Archive for Black Parenting

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.

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.

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.

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.

Can Women Really Have it All…Can Men?

        After practising for more than a decade, I decided to give up chasing one of my dreams of being this hot-shot attorney, settling for being one amongst many in the Big Apple.  Although I always had plans on having a family of my own, the concept alone was not enough.  I had to actually put my plan into action and that meant giving up my very demanding career or at least downsizing my dream.  I did not lament about it at all, no, on the contrary I am anxious and excited about realizing one of the most important dreams of my existence.  You see, I am one of the few professional women I know that believes that there is no way I can be an excellent mother, superb attorney and great wife.  As I recently mentioned to my SO, when I am on my death-bed I doubt strongly that any of my last words will  have anything to do with how my professional life turned out, but I am sure that my role as a mother will be one of my major concerns. 

     I have been representing women, men and children in family law related matters for a good portion of my career and I must say I have learned quite a bit about what it takes to be even a good parent, let alone an exceptional one.  And one consistent theme is that the best mothers are not the CEO’s, CFO’s nor partner,  hell they are not even the top-level manager, they are the ones that get to see their child take their first step, ride their first bicycle and have their first role in the school play.  It does not matter if the parents are professional, working class or middle class, spending more time at work than nurturing family usually results some sort of dysfunction.  As progressive as we would all like to think we have become, there are still some ideals that remain intact, we are the nurturers responsible for providing the love, support and comfort in the home.   And there is no way to do that when spending 10-14 hour days at work takes precedence.

     For men, the same is true to some extent.  We know that fathers who are not involved, or have minimal interaction, in their children’s lives, more often than not have delinquent sons and premature sexually active daughters.  Although men have historically been responsible for providing for their family, spending more time at work than at home nurturing family has deleterious effects.  Even as far as the relationship, men cannot contribute to a healthy and loving relationship if he  cannot balance career with her personal aspirations. 

     So we can have it all if family is not at interest.  Don’t get me wrong I do understand that some things work for some families that would not work for others, but then one needs to examine the sustainability or the substantive strength of that family.  The joy and freedom in having a spouse or SO that spends most of his or her time at work is not equated with the joy of nurturing a strong bond and tight-knit family. 

     Let me know what you think?

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.

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.

Black Single Mother Household Worth Millions to Advertisers

     Last night the 2010 Superbowl aired and it made tv history by having the most viewers ever!  There were several tv ads, many of them were Frito-Lays where they advertised Doritos.  One of the Doritos commercials, which was actually rated as one of the favorites by Superbowl viewers, was very controversial to many of us!  Yes, it was the one where there was a Black single mother whose son slapped her Black male date for checking out his mother as she walked across the room.   These depictions have been proliferating in the media, in musical lyrics, movie scripts, television scenes, etc. and now television commericals.   And this was not just any Doritos commercial, but a Superbowl ad that Frito-Lays paid millions to air with several million viewers watching.   This is what these marketers are subconsciously engraining in society’s psyche, that Black single mothers is the “norm”. 

     We all know that data and statistics indicate that only 1 out of every 3 Black children born, as 2002, are born to married couples, the other 2 of 3 are born to single mothers, allegedly more than double that of White children.  However, the reality is that there are more White single mothers than Black single mothers, the difference is that many of those White single mothers are divorced whereas many of the Black single mothers were never married.  Furthermore, Black boys raised by single mothers  are more inclined to go to prison, drop out of school, live in poverty and become dependent on drugs/alcohol as opposed to White boys raised by their single mothers.  The Black single mothers have a much tougher time rearing their sons because of their limited resources and limited support system, non-preferential treatment by state/local governments, sex discrimination by employers and negative societal expectations whereas their White counterparts do not have half of these obstacles to deal with.  This only goes to support my stance that our children need both parents, whether it be in the home or as an active parent in their lives. We are going to perpetuate the destruction of our children’s lives, and therefore the future of our community, if we allow this image to become so acceptable and so mainstream that it’s replete in music. television and movies.  We all have a duty to end it NOW!

Hello Visitors!

Hello,

Welcome to Reclaim Black Family!  A discussion about the state of today’s Black family, Black marriage, parenting in the household of Black family and the Black community as a whole.  Our focus is to uplift, encourage, inspire, educate and share our views, beliefs, ideals, suggestions, comments and insight on all things that pertain to the Black family.  As a family law attorney, family mediator, social activist, writer, speaker and spiritualist I have had the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge on the social, psychological and economical ills that plague our families.   Everyday and everyone I encounter presents additional opportunities to learn s0 I welcome all thoughts.