis, and yes it is a crisis, instead of and in lieu of constantly complaining about it came up.  We, well really me, went on this diatribe about how it is desperately needed, we heard enough already.  I read, hear and see Black folk constantly discussing what ails our community but they do nothing about it.  I mean read any blog, comments to articles, social network entries and they authors all do the same thing COMPLAIN incessantly!  Everyone has an opinion about how the Black race is falling behind educationally, has the highest unemployment/underemployment rate, is suffering tremendously from health related issues,  worth the least economically/financially and has recently changed the overall landscape of the “intact family”.   But that is all they do is opine, often times they get indignant, dogmatic, judgmental, etc. all in the name of just taking a position or merely being heard, but in the end it’s nothing that will actually affect change.

One particular situation gets my attention and exemplifies my point.  I was promoting Black Marriage Day (this past weekend) and have been reading other articles, blogs, etc. that were also celebrating and commending the theme of dedicating the fourth Sunday of every March to highlighting the Black marriage.  However, in the midst of my perusing other noteworthy news on the topic I was directed to an article written for a magazine, that actually criticized the day as being a day that “is a gloss-over of epic proportion” since it fails to talk about slavery and Black marriage, how it “disregards the economic impediment to Black marriage” and goes further on to state that it “ignores Black gay marriage”-all a bunch of nonsense.   The history of Black marriage is precisely what is imbedded in the national day of recognition.  There are seminars, workshops, etc. nationwide, that teach and enlighten married couples (and soon to be married couples) about what it takes to make marriage work, precisely because of the economic challenges (amongst the many others) Black couples face.  But this writer wanted to mimic what has been shoved down our throats for the past several decades, which does very little to move us past this point.  She failed to see the positive in Black Marriage Day, that it gives us a day where all of the propaganda associated with the unpopularity of Black marriages is put on the back burner, restoring our faith in the institution. Not to lambast her but I was incensed by the lack of pith in the article and it’s clear intent to spark some sort of controversy by the mere mention of these issues.

My point is this:  I challenge each of you to do something!  As the adage goes “if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem”!  If you have an opinion  about our problems, I say substantiate its impact by stating what you are doing about it.   We don’t need anyone else sitting along the sidelines, we need more of us getting in the trenches and actually doing something TODAY!

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Black Marriage Day: A Celebration Of Black Marriages

I think this is awesome! a day to celebrate, acknowledge and highlight the Black married couples throughout the country.  This is a concept we need to spread like wild flowers, let everyone you know so they can tell somebody and so on and so on and so on…March 28th, 2010.  The founder of Wedded Bliss Foundation, Nisa I. Muhammad founded this day eight years ago to celebrate Black marriage within our community. (go to http://www.blackmarriageday.org and weddedblissinc.com)

The statistics indicate that marriage in the Black community is at an all time low, approximately 32%, less than half of what it was back in the 1970’s.  Furthermore, almost 70% of Black children born in single parent homes, most of them headed by single women.  To make matters even worse, younger couples within the Black community prefer to cohabit over marriage, also opting for having children out of wedlock.  Many believe that Black marriage is not the “trend” anymore speculating that it is more of a “White folks” thing.  These propagandists blame the media, rap music and lack of spirituality for this predicament.  Not that there is no validity to this, I believe that the media certainly plays a major role, but I also think many of us are to blame.  Black women blame Black men for their plight, Black men will not accept responsibility for what ails our community and so many of them run, and so the cycle goes on.

We need to talk long, hard and often about what the benefits of marriage are and why we should encourage our youngsters, our single, professional Black women, our Black men and unmarried parents to consider marriage as a viable option.  Although a  fairly recent Gallup poll, indicates that many Blacks between the ages 19-35, would like to get married and consider marriage to be a very significant part of life there are far too many who “shack up” instead with their “baby mama” or ‘baby daddy”.  So all hope is not gone, we can spread the word now and keep it going.  According the the Institute for American Values (www.americanvalues.org), some of the benefits of marriage include:

-increased financial and economic status, since both spouses are more likely to work as opposed to their White counterparts;

