Our children are killing each other in episodes of gun violence, precipitated by their participation in gangs, the drug game, and/or thug life. Our children are becoming parents when they should be thinking about graduating from high school. A good number of our children are being processed through the criminal justice system as offenders from tender ages and come out even more hardened and jaded than when they went in. When I speak to them or overhear their conversations as I travel throughout the city, I can’t help but feel sorrow.
They look up to pop stars and athletes, many of which are known for behaving badly. Our twenty-something sisters and brothers don’t even want to date each other anymore. Young black men are trashing sistas and praising white women. Young black women are trashing brothas and looking for white guys. (If I were white I wouldn’t want anything to do with someone who wants me solely for my color, and I definitely wouldn’t want someone who hated him/herself.) They get their information from the media and the Madison Avenue advertising machine. Our children are being duped by the glitz of Hollywood, and the music machine that only wants to use them to buy consumer products, keep them trapped in their self-hate and despair to continue the legacy of violence and physical and spiritual poverty.
I hear our children say they don’t care about school – that doing well in school is “acting white”, and it makes me wonder, “do they know that many of their ancestors risked their lives to learn how to read and write? Do they know about the lies that were perpetrated against their people? We were slandered and libeled: people saying that we were akin to monkeys and that we could not learn. Do they know about the men and women of color who sacrificed themselves so their generation could go to school, let alone one of their choice? I hear our young women talk about how they degrade themselves for the pleasure of someone who could care less about them.
I keep hearing about Beyonce, Rihanna, Nikki Minaj, Lady Gaga and the like being ‘cool’. They admire them because as I heard one girl say, “they don’t care about what people think”. It makes me curious to know if they know anything about Ida B. Wells Barnett who stood up to speak out about how our black men were being lynched during a time when she could have been lynched herself for her crusades. Ida didn’t care about what people thought, either. I wonder if they understand that it takes a lot more courage to stand up for what is right, than to dance naked on stage. When Biggie Smalls died, I heard a young man say that he was “our generation’s Martin Luther King”. While his death was sad and tragic, I could not understand the analogy. What had Biggie sacrificed for him? When did Biggie go to jail for fighting injustice? What had he ever written or said publicly to defend or promote our issues? Who did he stand up to? It certainly wasn’t the record companies that were using him to advertise the “thug life” that eventually led to his demise.
I hear kids say “black people ain’t never did nothin’”, and I want to tell them about the Ancient Egyptian kings who innovated mathematics who were black, I want to tell them that the first university was in Timbuktu (Africa). I want to tell them about Garret A. Morgan who invented the traffic light. I want to tell them about Louis Lattimer who created the filament for the light bulb. I want to tell them about George Washington Carver, Charles Richard Drew and the long list of African-American pioneers and inventors that helped to make this country what it is. It saddens me to hear our children speak.
What really hurts is to hear them talk about God. They have no respect for God. They think God is white or that Christianity is a “white religion” or a “slave religion”. I don’t understand how they can say that. Don’t they know how God worked through the church to deliver our people? It was our faith in God that gave us the courage and the strength to endure slavery. The abolitionist movement came about because God enlightened some people to understand that all people were made in his image and deserved the dignity and right to be free. It was God working through people in the church that brought literacy to the ex-slaves. Many of our churches helped to build and house schools for our people. Most of our power came from our faith in God and from our assembling ourselves together in the church. Men and women of the church played a huge part in organizing the civil rights movement (SCLC = Southern Christian Leadership Conference and it was headed by Martin Luther King, Jr.). Our children do not understand the deliverance that was brought to us as African Americans. Our God heard our cry and delivered us from slavery and the social apartheid called ‘segregation’.
Our children are ignorant of our history. If they don’t know their history, they can’t possibly know who they are. Instead the have the Madison Avenue machine, the media, and Hollywood telling them who they are. These machines enlist unwitting recording artists, athletes, actors, and the like to send the message to our young people that “black is whack.” This is why our children put themselves down and they put each other down. Every young man is a ‘nigga’, nowadays. Every young girl is a "h**" or a "b****". I’m not even going to mention the other names I’ve heard young people calling each other. When you call them on it, they always say ‘it’s not serious. That’s just the way we talk. It’s friendly’. That’s like saying words like ‘jerk’ and ‘moron’ are pet names that we give our friends. When I was a teen it was ‘hey, man!’ or ‘catch you later, girlfriend’. Men were called ‘brothas’ and women were ‘sistas’. We gave each other respect. Now there is no respect. There is only self-hate.
Why don’t our children know our history? Why do they not know who they are in Christ? What happened to those church mothers and church fathers that participated in the civil rights movement? What happened to Big Momma and Big Poppa who kept vanguard over the family Bible that had everyone’s birth date and kept the record of the family tree? What happened to the old griots that wouldn’t let you forget what happened? What happened to the family reunions? What happened to our people?
I think there were a number of things that happened. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we thought we had arrived and got lazy. We stopped cultivating our culture and started working on accumulating money. All of a sudden black businessmen just wanted to be businessmen, black artists just wanted to be artists. We went from working together to not wanting to be seen with each other. We stopped networking with each other. When we got money, we didn’t use it to build the culture and capital, we used it for conspicuous consumption. Just go to the library and look through an archived 1980’s Ebony magazine and you’ll see what I mean.
