Archive for Black Family

A Family is Only As Good As its Parts, or Members

Ok, for starters, let’s be clear…the theme of all of our discussions is “reclaiming” the Black family, as opposed to restore or rebuild.  Reclaim is to “….demand the return or restoration of, as a right..” (as defined by www.dictionary.com).  This was an intentional effort, on my part, to incite action from each of us to do something, to take affirmative action, to be emphatic about our stance, to invoke our right to have the foundation of family intact.  But these feats may be difficult to accomplish if many of us are oblivious to what makes up family, particularly Black family.  In the Black family, specifically, each of us usually have a particular role we play and the other family members accept, appreciate and respect those roles, while they maintain their respective roles.

In your family, what role do you play?  In your immediate family, your own family or your adopted family, which hat(s) do you wear?  Traditionally, in Black families, the father/husband was the provider, the authoritarian, the spiritual leader, the protector  and the one who taught his sons how to be men.   The mother/wife, on the other hand, is typically viewed as the nurturer, homemaker, the disciplinarian and the one who made the household run smoothly. The offspring have roles too, the eldest son’s being to help his father preparing to fill his shoes and the eldest daughter the same with regards to the mother.  These roles were, for the most part, clearly defined and adhered to unless a need for adjustment was warranted by loss.  Even during slavery, where the slave master dictated the dynamics of the Black family, within the family these roles were pretty much intransigent until the slave master ravaged it by selling off or trading its members.

As an aside, I recently came across an “expert” trying to answer a query about the roles of  African-American families.  Here is the exchange: (visit http://en.allexperts.com/q/Family-Relations-1514/Family-roles-african-american.htm to read the credentials of the “expert” that provided this response)

Question:     I need to know what roles each family member plays and how they communicate.

Answer:  Cheryl;

Thank you for writing.  This is really a broad area to cover.  I am not african american so my answer will be based on my work with the african american culture over these 20+ years.

The head of the household is generally the oldest female – such as a grandmother/aunt.  She is generally the person who controls the living arrangements in the household and the finances.  If there is no “grandmother”, then generally the next oldest female is the head of the household.

If a couple is married, the male may be seen as the head of the household but this is usually only true if the couple is married.  If they are co-habitating, the female again is the head of the household and determines if the male remains a part of the family. This is determined by his fidelity to the female and economics for the household.

African American males generally do not have a strong role in the family. The males are basically used for procreation and financial support.  Once children are produced, the male can easily be displaced from the household – particularly if he provides no means of support.  African American males can be considered as “endangered” as they tend to display hostility to one another and the murder rate among black males is high.

Communication depends on the role of the person in the household.  Again, the dominant female makes the decisions for the household and there is little input from other members of the family. In a marital situation, the male can be the decision maker, but again this depends on the amount of power that the female has in the relationship.

I’m not sure if this is what you were looking for or not but if you want to ask something more specific, I will attempt to provide you with some information.  You may also wish to visit some websites about African American culture to obtain more information.

Rebecca

With each member having a clear understanding,  great appreciation and unconditional respect for roles, the family functioned and did so constructively.  Boundaries are not crossed, authority is not usurped, egos are not challenged nor is respect loss, which is pretty much the way many Fortune 500 companies operate, and so so rather proficient.  The contention arises when mother is trying to be the authoritarian while concomitantly trying to be nurturing, not they these roles cannot co-exist but they cause a problem when one of these clearly belongs to another member of the family.  That is what is common these days, with the single parent households making up more than half of the Black families, with more than half of those being led by the mother.  And although Black women tend to miraculously hold the family down despite the help of the Black man, this is not the ideal way to maintain a family.  Families, like institutions, tend to run much more efficiently where tasks are delegated, based on the role or position each person has.  So when mother has to both nurture and provide for the family, roles overlap which leads to stress, which ends up causing a breakdown.

Many of us are disillusioned, believing that roles are not as important as some indicate.  This is farthest from the truth, structure, discipline and authority are essential to a strong family and thinking that one person can do it all within the family is a misconception.

