It is not easy raising African American males in the USA. Parenting is tough, period. For many single parents, there are hard choices to make, and it is often only in hindsight that we see our mistakes. Assisting our bright young children to stay focused and motivated in a world where the messages may conflict with our values is extremely challenging.
This week we watched the riveting drama of another clash between two men from very different backgrounds. One is the product of wealth and privilege, the other the product of a single white mother and an African father. Thankfully we live in a country where this can happen and be very contentious without shots being fired. I received an email with a powerful quote from Frederick Douglass (previously posted) which could have been written today. One powerful line regarding the African American male states “but if he shall come as a gentleman, a scholar and a statesman, he is hailed as a contradiction to the national faith concerning his race, and his coming is resented as impudence.”
So how do we raise our sons and grandsons to be able to walk this fine line in a country which screams that the American dream is for everyone? Although African Americans make up 14% of the population, they make up 40% of those incarcerated. In 2005 African Americans accounted for almost 50% of all homicides. These are sobering statistics. So if you are able to raise your sons to avoid being one of these statistics, how do you also prepare them for resentment and malice?
As we struggle to do the right thing by our children, some of us start out trying to provide an environment where they benefit from all of the opportunities we were denied. And in doing so, we may go too far, not teaching the worth of hard work, failing to demand that our youngsters earn these rewards. We drift from nurturing, mentoring and supporting into the realm of enabling. That murky area where our young men in particular feel they are entitled to the good life. If they don’t find the right job or career, never mind, Mom will come through.
But what happens if Mom doesn’t come home from work one day? There are no guarantees in life, and accidents or sudden health events can change things in an instant. Have we properly prepared these young adults to survive and thrive in this tough climate? This happened to a friend of mine, and I have been watching this drama play out. Tough love is hard to deliver, but how else can we ensure that our children can grow into mature capable adults?
For those who have successfully navigated the trials of child-rearing, congratulations. We now have to worry about the next generation, and hope that our children manage their own challenges in these even tougher times. All we can do is try to advise and encourage, nurture and support without sliding down the slippery slope into enabling once more.
It isn’t easy.
One Love Family.
Have a wonderful Friday and a great weekend.
PS: A very happy birthday to my daughter, who appeared one Friday morning 33 years ago to raise my consciousness, demand that I keep up with her expectations, and force me to be a stronger woman than I could ever imagine. On her 18th birthday I wrote a poem entitled “My daughter who raised me”. Our children challenge us, but they also make us better people.