-Black men in particular seem to improve in health, physically and psychologically, when they marry;

-Black children tend to benefit more from marriage, even moreso than cohabitating parents, since married parents tend to take the health, education and psychological well-being of their children much seriously than non-married parents

-Black male offspring tend to be more confident, do better in school and have minimal behavioral issues leading to delinquency when they live within a home where their parents are married

-married Black couples are more likely to be supportive of each other, their children and their community

These benefits, plus many that we can see for ourselves we do not need a study to confirm for us, i.e. that it encourages Black men to remain productive members of society, that it serves as an example and encouragement for young Blacks to see marriage as a viable option and that it serves to minimize many of the negative stereotypes society has placed on us, can be used as selling points to all Blacks young and old as to why we should marriage should be the chosen path for long-term relationships.  I say long-term because we don’t want young people getting married just for the sake of having a party to show off the ring, dresses, etc.  Because just as the number of Black marriages decreased within the Black community, divorces within our community has increased to an astronomical degree.

We can all do something, we can tell everybody we know about the celebrations that are being held on March 28th all over the country to celebrate Black Marriage Day; we can get on board and promote, get active and support the initiatives being made by the African American Healthy Marriage Initiative (www.aahmi.org) as well the local efforts being made; most importantly we can support each other and appreciate what we can do to change our attitudes about each other.   I think once we start to listen to each other, respect our differences and move past them to actually do something about it we will inspire change.

Dear SBF: Looking for a Potential Mate…Go to Prison and/or School

Wait, wait, wait!  Before you get your panties all in a bunch let me explain.  I don’t know if many of you have been keeping an eye on the recent bills being considered in Congress regarding the federal sentencing guidelines reform for crack vs. cocaine (the Fair Sentencing Act) or the bills concerning the disenfranchisement of felons (the Democracy Restoration Act of 2009) but these are currently before the legislative bodies, both nationally and locally for a number of reasons.   First off, roughly 35% (and higher if you consider the federal prisons) of the prison population is made up of Black men, where Black men make up only 12% of the overall population.   Okay, you don’t have to be even remotely mathematically savvy to see that these numbers are highly disproportionate.  This is a huge problem, economically, culturally and psychologically, for our community but more so for the Black family.   When more Black women than Black men are graduating from college, although almost 50% more Black women enroll there is an even wider gap in the number that graduates, this just compounds the problems.  To make matters worse, up to 60% of Black men have a criminal record (that number may be a lot higher for some cities like Chicago) and are limited in going anywhere but back to prison or the welfare rolls.

This is the problem, and hence where you come in at SBF, because many of these young Black men are unfairly targeted, unfairly penalized and unfairly disenfranchised upon release.  We don’t have to feed into “their” hype. As Michelle Alexander describes it, in her book “The New Jim Crow:Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness“, (www.newjimcrow)  this is modern day slavery.  Ms. Alexander highlights the fact that there are not only more Blacks imprisoned than there were slaves in 1850, but that there is a huge inequity in the drop in the crime rate since the 1980’s while the number of convictions soared since that time.  She further mentions that more Blacks are disenfranchised in 2004, than before the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified which prohibited the denial of the right to vote on the basis of race.  This is no coincidence, Black men are being enslaved in a covert, yet pernicious way.  I practice criminal defense in New York City, where the incarceration of young Black is a whopping four times more than the number of Blacks that occupy the city.  It’s not hard to tell when I enter the courthouse in any borough and the courtroom is so overwhelmingly filled with Blacks, that I occasionally get mistaken for being a defendant.  As a criminal attorney, it didn’t take long for me to realize the number of potential clients coming to my office were unfairly stopped (clear violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments), illegally detained, were the subject of “evidence planting” and were forced to take pleas or wrongfully convicted (especially when they insisted on proving their innocence by rejecting any pleas, opting to have a jury decide their fate instead).  It is unfathomable how blatant and ubiquitous police officers, prosecutors, judges, etc. are with their total disregard for the truth and for doing what they all pledged they would do under the Constitution.  Not every man in prison, or with a criminal record, did in fact commit a crime-many of them happen to be a victim of an inherent racist justice system.