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Listen Up Brother, You Are Man Enough!

I am not a big Steve Harvey fan, well of his comedy anyway, but I admire his dedication to being an example of a Black man, the kind that other Black men should be replicating.   Whether you are a fan or not, if you have any concern about the plight of our young Black boys and men, then you must admit that he is one of the most vociferous when it comes to getting the word out.   Steve, as I like to call him, was never really on my radar until I started to actually listen to him when he talks about manhood, his or anyone else’s.  It first started when I heard him mention his annual event, Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend for Young Men, where he invite 100 Black boys to spend some time with him down in Texas,  to learn how to become emotionally, politically and economically stronger.  I instantly thought, “Wow! if I were a man, this is exactly what I would do!”  And regardless of what you think of him, or what you think a role model for young Black men should look like, no one is doing this, NO ONE! 

Well, just a few days ago I just happened to catch the last few minutes of his radio show here in NYC and I heard him implore each and every Black man to take just one Black boy under his wing, to show him what being a man is about.  Not a church leader, or a school teacher, or lawyer, or doctor, just a Black man!  His thinking is this:  for every Black boy out there that  has no clue, no knowledge of how to tie a tie, or how to dress for an interview, or merely how to change a tire, any man regardless of what he does for a living or how well he does at least have some insight on how to do these things.   Many times, many Black men think they are not good enough, not good enough to be the provider, not good enough to be the leader, not good enough to teach a young boy anything about life.  These limitations are not random, they become a sort of “learned thinking”  the result of racism, violence and emasculation….very little to do with the actual lack of ability or skill.  This ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ only stifles Black men which in turn stumps the growth of those young Black men around them.  This needs to be exorcised, each and every man has experiences, if nothing else, that can help a Black boy in his own journey to manhood.

I persistently beseech Black men to do something, no matter how big or small, to guide a Black boy or young man in their journey to becoming.  I routinely remind the men that I know, that they have one up or me and every other Black woman, that is that they know what it is like to be a Black man.  I always talk to young boys and young men about my travels, mainly professional, and the things I experience along the way.  I do this as a means to encourage, uplift and inspire them to want to do good.  But at the end of the day, I know that how they relate to me is limited by the difference in our biological makeup, I can never be nor will ever experience things the way the do.  I think that they hold the key to reclaiming the Black family, which restores the Black community! So we should all be a Steve Harvey, or a Stephanie Harvey, and incite every Black man to do more.

Should We Allow Our History to Dictate Our Future

It is no almost undebatable that African-American history is unique and has had significant impact on the psyche of Black men and women, on the economics of the Black community and the structure (or lack thereof in the eyes of many) on the Black family.  And although many scholars, historians and everyone who has an opinion, differ on the facts of our history, the fact that we can all agree on is that no other race has had such a remarkable history.  The problem with ascertaining the verity of facts or confirming many of the stories being disseminated, is that records to support any of our history is shoddy, if not downright non-existent.  Since our African ancestors were considered “less than a whole” or “property” of the White slave owner, the need to keep birth records, marriage certificates, and the like, was considered futile.  So be it based on anecdotes, the paucity of records or an analysis of other available data, those who study African-American history have managed to give us all a sense of what occurred in the past 400+ years.

The question often raised, however, is what do we do with this information?  How and to what extent should our history affect our decisions, behaviors and beliefs…particularly when it comes to the Black family.  Depending on which source you refer to, the history of  the Black family (specifically the slave family) directly correlates to the state of the modern day Black family  or has some tangential connection to how the Black family is being destroyed.  In The Willie Lynch Letter, for instance, Willie Lynch, a formidable slave owner, wrote about and portended what we are currently experiencing and cleverly constructed this annihilation of the Black family from day one.  And whether any of us believe in the legitimacy of the letter, the parallels in the letter to what we are witnessing today, is very difficult to dispute.  On the other hand, many who refute the causal connection, do so based on the fact that chattel slavery ended  many generations ago,  and thus, the passage of time contributed to the dilution of the mental, psychological and spiritual effects on today’s Black community.  Many are of the mindset that, we should not harp on those facts and allow them to pervade our will to forge ahead in all respects.  Young and old, take the position that our history is just that, that we have the ability to see our future shaped as we would like it to if we stop allowing those negative accounts from the past determine how we perceive our economic, familial or psychological state.

