By Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D., Kansas City, MO –
Strengthening the black family unit is key for a better future. As we focus on Black History month, among the very rewarding things we can do to help our future heritage will be to rededicate our efforts to empower and support strong and stable family units.
Sociologists proclaim that lots of forces bombard the family unit in modern society. Many also readily acknowledge that whatever plagues society normally, whether economic problems, educational issues, divorce, single parenting, inferior home, etc., the impact on black families is a lot more intense and the ramifications more far reaching and long lasting. Strengthening the black family is so important.
The black family is imperiled by one damaging force after the other and the impact is observed throughout communities all over the country. You need only to review a number of dismal numbers: The vicious cycle of black-on-black crime, higher rates of joblessness during economical prosperity, poor health and limited or no access to the very best health care available. By comparison, the black family still, disproportionately, lives in poor home and blighted neighborhoods. The feelings of helplessness, complacency, apathy and general lethargy, are considerable. Strengthening the black family unit is critical to the health of communities across the country.
In a lot of ways, the black family unit still suffers from the ravages of history. There is a number of strong black families, headed by one or both parents. But there is a number of other indelible scars, which originated with the institution of slavery, an institution that did everything in its capacity to rape and ruin the family unit, separating mother and father, mother and child. Also, despite the fact that it has been one hundred and fifty years since that wretched institution allegedly died, the many negative effects are still felt and seen today.
Possibly, the worst and long lasting impact of the harmful forces is on the children. There may be those who find it hard to see beyond their immediate living environment. The children are those that tend to be much more exposed, that are more likely to succumb to drugs as well as a life of crime to escape their deprived and disheartening state. They’re the babies having babies, in part from ignorance, in part from the need to feel needed, to get love and receive love. The effect is double jeopardy. A young girl may never reach her potential; as well as the child she brings into the world starts out at a disadvantage. To start a family unit that is already frail and feeble, this could only make it weaker, more vulnerable.
Where do the answers lie? How can we stop the damaging forces?
First, we have to refuse to believe that these conditions are beyond our control. We have to give of ourselves to do whatever we are able to in order to reinforce the family unit. The responses are neither straightforward nor easy. Nor will they be reached immediately.
We must address some tough issues, such as the continuous dependence on welfare. Welfare is a complicated issue, with intricate causes. But relying on welfare engenders more dependence. Welfare is similar to a pain reliever, temporary and somewhat comforting, but it offers no ultimate remedy for the root cause of the pain. It’s not a job where you are able to make enough wages to enhance your living conditions. Long term, it frequently does more damage than good.
We have to invest a considerable quantity of time with our young folks. We have to help our young people overcome many hurdles and misconceptions that could ruin their future even before they’ve any idea about what that future might be.
Some principles we should share: For starters, to our young men, we have to tell them there is not anything to be proud of or boast about when they father kids they cannot support. Our boys must be clearly told that it doesn’t make them men. And our girls should be told that becoming pregnant isn’t evidence or guarantee of love from your baby’s daddy who wasn’t able to be one, or the child who could readily grow to be resentful for bringing them into the world under such wretched and stigmatized conditions, which neither parent is prepared to transform.
We have to continue to stress the importance of education. Without an education in contemporary society, the odds of enhancing your living conditions are firmly stacked against you. We cannot continue to let our children indulge in the rap and “junk” on the radio, and disregard the lessons and messages in the classroom.
Let’s keep our eyes on the true prize: Strengthening our families for the benefit of our children.
Feature photo credit: usaonrace.com
Edited and Reprinted with Permission of USAonRace.com This column originally appeared in February 2010, but the message is still relevant today.