Instead of building black industry, black entrepreneurs sold their lucrative businesses to corporate giants so they could live the high life and live in a mansion. Forget about leaving something for the next generation to build on. Everything became about the dollar and showcasing how many of them you had. We thought money alone could buy our children a better life than we had. Black women began drinking the poisoned kool-aid of the women’s right’s movement, buying into the false notion that freedom from male hegemony lay in sexual promiscuity. Being a single mother became a symbol of empowerment, rather than a circumstance to be avoided or overcome.
Black men drank the white man’s poisoned kool-aid of shallow materialism in which success is measured by how much is in your bank account. Our men (and some of our women) also got caught up in the liberal intelligensia cult in which intellectual knowledge is not utilized for the good of society, but worshiped for its own sake. This bred a new breed of civil rights activism, which I like to call ‘arm chair’ activism. Arm chair activists tour the university circuit, displaying their erudition with the hope that they can get money from the mainstream to write books in which they complain about the state of Afro-America. The arm chair activist has little to no intention to change things because he likes being a part of a “talented tenth”.
Finally a lot of us thought we had achieved full parity with whites and started copying their vices as well as their virtues believing the repercussions would be the same. I know of black people who started thinking, “Well, if white people do drugs and can be productive, so can I.” They foolishly didn’t get that this country still holds a double standard when it comes to African-Americans. A white drug addict can be rehabbed and re-integrated into society. A black drug addict will be demonized and targeted for incarceration. Proof came when crack exploded in our community and the Rockefeller Drug Laws were enacted. So much for parity.
In our quest for material wealth, we lost who we were and we lost our children. Instead of giving them our time, we gave them to daycare, or to some stranger who abused them. They wanted our love and we gave them the x-box, sneakers, cell phones, computers, designer jeans and the like. They wanted to know who they were and we left them in front of a screen with a half-naked black woman dancing on a stage or we took them to a movie that showed a black man killing another black man. We never thought about taking them to the library. They came to us to learn about the meaning of life and instead of leading them to the Bible, we lead them nowhere. Instead of a father, we gave them a ‘baby daddy’. The world beats them down, tells them they can’t do anything and they’re nothing, and instead of encourage our children, we agree with those that discourage them. Instead of a foundation of a strong African-American identity, we gave them self-hatred. The Bible says that “he that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind” (Proverbs 11:29). We have destroyed our own house and are committing a genocide against our own. If we don’t stop what we are doing, there won’t be an African-American people.
We can turn this around and it has to start now. This second. Don’t put off what you need to do. Start now. It starts with putting our children first.
Putting our children first
Some people want to bandy about a phrase I heard on a talk show one time. It was said that the mother should put her needs ahead of her child. If mom isn’t happy, no one else will be. I don’t know who was the first one to say this, but whoever it was, they were wrong. If we go to the Bible, we learn that God put his children first when he sent his only begotten Son to die for our sins, so that we could receive eternal life. So if God put us first, why shouldn’t we put our children’s needs ahead of ours. This doesn’t mean the mother shouldn’t take care of herself. It means that she puts the welfare of her child before her own selfish desires.
A lot of us are doing whatever we want to do and we’re not thinking about how it impacts our children. Our ladies want a man so they’re not lonely, but if that man is abusing you or your child he needs to go. A lot of people want nice things, but if those nice things mean you have to work 14-16 hours a week and you never see your child but for an hour a day, you need to change your priorities. A lot of our men like to complain, “I don’t like my baby momma”. I say “Well, you certainly liked her before the child came, so suck it up and be there for your child” Remember, they didn’t ask to come into this world. You brought them here so now you owe them a decent life. If you put children first, you don’t go out and engage in promiscuous behaviors that could result in a “baby daddy” or “baby momma” situation. Children deserve better than that.
Bring up Children in a Godly Home
Children need more than food, shelter, clothing, and the latest trendy items to survive. Let’s face it folks, we live in a fallen world. No matter where you go on this planet, you will find a fair share of greed, narcissism, violence, lust, and dishonesty. The Bible warns us that things will not get better, but worse as Jesus return draws nearer. It is imperative, now more than ever that we equip our children with the means to withstand the negative influences that are presented to them everyday. We do this by inoculating them spiritually with the Word of God. God sent his Son, Jesus to die on the cross and thereby redeem us from death unto life. It is only through faith in him that we will be able to overcome the influence of the world. We have to actively teach our children from the Word of God and be an example to them of how to live out the Word. Once you do this, even if your children stray away for a while, they will come back to their roots eventually. Remember, they have to have roots to come back to or they won’t come back.