The way I see it is this: we have a history that not one of us can deny no matter what has been confirmed.  I think it is essential to know exactly who we are to give each of us a clearer understanding and appreciation of who we would like to be.  So when it comes to the Black family, I do think that our confidence pervades each of us on some level and that is partly because a lot of us have no clue about our history.  I think that when you have no trust in yourself, it is difficult to have trust in a spouse, partner, paramour, brother/sister or family.  Many of us walk around today looking externally for some understanding, satisfaction and self-worth and this, in turn, extends to how we view family.  So our collective past does serve as guidance for the future, but self-determination, will and commitment can only be found in the present day.  I am always proactive and believe in taking action, and since knowing, understanding and appreciating our history can ignite us into doing something, I think if nothing else it should serve that purpose.

Family Business is Just That, No One Else Needs to Know

My mother always chided us for “talking too much”.  Her biggest pet peeve was when someone repeated something that we told them, usually something we had no business talking about.  She always felt that family business was just that, family business and no one else needed to know things that happened in our house.   Well, I certainly understand that now.  I realize that when you chat about things that are supposed to be private, regardless of the intent, you sort of set the family up for destruction (trust me, no exaggeration).  This is not productive for a family intent on growing and bonding amongst its members, it certainly does not benefit anyone (of course unless there is some inappropriate behavior or egregious conduct that warrants intervention).

As I matured, I truly started to appreciate the significance of keeping some things hush when it comes to family.  One of the most valued principles, but unfortunately eroded this day and age,  of most families (both intact and separated) is loyalty.  When a family can depend on its members to keep its most sensitive issues within the confines of the family’s dwelling, they tend to be more open, honest and close-knit which should be the universal objective.  I used to just freely rap about things like a fight amongst my siblings, whether one of my sisters was wearing a hand me down or if my brother got a lashing from my mother for breaking curfew.  I did not think anything of what I was doing, thought only that I was gaining popularity by entertaining my friends with the lowdown of family’s antics. It did not register that this was all at the expense of my family, the same people whom I vowed I die for.  In retrospect, what I see I was doing was creating a divide, somewhat of a chasm within my family that we are paying for til this day.  Don’t get me wrong, my family is civil to each other, in most respects, and we all have love for each other.  However, I know that if we each held these principles to heart, we would make more of an effort to be there for one another at even the most mundane events.

Especially within my own family, which currently consists of myself and my SO, I can certainly appreciate the need to keep our business between us.  Opinions about either his or my behaviors, suggestions about how to handle disagreements or outright directives concerning our relationship are not highly favored when it comes to my family.  I have learned that no two relationships are alike and thus there is no “one size fits all” solution for discord or disagreement within it.  No one can strongly recommend or slightly hint how I should address an issue within my home, not unless they are directly involved.  For most relationships, however, outside unsolicited advice is rampant when you publicize your business amongst outsiders.  Many folks forget, conveniently, that when they endured the same or similar situation they responded differently.  They can impart objectivity when it comes to someone else but when it is them they lose all sight of impartiality, which for the most part minimizes their credibility.  I do strategically and carefully choose what I reveal and to whom I reveal it to, and in turn accept what they have to say in response.  But for the most part, the most critical things are between us and we prefer it that way.

The “Marriage = Anti-Poverty” Campaign, It Goes Deeper than That

I don’t know about you but everywhere I turn there are these headlines, editorials, campaigns, etc. about beating poverty by encouraging marriage.  Again, I have nothing against marriage I think it’s one the most treasured and sacred bonds we as humans can establish.  This is the problem, people hear and/or see this and think, “hmmm! let’s get married so we’re not maintaining two separate residences”, with the mindset that they  can free up much more of their disposable income for other things.  This is not ideal, for several reasons:  1) marriages based solely on this premise ( the economics) usually end in divorce and can be some of the most contentious divorces and 2) freeing up disposable income does not mean that the parties will save more, invest more or budget wisely, which in turns does not change the economic state for the family.  On the other hand, parents who think about the future and well-being of their children, whether married or not, will typically take measures to ensure that they do that regardless.

