I’ll admit it, Im torn. At best Im more able to offer corrective action to parents in their role to raise Black boys in this day and age. It seems perilous, daunting and scary to consider the attitudes and actions against Black boys in this modern era, civilized, western culture embraced as the United States.
To consider a blueprint for raising Black boys feels as if creating some box every Black boy will fit into to become a progressive and forward thinking, sensitive to others, productive member of society, with respect for law and authority, respect for women, and ultimately respect for self. Surely there is intent in these value and morality based ideologies, but how do we as responsible parents achieve these concepts in our Black male offspring?
There are many books penned that appear to address the social issues derived from the experience of being Black, Male and a child of these times. Iv’e attempted to read most in my dedication to truly understand not the issue, that’s apparent to me, but what is needed to offer some direction.
Firstly and perhaps an impossible feat to achieve is the remolding of the attitudes toward Black male youth dominating the media. There is never a day gone by in which a news feature, entertainment report, sports story or school-based study released offering Black males behaving poorly. Its tiresome especially given I myself am a Black male mental health professional. As a transpersonal psychologist Im educated and trained to look deeper. Never do I simply accept anything offered as is. I quest to understand the motivations to behavior, the internal drives to choices and decisions made, and the lofty collective unconsciousness many, if not most, feed into everyday. As a member of society I take responsibility for sometimes giving into the attitudes that create these realities.
Secondly I have value for my own sense of “back-in-the-day” ways I experienced in my own upbringing. I dont know if someone told me or it was inferred in every sense of my being that I as a Black man needed to be twice as good as my white counterpart to possibly achieve half as much. I wasn’t reared to seek fairness or even justice in my experience as male and Black in these United States. Yes, I am a product of the 60’s. My work ethic shaped by a step-father who endured the prejudice of military service with honor, respect and an allegiance to his country, his family and the Corps. The order of his allegiance shifted from time to time and I dont blame him for that. In many ways he sacrificed, along with my mother, so me and my siblings could do more in our lives.
Thirdly and surely not a popular perspective, there are far too many women raising boys along. Fathers are not only absent they have been deemed irrelevant. The result have become boys who think like, move in the world like, desire like, wait to be treated like, need to be appreciated like, dress like, act like, feel like….yes I could go on, women. Innately and at the core of every male is the self-defining need to protect, serve and risk our very being for the advancement of mankind and it appears as if those genetic markers have been evolved out of the DNA string that separates men from women. Boys have become the new girls. Damn, I said it.
Where do we go from here? Let us first acknowledge boys are not girls and do not need what girls need to achieve fulfillment. Mothers, bring the boys father back into his life, if the father is appropriate, and put aside your teenage girl feud with the father of your child. More than not saying anything bad about the boys father, find something good to say about his father everyday even if you have to make it up. Father’s accept the invitation back into your boys life and respect what his mother has had to put aside for the growth of your son. Fathers be/become someone worthy of being talked about in a good light.
Mothers your son does not need the latest fashions, matching sneakers to every outfit or being on the cutting edge of trends. Leave the skirts to Kanye West, he can afford to be as different as he has become, your son has not earned that right yet. Skinny jeans are for skinny people and for the most part Black boys are not a skinny people, we need room to grow and fill out. The latest jean designs were not made for Black boys who inevitably sag their jeans because the butts were not made to accommodate our physical stature. Black boys are genetically strong and powerful in their physiques yet mothers allow them to dress like little girls prone to feelings of being too fat and overtly concerned with weight. Damn, did I just say that? Enough with the fashion and trend discourse, the message is there.
Black boys need to be challenged every day to do what is right for themselves and their respective communities. Every Black male child is a living active representative for those that will follow. Black boys need to learn this valued responsibility for themselves even from an individualistic point of view. It is a mandate we all foster the highest expectations for our Black boys in word and deed. As a Black male adult I grasp tightly to the knowing that I am always an example to Black boys watching and taking ques especially when Im not paying attention. Black boys need the challenge of sport in their development. Individual sports and team sports teach work ethic, achievement from doing and the benefits of working hard. It isnt in the winning its in the doing.
Education, however defined and attained, is vitally important in this information driven age. Parents show your children your value for education. Educate yourself as an example. Not only be open to learning but demonstrate to your children your willingness to learn something new. Put aside the ego-driven and false notion you have all the answers and when stumped by a question from your child make it a joint venture to investigate the question and derive at an answer together. Our children can no longer endure your “fly by the pants” parenting style, they need real answers.
Parents always keep in mind telling your child what not to do isnt even close to informing them of their options in what to do. Children know far more than we adults give them credit for and often lack in their understanding of what they perceive. Children see everything, are your actions worthy of being duplicated?
Parents take hold and exemplify Og Mandino’s ideology:
**Proclaim your rarity.
** Always go the extra mile in all that you do
** Make use of your power of choice.
For assistance in developing parenting skills or addressing behavioral concerns in your children see http://www.drrichardflannigan.org