Archive for Black Relationships

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.

Emotional Intellience = Relationship Success

       I remember as a kid everyone would always laud me for how smart I was, how I excelled at almost everything academically.  I did somewhat, I always read way beyond my grade level and was not the least intimidated by any sort of math problems.  However, I was almost completely clueless when it came to Social Studies or Science, which to this very day neither of which are my strong suits.  In fact, if someone calls me smart today I will emphasize that there is a difference between being smart and being “intelligent”, smart being the label I proudly accept.

     Well, Daniel Goleman also believes that there is a difference in being smart and being intelligent.  He coined the term “emotional intelligence“, distinguishing emotional competencies from the cognitive capabilities that are measured by “IQ”  or intelligence quotient.  In his book, Emotional Intelligence, which is a must read for those of us who’d like to believe we excel despite our average intelligence, Mr. Goleman defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope“, as something that can be learned and improved upon by children.  From this perspective, it is obvious why those who succeed academically, score very high on their SAT or IQ or both, have been known to do either just ok or worse than expected.  As a matter of fact, it has been shown that IQ contributes only 20% to the factors that determine life success, while the other 80% is based on factors like emotional competence.  (from an article written by Howard Gartner.)

      The very crux of emotional intelligence  is that learning how to cope with the trials of life is much more determinant in how one succeeds in life, in love and work/career/business.  Academic intelligence merely shows that one is astute at achievement only measured by grades and/or tests.  This certainly does nothing for the man or woman who is dealing with the challenges of love, relationship or marriage, a parameter for success in life.  We all, in some form or another, look at one’s personal achievements in a myriad of arenas to determine if they are to be admired or esteemed globally, understanding that a rich but lonely businessman is not necessarily the life we would die to have .  A CEO on Wall Street, who has a successive number of failed relationships, with no family of his or her own to be proud of will not receive the same adoration as one who does well and has a solid family and home life to complement his career achievements. 

      It may take little effort on the valedictorian’s part to continue to climb the corporate ladder, while attempts to maintain even a modicum of a social or personal life escapes him.  It is often his or her’s lack of emotional intelligence that robs them of the ability to read body language or facial expressions; interact with an exchange of interest or intrigues; interject humor or wit or to even express him or herself appropriately.  Our thoughts and feelings, too, play a major role in how we perceive and handle others in personal relationships, while in business interactions these can be minimized or even ignored all together.  Men and women have very different emotional sensors and thus require a working knowledge of how to accept and appreciate these differences, a skill only an emotional intelligent person could do.  Men are never going to be the emotional managers that women are and women, at least most of them, choose not to downplay or ignore the significance of emotions in intimate relationships.  But it takes the emotionally savvy person to at least accept these differences, work within these realms and to nurture the relationship in light of it. 

      So in all reality, there may be less credence to the belief that Black professional women, particularly the ones who do exceptionally well in their careers, have a tougher time finding a mate because of the disparity in gender achievement.  Black women may need to take a page out of the emotional intelligence handbook and learn to attune themselves to all things personal, outside of the boardroom.  Giving up the rigidity of corporate America for the sensitivity of interpersonal dependence, if they truly want to succeed is not a bad idea.  Not to say trading one for the other is the key, but understanding that the conformities of the workplace is not germane to the other arenas in life could land that successful relationship that is missing.

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.

The “Good” Wife, What is That

     One of my favorite actresses has been all over the tabloids about the infidelities in her marriage, well really that of her wandering husband who has been cheating with several women.   Sandra Bullock has had her name splattered in headlines all over the place because of her husband’s philandering with skeeves that consciously chose to disregard her union and slept with her husband.   Well, while her name was being spewed from the tongues of many, she went about her business, keeping hush about her plan of attack (or not attack.).  I love that about her, we share the same birthday as a matter of fact born under Leo, the fact that she did not succumb to the pressures of the media, the public and whomever else had an opinion about matters of her heart.  Although she ultimately decided to divorce him when it was all said and done, I believe her decision had nothing to do with what everyone else thought she should do.  On the contrary, the lioness has her own will, she does not take too kindly to anyone else trying to lead her or influence her when it comes to handling her own business. 