So SBF, another alternative is to direct your attention to the schools.  The School to Prison Pipeline (http://www.nyclu.org/node/1323) supports what many Black parents are already aware of, the education system is just another ploy to direct our young Black men to the prisons.   Black students (particularly Black boys) are expelled at an alarming rate, 34%, making it more likely to be held back a grade; Black students (again mainly Black boys) are more likely to be placed in special education, minimizing the likelihood of them graduating from high school; and Black boys are more likely to be arrested in school for minor infractions than any other race, thereby establishing a relationship with the penal system a lot earlier in life than what can be justified.

So you see, SBF, the moral of the story is that we can do something.  We can effect change legislatively (go to www.sentencingproject.org), we can mentor Black children (especially Black boys) through the schools, community organizations, churches or one on one or we can merely support our Black men in any way we can.  We may not find our soulmate in any of these places, but we can certainly increase the pool of potentials for someone else.

For further reading, go to http://www.lawsch.uga.edu/academics/profiles/dwilkes_more/57racism.html

Since We’re on the Topic, Let’s Talk Blacks and Adoption of Black Boys

     I recently read somewhere that Sapphire, the author of “Push”,  is working on another book that highlights the crisis regarding the over abundance of black boys in foster care.  It really hit me because, as I have mentioned on a number of occasions, I represent (well I used to anyway) children in the foster care system as an attorney in New York.  And what was troubling for me as their attorney, was not only the unbelievable number of Black children that filled the foster homes but the fact that the agencies were so unjustifiably willing to take these children from their homes, disrupting and destroying an otherwise functional family.  And no, the child protective workers were not always “just doing their jobs”, nor were they “erring on the side of caution” (given the fact that the federal statute requires that such agencies MUST implement “services” to the families to avoid removal).  Read my related blog post from my firm’s website, http://www.traceyabloodsaw.com/blog/2008/allegations-of-child-abuse-when-is-removal-of-the-child-justifiedMany of them were just puppets on a string, doing what the system is designed to do, destroy these families, and yes, particularly Black families.

     Regardless of the reasoning, justification or legitimacy the end result is a foster care system, not just in New York, that is overwhelmed by its population, mainly Black population.  My recent post about Blacks being the only ones who should be adopting Black children, prompted several responses here (and on other blogs, Facebook, etc.) about the lack of interest Blacks have in adopting Black children.  This, as many were emphatic in stating, leads to many Black children unfairly being left in loveless, sub par, inadequate foster homes if it were not for Whites adopting them.  Well, my response to this was  1) adoptive/foster parents abuse and neglect these children too (I have seen these cases firsthand) and 2) the motive or intentions of these adoptive parents is “suspect” to me, particularly because they choose to adopt abroad and because Black girls are chosen way more than Black boys. 

     So Sapphire got it right!  There is a crisis going on right now, concerning the proliferation of Black boys in the foster care system.  Let’s look at some data:

-although Black children make up only 15% of the national population, they make up almost 40% of the foster care system population (US Dept of Health and Human Services), while in states like D.C., Maryland and Illinois that number is doubled

-depending on the state, Black boys  make up more than half of the foster care population (see childwelfare.gov factsheets)

And although, according to Adoption.com, Blacks are allegedly more interested in adopting than Whites, 45% and 36% respectively, whether they actually adopt is a different story.  Not to mention, I believe this number varies depending on the source, which is supported by another article published on their site.  (http://library.adoption.com/articles/the-colors-of-adoption-black-vs.-white.html

     The issue is this:  We all know that the odds of a child getting the love, attention and nurture he so desperately needs being  in a foster home, versus being with an adopted family, are minimal, why aren’t we doing anything about it.  What is stopping YOU, single Black women, single Black man or Black couple,  from rescuing these children from this disastrous circumstance?