The studies conducted by the Pew Research, the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, and several others, all emphasize some facts that many of us know- children are less likely to live in poverty when they are living in a household with both parents.  Single parent households make up more than 35% of families with children living in poverty, while married parents comprise under 10%. (According to data in Marriage: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty, published in the Backgrounder, by the Heritage Foundation.)  The Institute of American Values, too, has released several articles where they report studies that indicate that children fare much better, economically, physiologically and intellectually when both parents are in the home.  However, any marriage, like those established for the sake of economics, does not suffice.  Absolutely not, being in the home where  the parents have a contentious marriage or high conflict marriage can have much more destructive effects overall.  Championing marriage should not be done in a vacuum, the focus should be on promoting strong, healthy marriages!  Divorce, too, can do just as much damage, having as much of a negative financial impact as living in a single parent home.  Black children are more likely than White children to go into poverty when their parents divorce, almost twice as much according to some sources. (http://social.jrank.org/pages/20/African-American-Children-Family-Structure.html)

Not to mention, the divorce rate in this country has soared since the 1960’s, particularly for Black couples with some believing it is as high as 50%.  The contributing factors that caused the huge increase in divorce range from the change in societal acceptance to the lax laws that most states have adopted.  However, the one factor that many, especially the “marriage as prevention to child poverty” protagonists, fail to mention is that one of the major causes of divorce  is the finance/economics circumstances of the family. (Read the “Married and Poor: Basic Characteristics of Economically Disadvantaged Couples in the US” by David Fein. http://www.mdrc.org/publications/393/workpaper.html) In other words, the economic positions the parties are in when they marry, causes them to experience more stress, which leads to divorce which results in children living in poverty.  A study conducted to assess the impact of one’s profession on divorce supports this, the result:  the most stressful jobs/occupations tend to have the highest divorce rates.  (Read the article here).  on the professions that many are in when they marry in the first place.

Furthermore, the answer to poverty is not necessarily more money or more resources, we should have all learned that by the recent debacle that landed us in this current economic state we are in.  The answer to ending poverty, especially within the household, is financial literacy, education and employability.  Improving the economic state before we marry seems to a surefire way to prevent divorce.  Budgeting, investing, saving, job training, education-all of these things are what keeps the family on the path to prosperity.  If we want our children to have an advantage, in every sense, it is not enough for us to to say “I do” we have to work collectively to avail ourselves of the knowledge and information on how to build and sustain wealth.

The Spotlight on Poverty has several articles on the topic, visit their website at http://www.spotlightonpoverty.org.

Thinking “Family” Can Have Dramatic Changes on Your Life

Many of us, as little girls particularly, fantasized about our weddings and the man that would be at the altar exchanging those vows with us.  Even up to now, when I tell my friends that I don’t plan on having a wedding or that I never dreamed of one they look at me in astonishment and retort “Why not”.   Well, for some odd reason I always thought more about my role as a nurturer and mother than I did the actual wedding and the fact that I would be someone’s wife.  I mean family always, well particularly as I get older, meant more to me than the titles I would be acquiring.  As a child I always thought of myself as the nurturer of my sisters and brothers ( although most of them are older than me), and that image and those ideals became more profound as I got older.  I seriously always had ideas in my head of what my mother should be doing to be a better nurturer, a better disciplinarian, a better example or  role model for my siblings so that the family legacy was carried throughout the generations to come ( I got in a lot of trouble too, because my mother did not take too kindly to me, a child, telling her how to be the matriarch).

