Blame and the fear of our children
I received an email from one of my column’s readers, and felt strongly enough about his concerns to address them in this column. His thoughts follow:
“In my hometown, senseless murders are being committed by youth, and these senseless murders are occurring all across the country. Where are our youth learning the behaviors to be violent, heartless, thoughtless, and murderous? That’s the question we must immediately address because we’re losing precious people, good law abiding, loving, and hardworking people who are being killed by kids who have no goals, no vision, and no passion.”
Some blame single Black mothers who are not promoting messages of violence. They’re not telling their kids to commit home invasions, murders, robberies, assaults or to sell drugs. Single mothers aren’t telling kids to be violent. They’re not telling kids to “give snitches stitches” or to kill snitches.
Single mothers are not telling kids to carry AK-47s, Tech Nines, .45 calibers, and “nines.” They’re not telling kids to rob gun shops. They’re not telling kids to shoot “niggas” that “diss” them. They’re not telling kids to sag. They’re not telling kids to tat their bodies up with ghetto slang or that education is unimportant.
We know the people who are delivering these messages to our youth, and they need to be interrupted because the messages are impactful. The impact isn’t positive … and it has made our elders afraid of our children.
Like my reader, I know many who’re desperately seeking answers about senseless violence that disproportionately impacts the Black community. I was reared by a single mother who was the primary source of character-building for nine children who are all law-abiding and productive citizens, so I decided someone should provide a voice for single mothers. For this week, I’m that someone.
There’s no category of motherhood devoid of blame for poor parenting. There are single mothers who fail miserably, but there are married mothers who fail just as miserably. The “best” of mothers can’t be held to the impossible standard of doing the right thing all the time.
TV host Melissa Harris Perry was condemned for a video ad she made that suggested children “belonged” to the greater community instead of only their parents. Many missed the wisdom of her words.
We no longer reside in communities of limited social contact and access. We’ve forgotten the wisdom of community rearing practices we once had to keep children walking the straight and narrow path. Melissa’s ad was an appeal for us to reclaim the value of being concerned with “our” children’s development, and that we no longer ignore the ills that influence them.
We once had a community ethic of “the possibilities of our potential.” We knew the immediacy of the oppression we were experiencing, but we held the collective belief our future would ultimately be determined by our belief in ourselves and the effort we exerted to achieve our goals. We held to the belief that education was the pathway to success.
Single mothers do struggle to rear their children, but their children are as much a part of our future as are our children. We can’t sit idly and accept the actions of those who would deliberately lead our children astray.
We can’t resign ourselves to accept business interests and pawns who pollute the minds of our children with violence or music that destroys self-esteem or the personhood of others. We can’t allow peddlers of misery and mayhem to lessen the belief that our children have in their ability to succeed.
As our communities did in the past, we must resolve to support the parenting efforts of all. We must take advantage of teachable moments to encourage our children to reach the greatness that rests within them.
Dr. E. Faye Williams is president/CEO of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. She can be reached at www.nationalcongressbw.org or 202.678.6788.