Why Would a White Man Ever Even “Look” at a Black Woman

     Recently the media had a field day with the ads and billboards posted by Georgia Right to Life and Radiance Foundation, anti-abortion groups in Georgia.  (Read the NY Times article here http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/06/us/06abortion.html).  The campaign aims at discouraging Black women, the population allegedly having abortions at a rate higher than any other ethnic or racial group, from using abortion as a method of birth control by classifying Black children as “endangered species”.   These groups took advantage of the “Negro project” started by Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, which aimed at killing as many Black children as possible to save humanity.  Georgia Right to Life states that Black women, particularly in New York, Texas, Maryland, Mississippi and Georgia, have more than 50% of the abortions despite the fact that they make up way less than these populations in these states.  They mention how most abortion clinics are located in the urban areas and that this is by design. 

    Well, this past week there were stories about the wealth, or worth, of Black women and the Herpes infection rate of Black women.  The articles on Black women’s wealth indicates that, compared to White women, Asian women and Latin, single Black women are worth the least, $100 on average, particularly for women aged 30-49.  And even though their wealth supposedly increases dramatically over time, particularly once they marry and once they reach their Golden years, their wealth still lags behind that of women of other racial groups.  Based on a recent study, well 2007 data, the Insight Center for Community and Economic Development (read here http://www.insightcced.org/index.php?page=policy), Black women are more likely to have more debt, to not own major assets, to work in the service industry, are more likely to have been a victim of the subprime lending debacle and to rely more on Social Security benefits, which is thought to be the basis for the huge disparity in worth.

     The stories about the Herpes plague is even more disturbing.  According to the Grio.com, Black women, allegedly, make up almost half (48%) of those infected with the Herpes virus, more than double that of Black men, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  http://www.thegrio.com/specials/web-rundown/new-report-says-nearly-half-of-all-black-women-have-genital-herpes.php  The reasons are claimed to be the susceptibility of Blacks to the virus and the fact that Blacks are less likely to have it diagnosed, since the symptoms are not as overt.

     I hope at this point that we all see the pattern here.  I mean, there are a plethora of articles, stories, etc. about how Black women should broaden their horizons and date outside of their race. But then not even a few days later, a barrage of negative statistics are disseminated to make us appear undesirable and unattractive to ANY MAN, let alone a man of another race.  I, myself, believe that we should remain within the Black community anyhow, but think it’s interesting how they “build us up, only to break us down again”.  I mean I am already reading blog posts where White men are emphatic in stating that there is no way that they would date a Black woman given the paucity of her assets and the probability of her having Herpes.  They don’t take the time to explore the validity of these so-called studies, and why should they, they just believe what they read and relegate Black women to the “stay the Hell away from” class.  This is not a coincidence, White women do not want Black women even looking at “their” men and they are rather conspicuous in their efforts.  Well, they can have them because, if nothing else, I wouldn’t want to spend our most intimate moments trying to dispel any of this negative information.

Only Blacks Should Adopt Black Children

     Recently ABC World News edition did a segment called “Race and Adoption” on the moral question of whether White people should be adopting Black children.   There was a Black man on the segment, Phil Bertelson, who was adopted by a White family and was discussing how he felt as a child being the “outsider” in the relatively large family, which was mainly White.  In addition, the National Association of Black Social Workers’s Sonia Batiste Roberts expressed her concerns with this not so recent trend, stating that Blacks deserve to be placed with families who “look like them”, share common culture and who can relate to them.  Well, of course this ignited a debate, although not a massive one, at least amongst the hosts and guest co-host of ABC’s The View.  Host Joy Behar and guest co-host Vanessa Williams somewhat agreed with Ms. Roberts’ view while the rest of the panel of hosts saw the humanity element in the interracial adoptions and dismissed any criticism of interracial adoptions.

