By Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D., Kansas City, MO –
Fortifying the black family unit must be of highest priority if there is expectation for a better future. As we come to a close of Black History month, among the most worthwhile things we can do for the future legacy of African Americans would be to refocus attempts to construct powerful family units with strong family values.
Sociologists proclaim that many forces bombard the family unit in current society. Many also easily admit that whatever plagues society normally, whether economic problems, educational issues, divorce, single parenting, poor housing, unemployment, etc., the impact on African American families is considerably more severe and the ramifications more far-reaching and long lasting.
In many ways, the black family unit still suffers from the ravages of history. There are a number of strong black families, headed by one or both parents. There are many others reeling from some indelible scars which originated with the association of slavery – an institution that did everything in its power to rape and ruin the family unit, separating mother and father, mom and child.
While it’s been over a hundred and fifty years since that wretched institution was deemed illegal, wrong and abolished, the many negative effects continue to be seen today.
One detrimental force after the other has imperiled the black family. The impact can be seen throughout communities across the country. You need just to review dismal figures: the vicious cycle of black on black crime, higher rates of joblessness during times of prosperity, poor health and no access to the best health care available.
By comparison, the black family still lives in blighted neighborhoods and poor housing. And the feelings of helplessness, complacency, apathy and general lethargy, is much too high.
Maybe, the greatest and long lasting impact of these harmful powers is on the kids. Many find it difficult to have vision, to see beyond their immediate living environment. Many are more exposed, more likely to succumb to drugs and a life of crime to escape their disadvantaged and disheartening condition.
Many are the children having children, in part out of a deficiency of guidance and ignorance, in part out of hope and the need to feel significant to someone, to show love, to receive love. The result is double jeopardy, double loss. A young girl may never reach her potential; and the kid she brings into the world starts out at a disadvantage. For a family unit that is already feeble and frail, this can only help it become weaker, more vulnerable.
Where do the answers lie? How can we stop the damaging forces?
First we must refuse to believe these forces are beyond our control. We must commit ourselves to do whatever we can to fortify the family unit. The responses are neither simple nor easy. Nor can the family be reached overnight. We must tackle, and we are to some extent, some really demanding problems.
As we continue to work for equal access to jobs, better housing, better education, better access to healthcare and other economic opportunities, we should invest a substantial amount of time with our young folks. We must help them overcome misconceptions and many hurdles that can ruin their future – before they have any thought of what that future can be.
Some principles we need to share: For starters, to our men, we must tell them that there is nothing to be proud of when they boast about fathering children that they cannot take care of. Our boys should be told plainly it does not make them men. We must let them know that a life of crime, and the drug trade, gangs and guns really isn’t the response.
Our girls need to be told that becoming pregnant isn’t proof or guarantee of love from the father who was not ready to be, or the child who could easily grow to be resentful for bringing them into the world under such wretched and stigmatized conditions – states which neither parent is prepared to transform. This is a first step to fortifying black family unit.
We must continue to accentuate the absolute need to get an education. Without an education in today’s society, the chances of enhancing your living conditions are securely stacked against you. We cannot continue to let our kids indulge in the rap and “crap” on the radio and spend hours playing video games and ignore the lessons and messages in the classroom.
To attain appreciation for the value of a powerful family unit, and address those needs to build and sustain it, like any favorable results must be taught, learned, and practiced. This must be our mission in fortifying black family unit.
While we cannot undo the previous states that have left destruction and feelings of hopelessness, we CAN stop and continue to construct a stronger family unit for future generations.
Fortifying the black family unit should be of the highest precedence for the benefit of our children.
Edited and Reprinted with Permission of USAonRace.com