Having convictions about the concept of  family goes far beyond the husband-wife dichotomy, and although I do believe that the bond between spouses plays an integral part of “family”, it is more a part of the whole.   Thinking family is more a state of being, spiritually, mentally and emotionally, while the union between man and woman is typically a situation, circumstance or for some, a status.  Think about it, a marriage can, and often times does, end in divorce with both parties severing all ties with each other upon the dissolution.  However, if the mindset of the parties was “family” from the onset, then first off, the chances of divorce diminishes and second, a civil or cordial rapport have a better chance to survive once the parties have parted ways.  And especially in cases where children are involved, having an amicable relationship is not an arduous task but an absolute MUST.

Not to mention, family, in the traditional or unconventional sense, can have much more longstanding and positive effects than marriage.  But if we take that family state of mind and imbue it when we enter the marital union, then only greater things are likely to happen.   Let’s look at marriage realistically, it is a decision between a man and woman to share their lives together, many of whom don’t or can’t fathom sharing the rest of their lives together. The most they share these days is just as much as they can bear until someone else comes along or something else more exciting entices them.  (This is briefly discussed in a recent NY Times article, where the percentage of Black marriages lasting more than years is far less than those of say, Hispanic marriages.  Read it http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/us/03marry.html)

Let me be clear, I am not endorsing foregoing marriage, not at all. On the contrary, I am emphasizing the fact that if we broaden our horizons and see the forest from the trees, that we may be more inclined to get married and to hang in there with our marriage instead of running for cover when turbulence hits.  When I am representing either party in a divorce, where the marriage was thirty years or more, after I inquire many of them explain to me (and it is evident by how the rest of the family actively participates in the divorce proceeding) that they stayed so long for the sake of their family.  At some point it was no longer about what he or she wanted for themselves, self interests fell to the wayside from a mutual perspective because they had that family mindset from day one.

It’s not difficult nor impossible, we just need to see beyond today.  We need to reach back to our parents, grandparents and beyond and try to incorporate those values they taught us into our way of thinking today.  From the moment we exchange that first  glance with a prospective, we should be thinking of how and if he or she can assume an active role of our family.

I Am On a Mission, If It Kills Me I Will Effect Change

        I was MIA last week because I attended the AFCC conference in Denver, Colorado last week.  For those of you who are not familiar, the AFCC (Association for Family and Conciliation Courts) is a worldwide organization comprised of all professionals that work with families in custody, visitation, abuse or divorce matters.  Specifically, the members of the organization are psychologists, therapists, social workers, attorneys, judges, parent coordinators, parent educations and anyone else who has anything to do with providing services to families in conflict.  I attended the conference for several reasons, of course the main one being my profession, that had everything to do with the mission that I have been on for the past few years.  And although I learned a lot, the theme of this year’s conference was addressing “parental alienation“, most of what I learned had nothing to do with the theme. 

        You see one thing is very clear, though this was no epiphany for me, White families and Black families have very different core issues that impacts them.   I emphasize “core” because although money, health, conflict, etc. matters are ubiquitous amongst the races, the basis or impetus for our issues vary drastically from those of our White counterparts.  Let me give you an example,  in many of the workshops that were presented, which all had something to do with parents who deliberately and maliciously brainwash their children against their non-custodial parent which is typically the father, all of the speakers centered their discussions on the presumption that only divorced or separating parents have children and therefore alienate them.   The whole time I am there, I am wondering if anyone, ANYONE, will highlight, mention or even state in passing that children are a product of never married parents also and they too are alienated.   So I am baffled because I was also thinking, on the one hand these are some of the same experts who are quick to assert that the number of children born to unmarried parents have surged since the 90’s, paying special attention to the fact that Blacks comprise a huge percentage of that group.  While on the other hand, they seemed to oblivious to this fact, almost convincing us that we are all equal in their eyes.  Now many of us will more likely struggle to see the optimism in this quagmire.  It is no coincidence, nor unconscious oversight, that out-of-wedlock children, specifically Blacks, were not included.   Not by a long shot, it was an intentional objective of this group to only address how the White population is affected by this pernicious behavior, all  in an effort to find favorable resolutions to all that ails them.