    We can all agree that ideally, any child living in a home remiss of love, nurture and stability should not be deprived of the possibility of getting all of these merely because of race.  However, first off, I would like to personally mention that there are some adoptive/foster parents who are abusive and neglectful too.  I have represented several adopted children, in Family Court in New York, on cases ranging from child support non-payment to child abuse or neglect and the circumstances were just as egregious as the ones that were with their biological families.   Not to minimize the magnanimity in taking in a child that you have no blood ties to, whether bound culturally, ethically or racially or not, but these adoptive parents do not always have good intentions.  But for me it goes along the same line of interracial marriages, I don’t think it does anything to strengthen our lineage or our community, let alone one’s sense of self and sense of pride to condone miscegenation.   It’s enough that we live in a world where education, the media, the arts, news, etc. are mainly from a White perspective, I don’t trust that a White family would make every effort to expose a Black child to their own cultural perspectives on the real world.  Now, you may not see the need for having a sense of belonging or identifying, when faced with the horrific option of living without love or the basis needs to sustain.  However, it is exactly the lack of confidence, low self-esteem and feeling of isolation that perpetuates this “self-hate” that is replete in our community as manifests itself in poverty, poor health, sub-par education and destruction of Black family.  Only we know what we need and only we will ensure that we get it!

     Furthermore, today on CNN there was a segment titled “Pregnancy and Deaths” which mentioned the number of pregnancy associated deaths and how that number has soared in the past decade.   The problem is not just the fact that there are now 9.5 deaths per 1,000, but the fact that that number almost quadruples for Black women to 32.7 deaths per 1,000 is more troubling.   The reasons mentioned are the increase in C-section births, but the reasons that are most pertinent to Black women is the rise in late age pregnancies and diabetic women having babies.   Although these numbers may not be that alarming, we’re talking a mere 3%, however it is when you consider the fact that according to Amnesty International (http://blog.amnestyusa.org/us/knock-on-congress-door-to-stop-pregnancy-related-deaths/) half of these deaths are preventable.  I say this to say, that not only do Black women have other issues (which we will address on later posts) that interfere with their desire to become a mother, there is the not so popular option of adoption.  For some reason it’s a thought furthest from many Black women’s minds to consider adoption when they are trying to start a family.  I can assume that costs, eligibility or stigma can be some of the concerns.  But in today’s society, these concerns may not matter as much as they used too.  For instance, I know that although there are some costs associated with adoption, those costs are, in some instances, nominal.  As a family law attorney I know for a fact that some adoptions are actually subsidized by the government and go a lot smoother than one might think.

     The bottom line is that there is always a way to become proactive.  I don’t believe in just bringing up the problem, I pride myself in being part of the solution.

Little to No Traffic for Online Search of “Black Family”

     I know we have been inundated with news reports, articles, blogs, etc. about  Black family, Black love, Black marriage and Black relationships/dating, in the past few months.  Topics ranged from the negative images, the paucity of any images, on the these issues in the media or the arts; the regressive or dysfunctional state of the Black community; the recent trends, studies, data and statistics regarding these-and the list goes on and on.  The point is, everyone and their Mama has spoken a word or two about what is going on with the Black family

     The thing I found most interesting is that I have been doing some extensive research on the internet recently and guess what!  there is little to absolutely NONE traffic on these very topics.  I mean I used every tool available to do a keyword analysis, web traffic analytics and other such mechanisms and apparently not many people care to know what is going on with the Black family.  Well, I should say that not many people in the world of Google, Yahoo or other major search engines, care to know.  This is alarming, no wait….it’s downright a travesty!  How can this be?  I mean with Monique winning an Oscar for partaking in the portrayal of a matriarch in the most dysfunctional Black family, while Sandra Bullock is regaled for playing the White mother who saves a wayward Black kid, if nothing else this should have sparked some more interest.  I mean the Black family is on perpetual attack and no one cares!  Am I the only one who feel like a pandemic is plagued our community?  Does anyone else care that if we do not infiltrate the media sources with our concerns, our demands, our downright insistence that we change the direction that the Black family and therefore the Black community will become extinct?  We are an endangered species do you have any idea what this means?

