February 18, 2003 Volume 2 |
The number of Black women in federal or state prison or a local jail rose nearly 200 percent (19,100 to 53,300) from 1985 to 1995 (Source: National Network on Preventing Crime in the Black Community).
In America, African American women are rising to power in many areas including politics, corporations and even the suppressive Black church. Indeed, many have named this year as the year of the Black woman.
Black women are gaining in areas of home ownership, education, and salaries. In spite of gains among African American women over 70% of our women have children without husbands. During the days of slavery a Black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents than he or she is today. (Andrew J. Cherlin, Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, rev. and enl. ed., (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992), 110).
While Black women fill the churches, their sons fill the prison systems with 1 of 3 African American men captive. Despite many African American females in the classroom, Black males have a national dropout rate of 50%. With cities like Baltimore celebrating the best hospitals in the world featuring Johns Hopkins as the flagship, Baltimore ranks in the top ten in infant mortality, aids, syphilis, crack and heroin addiction, homicide, cancer, and lead poisoning. Finally, Black women make up the fastest growing group of aids victims in the country.
Men are the fundamental building blocks of a community and without men communities cannot exist. A community is built off of the foundation of men. There is no such enterprise as an African American community. Black neighborhoods do not have men and therefore cannot have communities. Communities start with men, then women, then families; the three of these in this order establish communities. A successful community has effective schools, health care, safe neighborhoods, child protective services and political power. There is not one locality in the United States of America where there are any examples of effective African American communities.
Whether one honors nature or God there are no examples of women leading households or communities successfully. This is not a criticism of the great contribution of Black women but an indictment of what happens when men are absent in leading their communities. I am often asked by single mothers if I think they are capable of raising successful families alone? My answer is, how do you define success? If we define success as the collective state of Black America we would receive a failing grade. If we define it by material gain we would pass mightily.
If we define men as spiritual beings that acknowledges a creator, why are black men not in the churches, why do so many of our men have children by a variety of women that they do not care for, and why are we spreading aids to our women in epidemic proportions. If our women could raise children alone effectively African American boys and girls would not fall into the pathological destruction that occurs today.
When Black women are forced to raise their children alone both the male and female child suffer. As much as our women proclaim to "love black men" the tension between black men and women is at an all time high. Black women are tired of black men not committing, loving, and protecting them. Their anger unfortunately is not reserved for their babies fathers. Like energy that transfers from one form of matter to another, our womens''s anger transfers to their own sons and daughters.
The sons become the victim of their mothers anger of abandonment and he often hears comments like "your are just like your no good father". The daughters look at a revolving door of men entering in and out of her mothers life and quickly learns that black men represent everything but permanence, commitment and stability thus reducing her expectation and continuing the cycle of single parenthood and distrust of her men. Our women want permanence but how can they recognize "a good man" when they never saw their mother with one?
Mothers are not men and without fathers, Black boys remain in a state of "boyhood" throughout their lives and exercise their boyhood by overindulging in sports, entertainment, chemical dependencies, sexual conquest without commitment and materialism while living with their mothers who "cripple" them by allowing them to stay in the nest or "crib" as John Singleton's movie "Baby Boy" depicted. Some of these mothers "use" their forty something year old sons as the husband they never had creating a parasitic codependent relationship.
Black males with no fathers have redefined thugs in a fortuitous attempt to maintain their masculinity posturing a "hard" veneer while inside they are afraid, alienated and powerless little boys trapped in the anatomy and physiology of men's bodies. Many of our women proclaim to "like a little thug" in their man, but all a thug is underdeveloped black boy who has never been loved, hugged and protected by a Black man.
The real thugs marry their women, go to work every day in spite of low pay, underemployment, racism and "represent" for their wife and child sacrificing "status" forms of success for mortgages, savings and rainy days. These men are not glamorous and don't drive the best cars but their "house is in order" and their children measure their success by how they honor their mothers as the only women they will ever love. Desertion rates are higher among black men than white, and the divorce rate for black women is twice that of white women (Knox, David & Schacht, Caroline. (1999).
Slavery demanded that African American women have had to wear the hat of mother, father and bread winner. Black men were not allowed to communicate with the slave owners because they were seen as a threat. Our women were given the power to negotiate and lobby for our families. Welfare's introduction gave our women the "state" as their new husband through a check once a month eliminating the need for Black men to contribute to their families welfare. Today, our women still assume the roles that our men were once killed for which helps to unintentionally continue the subordination of Black men.
We are a people who exist as individuals chasing our own independent desires and not paying allegiance to the whole being greater than the sum of it's parts. This is in large part to a consumer driven culture that is antithetical to family life. Money has not been the answer to our problem because people who are not empowered search for power through purchasing things that they think will fulfil their voids of loneliness, alienation, and dissatisfaction with self.
African American women are perfect "targets" for advertisers who are not selling products but false promises of personal fulfillment, excitement, sexual power, eternal youth and happiness. That is why the "high" of that new purchases is gone before you arrive home. Our women "need' men, not boys and true success is realized when love is the product and it comes in a package called man and is wrapped in spirituality, maturation and singular commitment to Black women.
We must ask ourselves what is success. Is success an individual enterprise or a collective one? If we raise our daughters to succeed does it matter if there are no men for them? If we move to suburbia does it matter that our brothers and sisters are burned to death in their own homes by drug dealers in our cities. If our children are in "the best" private schools, does it matter that black males have a national drop out rate of 50% in public schools.
If we belong to mega churches does it matter that in the same block there are homeless, abused children and elderly without adequate health care and food. Success should not be measured by individual achievement but by collective gain. The whole should be greater than the sum of it's part's. If we are not our brothers keepers we will no longer have brothers to keep. Our men must raise and develop men. Black men must finally lift the burden off of our women and take our rightful place as leaders so that we can protect and raise our children, love and commit to our women and build communities.
The writer Ray Davis, is President and Founder of the Millenium Group, a Think Tank devoted to raising the consciousness and personal empowerment of African Americans. Contact Ray Davis at RayDavisgroup.@aol.com