        But I did not let that dissuade me, not at all.  On the contrary, I am more determined to pursue my mission and ensure that each one of us do our part.  We just have to take an approach that is tailored to our needs.   The African American Healthy Marriage Initiative (“AAHMI”) is having their 5th Annual “Research to Practice” conference at Hampton University this month and I am certain to attend.  (Go to aahmi.net for the details.) This conference is sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families and aims to encourage more research on issues germane to the Black family.   So if any of you feel where I am coming from, you should make it your business to attend.   If they don’t want to provide answers or solutions for us, then we should take the initiative and do it for ourselves, the future of our community depends on it.

Is it a Cultural Thing, the Black Family That Is

A discussion came up recently about the cultural differences amongst Black Americans and Blacks from other parts of the world.  I was talking with a few of my girlfriends and we got on the topic of dating, love and relationships within the Black culture and how the perspective we have on each of these varies from region to region.  On the one hand, I could relate (because I think I dated a Black man from almost every part of the world) and noticed that there were some differences in my experience with each of them.  However, I thought about the fact that the destruction of the Black family is something that is ubiquitous, not just happening here in the United States or with Black Americans.

When the topic is raised be it by discussion, in the news, etc., many experts, philosophers, or anyone who has an opinion, state that the destruction of the American Black family is really based on our slave history and thus is a plight that non-American Blacks cannot necessarily relate to.  Not that I don’t agree with American slavery having a significant impact on the state of the Black family, or the Black community in general, but I don’t think that that is the sole basis for what we are experiencing.  Not to mention, Americans are not the only ones who went the horrific experience of slavery, being mentally and spiritually broken down for centuries by it.  Blacks in the Caribbean, Europe and South America (not to mention African countries where many slaves were captured from) were also traumatized by the brutality of slavery.  Ironically, though, Black families are not being annihilated in many of these other countries as they are here in the United States.  For instance, in South African although the number of out-of-wedlock births have increased, the nuclear family still remains intact on a large scale with the father being the patriarch.  (Read, http://family.jrank.org/pages/1613/South-Africa-Family-Life-in-Black-Communities.html)

I will say that economics, urbanization, employment, religion and education, all have a profound effect on the composite of the Black family since these influences vary amongst different Black cultures.  In Third World countries, for example, the Black family is more likely to remain intact in order to sustain, relying on each of its member to contribute financially to their existence.    So essentially, it may be circumstances in the varying regions that causes the incongruity among Black  as far as family is concerned.  Unfortunately, there is very little comprehensive data on the number of intact families amongst Blacks in other countries, particularly the countries that make up a substantial portion of that country’s population.  However, living in a diverse city like New York, one can certainly get a feel for their beliefs and ideals from merely interacting with other Black nationalities within the city.

Family dynamics and composition are inevitably impacted by heritage, but I don’t think that is the end all.  We all know someone who has migrated to this country and has become “Americanized” to the extent that they no longer acquiesce when their mate engage in behaviors that used to be culturally acceptable to them when they were in their country.   I guess depending on your stance on the topic, you can make the argument either way based on this observation alone.

“Just Wright”, Almost Got it Right

I talked my SO into seeing this movie particularly because as soon as saw the trailer he said “Yeah right, like anyone is gonna buy a big girl like Queen being the love interest of someone like Common (his character)”.  And although I had seen the trailer several times prior, not one time did I even think that.     Maybe it is the hopeless romantic in me or me being ever the optimist, but I did not even give that a second of my thoughts.   I did think that it has been a minute since we have seen some positive images on the big screen and I was anticipating the movie’s release.  But I was not mad at him, I just wanted him to see how we can all buy into something positive if it is portrayed right.