     For many, a cheating man is a deal breaker while for others they conveniently turn a blind eye, what we lawyers call “willful blindness”.   Eldren decided to open her marriage woes up to the public, which in the end broke the deal for Tiger, while Sandra (like many paramours of politicians do) chose to lament in private.   Either way, I think it is important that we choose to do what is in our hearts.  I do not condone cheating, but I will say that when my SO asked me what would be a deal breaker for us, the first thing that rolled off my lips had nothing to do with him straying from home.  He does understand how I feel about cheating however, but it has more to do with my disdain for lying and deception than anything else.   And choosing to stay with a man, or woman for that matter, after finding out about that were cheating is a personal choice.   There are some inherent cultural, religious and spiritual convictions that are factored into the choice, something I believe should be respected from outsiders.   Not to mention, what works for one couple may not work for another and so to state that there is an implicit rule is asinine.

      To many, a woman who chooses to stay is an indication of low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, desperation, etc. and although there are instances where that may be the case, the reality is that it is still her decision to make.  I have been practising matrimonial law for almost a decade now and I tell you, more often than not, the women who files for divorce because of her husband’s cheating only do so after the cheating has interrupted their family structure or dynamics in some way.  In other words, many of these women tell me that they knew or had some suspicion that their husband was “stepping out” and that they could handle that.  The problem became unbearable once the cheating led to a long-term affair, bore a child outside of the marriage or something to that degree.   The bottom line is they cherished what they were getting from the union, appreciated the vows they took or merely did not feel remiss because of the creeping.   I never judge, I understand that how a man makes a woman feel is paramount to sustaining a nurturing marriage, and to some this is regardless of him sharing this feeling with another.  

     I don’t know if a “good” wife sits by and lets her man “sow his wild oats” while she stays at home and waits patiently.  Again, that is left to the wife to decide.  I do know that it irks me when someone else has a strong opinion about another’s relationship, I don’t care who it is.  My friends all understand that while I appreciate their input, at the end of the day the decision is mine to make.  As I remind them regularly, there are things in the next relationship that we may insist we cannot or will not tolerate, but we cannot be too sure until we are in that position which rarely happens because we are all different.  I only care about my friends’ happiness, so if they choose to stay while their spirit is dying or their self-esteem is diminishing then I may intervene but otherwise it is my full support they get.  Black love is complicated enough without all the input from external forces, we don’t need to compound the issues with our prejudicial and pejorative comments.

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?

To ABC’s “Nightline”:We Don’t Wanna Hear It Anymore…But You All Raise A Good Point

          If I hear, read or see another special report on the state of Black women and their plight about not being able to find a mate, husband or father for their youngens, I am going to…well….actually do NOTHING!   Here’s the thing, this topic sells, it sells magazines, books, ads, and so on and so on.  I had a discussion with a friend of mine recently about how she and several of her other friends, for years, have been trying to sell so-called “success stories” about Black women finding love to the major Black magazines, to no avail.  Yeah, I could not believe it.  You mean someone is actually getting off on my sistahs trying to keep themselves warm at night, I was mortified.  Here I was basking in the glow of having finally found my lifelong partner, four of our mutual friends followed suit, and no one wants to hear about it.  This is insane, after the gazillion frogs we all had to kiss before we found our princes! 