“The Conversation”

     I recently read Hill Harper’s “The Conversation”.   Although I would have appreciated more of an in-depth analysis of the problems and more insightful solutions I really appreciated the overall premise.  I too think that many of our social, economic and spiritual ills can be addressed by talking openly and honestly to each other and thus encourage that approach to eradicating the prejudices, the negative stereotypes and the chasm that exists between Black men and Black women.  However, I believe that the best way to get someone to listen is to appeal to issues most sensitive to them and reading the book I did not quite understand who he was targeting, Black men, Black women or both.  I kept trying to read it from a Black man’s point of view, thinking that he was trying to reach them but could not help but internalize his points from a Black woman’s perspective.   Not to say that he could not be speaking to both, I was just hoping he was not jumping on that “let me speak to you desperate Black women, ready to pull out all stops to get your Black man” bandwagon!  I mean if you surf the web, turn on the television or strike up a conversation at the hair salon everyone is talking about the plight of single Black women.  I think it’s imperative, that Black men reach out to Black men.  Black women can harmoniously sing the “we need our Black men to step up and commit to us” song, but obviously they are hearing us. 

     Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Black women don’t have a responsibility in getting Black men to hear us and move in the direction of healing, restoring and reclaiming our families and relationships.  On the contrary, I think Black women should accept some of the blame in the discord that currently exists between us.  But I think our problems are, although part and parcel of the larger issues, are somewhat distinct and therefore should be dealt with differently.  The common denominator is our lack of trust, respect, appreciation and candor for each other, but our reasoning or rationale diverges.  So although we can confront our common issues, concomitantly, we don’t necessarily have to use the same strategy.  So I appreciate the Hill Harpers trying to reach the masses, but I believe in tailoring the solutions based on the interests of the target, not the “one size fits all” approach.  Hill was very insightful, he has a plethora of female friends and some good natured dudes in his circle who were all instrumental in his getting the message across, but I would have loved to if he had narrowed the focus. 

     Overall, it is clear that we need to start this conversation.  We need to be able to communicate openly and honestly about our respective insecurities, fears, doubts, etc. and begin to work toward healing.  I mean we desperately need to open our hearts, open our minds and talk TO each other and not AT each other.  I must admit, my head was spinning with all the platforms from which we can spring board  these conversations but we must take baby steps.

Too Independent to be His Wife-Really?

     My boyfriend and I just had our first clash of egos which actually almost resulted in our dissolution.  Yeah, I know that I am an educated Black woman, with goals and aspirations.  But what I did not realize was that that might have been my hindrance to becoming “Mrs.”.  Don’t get me wrong I have heard it all before, “oh you’re too independent for me”, “you don’t need a man, you can take care of yourself”, yada, yada, yada!  But I always prided myself on the fact that I, unlike my friends who are also professionals, know how to the role of the woman.  In fact, I went so far as learning how to master “downplaying” my success when I met a man, any man, professional or blue-collar.  Not so much that I wanted to mislead him, but that I wanted him to get to know the real me without the prejudices associated with me being an educated Black woman.  So when my significant other actually told me that “I can’t have it both ways, being the traditional woman while taking the liberated woman’s stance” I looked at him in disbelief.  I was thinking, “does he know me at all, I cook, clean and do his laundry. Has he lost his mind?”  But when he broke it down for me, which is one of the things I love about him he can articulate his thoughts better than I can, I completely understood. 

     This is my thing, I believe in my man being the protector, the provider and the final decision maker (for the most part).  I have no problem letting him dictate where go for dinner (even if we should go out at all), prioritize our chores and decide even how we spend money.  My bone of contention is how he thinks I should address conflicts or disagreements.  I thought “playing my role” meant allowing him to make these decisions because they empowered him.  It didn’t dawn on me that his feeling empowered goes way beyond that.  You see, when I challenge him on issues that I think are unsound, illogical or down right insane I go from being this passive-aggressive to being quite dogmatic.  I exercise no diplomacy whatsoever, I mean come on I am a lawyer!  But even as an attorney, I learned how to advocate assertively, even aggressively when necessary, without ruffling any feathers so to speak.  It didn’t matter to him that I did all those other things, to him he saw it as a ruse, doing just enough to get him to do what I wanted.  It wasn’t about me being docile or submissive, it was about me trusting him enough to allow him to make mistakes, knowing that at the end of the day he will make it all better.  So me being the woman grounded in faith, spiritually enlightened and determined to reclaim the Black family, I got it.  That day I learned that it was not about me giving up anything that compromised me being me. It was about reclaiming something that used to be me!