Well, as for the movie I did not care much for the writing or the directing, but I did appreciate the messages.  Let’s start with the family, Queen’s character had parents who were still together and she had a Daddy-daughter relationship many of us are remiss of…..long overdue!  Then we had an athlete that did not have all the negative stereotypes being played out, i.e. speaking ebonics, hanging with a slew of his “boyz” on the social scene, sleeping around, yada, yada, yada.  Next, I loved the fact that the thicker, around-the-way girl won out to the lighted skin, svelte, beautiful arm piece that many of them (athletes) fawn over, even though Common’s character initially fell for the okey doke himself.  And finally, I love the fact that there was love, Black love, as the theme of the movie…that gets all the accolades itself.  When is the last time we saw many of these images in the theater, let alone all of them in the same movie?  I saw how any Black man could fall for a girl like “Leslie”, since she was honest, had goals and ideals and “cool”.  I have several friends who possess the same traits, but for their shape, size or skin tone, they would have a line out the door of prospects.  I accept that men are physical, and so they need to have their taste for beauty satsified from the onset.  But I encourage my brothas (and sistahs) to see past that and maybe your relationship can survive past the honeymoon phase.

It is crucial that we support such movies, nevermind it’s lack of substance as far as the characters are concerned, the images that are portrayed are what is important.  I mean we don’t even recognize how we are all buying into the negative stereotypes that have been shoved down our throats, not until we see the complete opposite.  This is unacceptable to me and should be denounced by each of us.  One by one we will all label Black women who are not thin enough, light enough, pretty enough to being the girls that a sane Black man would not even blink an eye at.   This is how it started, the images led to the brainwashing, and the brainwashing became our reality, we have to change that.  Go see the movie, encourage others to go and see it and so on and so on and so on.

So kudos to Queen, well Flava Unit, for being on the right course.

Materialism, A Contributor to the Destruction of the Black Family

      On the way home from my family’s Mother’s Day celebration my SO and I had a brief discussion about teen violence and the root causes.  He seems to think that societal norms and the family structure, or lack thereof, equally contributes to the surge in Black on Black crimes.  Not that I disagree, but I did include the fact that many of these young people have their priorities all screwed up, they are so caught up in acquiring material things that they are willing to give up their freedom in their pursuit of them.  We were watching Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, don’t ask me why it was a short lapse in judgment, and Kimora surprised her young girls with a bedroom that had to have cost close to (if not) $100,000.  I was mortified by it because all I thought about was the ideals she is instilling in those girls.  I mean they will have no realistic means of appreciating the important things in life if she continues to encourage ostentation. 

     I belive children should understand and appreciate the importance of hard work, should be grounded with things that matter most and should have some direction, not exuding pomposity and arrogance merely because they happen to be part of the “haves” as opposed to the “have nots”.  If nothing else, the recent recession we are experiencing should be a wake up call for all of us, that a lifestyle of opulence is temporary and thus should be a thing of the past.  Especially Blacks, we are experiencing unemployment in the double digits, have material wealth that is still way below the national average and are completely financially unprepared for retirement according to a recent BusinessWeek article.  Blacks’ spending power is estimated to be more than $1 trillion by 2012, (http://www.magazine.org/content/files/market_profile_black.pdf),  this is astronomical considering our lack of substantive economic resources.  I mean almost 25% of the Black population lives in poverty, the median income has been reported to be somewhere around $35,000, almost 50% less than that of Whites (according to reports by Mediamark Research and Intelligence) and the average wealth for the Black family has been reported to be as much as half that of their White counterparts.  This is clearly an example of our over consumption and overspending. 

      Our children do what we do, not necessarily what we say do.  So if they are misguided about what is important, then they are certainly destined to put emphasis on tangible things, the “instant gratification” mindset that is rampant in today’s society.  It is vital that we teach them that the satisfaction of having things is ephemeral, they can be taken away, broken or become obsolete very quick.  Although the violence that occurs amongst our young people today is primarily gang related, there is a substantial amount of Blacks involved in violent crimes like robbery, burglary and theft.  It is alarming to me how many young people wind up in Family Court for delinquency proceedings because they attempted to take someone else’s cell phone, ipod or other similar device.  And to be honest with you, many times it is the kid whose family can afford to buy him or her these things but choose not to for a number of reasons.

    I say we get back to basics, less spending and more saving.  Let’s show our young people how important it is to prepare for our future, putting less emphasis on satisfying that urge and acquiring things today.  The Black family is being annihilated, we have to take a collective look at everything that affects it.

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