Tough Love: Destruction of the Black Family

There is a post on Dell Gines' Blog discussing the plight of the black family. This topic is somewhat connected to a post I had last week on parenting technique: Mission vs. Natural Growth. One thing that everyone can agree on is that there is a crisis. The result of this crisis is seen in the incarceration rate of black men, single mother households and the lack of academic achievement of many black students. The disagreements arise when discussing ideas for improvement.

Bill Cosby made headlines when he chided, “The lower economic people are not holding up their end of the deal. These people are not parenting!” For this remark, Bill Cosby was vilified by some and applauded by others for what some called a ‘tough love’ approach. The problem that I have with this comment is that it chastises but places those whom the message was intended for in a defensive posture. So any points Bill had to make after this were muted by his comment.

Many conservatives took Bill Cosby’s comment as an opportunity to spew their ‘victim mentality’ and ‘welfare state’ talking points as the primary reason for the plight of the black family. Again, offering no solutions and if you understand the philosophy of conservatives, you know that the underline agenda is to dismantle all government social programs: welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Public Education, Head Start and many others. Their argument is always wrapped in a ‘personal responsibility’ statement.

The approach to healing the black family is elitist, political pundits and politicians saying ‘we know what is best for you.’ This top-down approach may work for pushing legislation through Congress, but it is an ineffective method for communicating with regular folk. There are many that work to ensure their children's success. However, we cannot deny the fact that many parents living in poverty lack the knowlege and resources that are available in middle-income households.

It is time that an actual dialogue take place and solutions put forth outside of political agendas. If discussion is about the black family, then we can start with the resources and institutions already in place. Several years ago BET aired a show called ‘Teen Summit’. It was a weekly program addressing the issues of teens. Every week experts provided answers to questions from teens. If BET, TV One, XXL, Vibe, Ebony, The Source, the NAACP, the Urban League, 100 Black Men of America and the many black churches were to systematically focus on the issue of providing tools and resources to assist black families - it would be a start.

There is no magic wand that we can wave to make the problems go away. But the picture illustrates something important. Note the location of the young man’s mother. She is by his side. He may not like her method of teaching, but what he does know is that his mother is there. I’m sure he knows that his mother loves him and is doing what she is doing because she believes it is in his best interest.

Black people have overcome tremendous odds to be where we are today. Along the way, we swallowed a lot of doses of ‘tough love.’ But it was men and women whom sacrifice was for the betterment of black people that administered ‘tough love’. So if your remedy is ‘tough love’ for the black community – first check yourself to see how much love you have for the black community. If they are not aligned properly, you won’t be heard.