      But then, not more than a month has passed before ABC is doing yet another special on the topic, if I was not convinced before I was then.  I must admit, I was reading the ubiquitous remarks from men and women alike who were fed up with the media perpetuating this concept.  So by the time I finally watched the program, I was somewhat tainted by the insight I had from them.  But you know what, although there were very few nascent concepts divulged, I had what Oprah called an “aha” moment.  I think to some degree, even Black women get their jollies ruminating over the miniscule pool of available, good Black men.  That’s right I said it, I think Black women just love the attention they get from the “woe is me” thing many of them have going on.  I mean I listened to Jacque Reid and Sherri Shepherd and nothing they said remotely sounded as if  they even wanted to try to open their mind.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know they don’t speak for all Black women, but to be honest they sound like a lot of my single girl friends.  They can sound so pathetic, desperate, negative and just downright hopeless that they sap my energy just to be in their company.  I mean what happened to the light at the end of the tunnel, the rainbow after the storm, the fragrant spring flowers after the brutal winter-well you get my point.   If you think about it, you will see the validity to my observation.  The ridiculous “list” many single Black women concoct, the superficial things they focus their attention on, the inability to articulate who they are and what their beliefs are-believe it or not all of things only serve as a diversion to the real issue.   And no matter what, unless and until the women understand what it is she really wants, in her life, in this journey and then in love, then she will remain in the limelight for being  that poor single Black woman.

     Believe it or not, I am a true believer,  I am the friend that is constantly telling my friends to keep an open mind, to see the good in each and every experience, to understand their purpose, to speak it into existence, etc.  And for many of them, they actually start to see things differently when they regularly affirm these to themselves, especially when they start to appreciate that they have nothing to lose.  I am very spiritual and believe that the way we see life is the way it will be for us. So if we habitually pay homage to this notion that there are no, nor will there be, any good Black men left then guess what that is exactly what our reality will be.  If you see yourself at the low-end of the totem pole, then that is exactly where you will be, it works like that in every aspect of our lives.  And no, I have not had a lot of success with love. On the contrary, I had more failures than I would like to remember but ask any of my friends, I always remained optimistic.  So if you want your fate to change, really you have to do something, I mean really do something not just talk the talk.

Raising Black Girls to Become a Wife/Mother:The Impact of Fatherlessness

     There is rarely a shortage on research data on how fatherlessness affects Black boy or adult Black men.  However, when it comes to the impact of absentee fathers on Black girls, well, let’s just say that I am still looking for solid data on the topic.  But let’s at what is out there (in addition to personal experiences) and discuss the correlation with the single Black woman.  In my group of female friends, about 75% of us grew up in fatherless homes and it was not until my early 30’s did I realize our differences.  I am at the point now where I can tell if a woman grew up in a two-parent household or if she was raised by her single mother.  When I say two-parent, I mean both biological or a step-parent who raised her from early on, as opposed to a cohabitating couple.  My friends that come from the two-parent homes were typically much more confident, they were much more expressive and they typically maintained steady relationships.  The women that, like me, came from a single-parent/mother raised home almost always had self-esteem, image and self-worth issues.  Most of us had problems dealing with conflict, understanding our roles and boundaries and choosing partners based on our intentions (in other words we were more likely to attract the men who wanted something completely different.)

     Research indicates that women who come from fatherless homes tend to become sexually active, and many promiscuity is common; mature physiologically a lot quicker; lag behind other women academically and fail to achieve their goals in many aspects of their lives.  Of course, all of these differences are in addition to the ones I myself have noted.  The one study that I found most interesting is the one where the finding was that teenage girls who grew up in a two-parent home actually started puberty later than girls that grew up in a single parent or step parent home.  According to the Institute for American Values, the emotional affect of the family environment is directly correlated to the girls’ biological functioning.  (The belief is that the production of the hormone, pheromone is delayed when the biological father is in the home.) 

     The reality is that many of these girls, now women, are still maladjusted in the love/relationship department.  Between the issues of trust, self-value, fear of abandonment, amongst the many other issues prolific in the Black community, the desire to be in a loving, committed and meaningful relationship is a major feat.  All the more reason for Black women to do some self exploring if they see having a family of their own a real dream of theirs.  The easy way out is to look at someone else and point the finger at them, blaming them for your current predicament.   I had to face my own demons and look in the mirror, no music, no television, no adornments, no NOTHING! just me!  I was a long, painful and arduous task (to some extent I am still going through it) but certainly necessary.  I cried, I laughed, I rejoiced but at my climax I accepted who I really was, without blaming anyone else.  I think this was the impetus for my new-found relationship not only with myself but with my significant other.

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

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