Quantity of time creates quality time
Another myth I want to bust is the whole quality of time is more important than the quantity of time. I say, you can’t have quality without some kind of quantity. If the only time you get to spend with your children is early in the morning, when all of you are rushing to get to work/school, or at night when everyone is tired, what kind of ‘quality’ interaction can you be having? Do you spend that precious time barking out orders (brush your teeth, put this on, eat your breakfast) or are you really having a conversation? Are you busy checking your phone or ipad during this time? Are you watching TV? If you are lucky enough not to take work home on weekends, do you engage in any activities with your child? When you are with them, do you really tune in to listen to them or are you trying to multi-task at the same time? Real conversation takes time and it can’t happen if you’re not around or not paying attention when you are. Remember, you can’t say you know your child if you’ve never spent much time with them.
Children Learn by Watching: Be an Example
You can’t expect your child to want to read, if they never see you reading anything. You can’t expect your son to do right by women if he sees you getting your head bashed in by your man. You can’t expect your daughter to be a respectable young lady if you entertain a different male in your home everyday of the week. Men: you can’t expect your son to have a positive image of black males if you’re not around. Kids don’t give a rat’s narrow behind about what you say. They are paying more attention to what you do. So if you want your children to be the best they can be, you need to set the example.
Stop Saying Father’s Don’t Matter
Although feminists would like to have us believe that father’s don’t really matter, it doesn’t change the fact that they do matter. Again, let’s go back to the Bible where it says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”(Genesis 1:27). It has always been his intention that men and women work together to make a home for children. Men and women are different, and though in the sight of man different=inequality, it is not so in the sight of God. Just because two people are different, it doesn’t mean one is inherently superior or inferior to the other. Men and women are different in ways that compliment each other and allow each other to balance each other out. Both are necessary to raise children. Fathers influence their sons and daughters differently than mothers do. Fathers model to young girls what they can expect from their husbands and boyfriends in the future. They model to young boys how to treat women and how interact in different spaces. When fathers are absent, children are impacted in a negative way that has lasting consequences. I believe it is the main reason for the growing division between black men and women in dating circles. When black men and women do the “baby daddy/babby momma” thing, our children learn that our people aren’t supposed to love and marry each other. Instead they learn to be disrespectful of each other and view each other as disposable sex tools. Not the way to nation build. Enough with the “living together” nonsense. Put a ring on it!
Turn the TV and the Radio off!!!
Some of the worst influences on our children come from the TV, movies and radio. I think it’s best to try to live life with out any of them as all they do is tell us we’re less than and then inundate us with ads for things we don’t need. But if it’s that important to you, we have to monitor what our children are watching. We also have to monitor what we ourselves are watching. If all you ever watch are the semi-pornographic ‘booty-shake’ music videos, violent gangsta and horror films, mindless reality tv and broadcast news, I would suggest you try something different. Think of it this way, we all know that if we eat junk food, we’ll get fat and then the extra weight leads to health problems and diseases that can kill us. Think of trash TV as junk food for your mind. It feeds your mind and your spirit. When we watch things that are violent, negative, sexually suggestive and the like, we are exposing ourselves to things that will reinforce the negative conceptions of who we are (and it doesn’t matter if you are white or black when it comes to this). Then if our minds are negative it will translate into negative behaviors. Instead of watching ‘Set It Off,’ try watching “Pride”. Instead of listening to Lil Wayne or Beyonce, try Israel, Donnie McClurkin, or Fred Hammond. If you can’t live without TV or radio, at least try to find things that are positive.
Learn Your History and Teach it to Your Child
Our history is important. Stop allowing some of these racist people to shame you into thinking our history is irrelevant. Nowadays, I see African-Americans who don’t even want to talk about our history in any shape or form, especially if they are in mixed company. I’m sick of people telling us to stop bringing up the past, especially since it still affects us today. The Jewish people tell their children to “Never Forget” about the holocaust. In school, they make sure to cover the founding fathers and what they believed and how it still impacts us. Well if everyone else can talk about their history, I’m going to talk about mine, too. I’m not just going to talk about the good, I’m going to talk about the painful stuff as well. No one is going to shame me into being quiet about slavery. It happened folks – get over it! It is not a symbol of shame for us as some would have us think. Some slaves did great things in spite of the challenges they faced. Some fought against and resisted slavery despite the fact that the “system” seemed so entrenched. They believed there could be change and trusted God to move on their behalf. And guess what? Change came. That’s the stuff that we’re made of! This is what our children need to know. Our ancestors didn’t allow racism or racists to cause them to put a limit on what they aspired to be, and neither should we. We must teach our children this history because it’s not being taught in schools. In the rare cases when it is taught it is watered down and adulterated. In fact, it is being taught to elementary students in NYC public schools that during the Civil Rights Movement, white supremacists were “bullying” African-Americans. Medgar Evers was shot in cold-blood outside his home. Four little girls were blown up in a church. Chainey, Schwerner, and Goodman were lynched. Non-violent demonstrators were being attacked by dogs and had hoses turned on them. I find it insulting to our people and to our ancestors to call such things “bullying”. This ‘sanitizing’ of our history only serves to absolve the perpetrators of such injustices of their responsibility and keeps their descendants from feeling guilty. I for one prefer truth.
We have to reclaim our current generation, so they can build the next. We cannot afford to allow them to be eaten alive by the negative forces that are destroying this nation among others. Enough of the apathy and waiting for the government to do something. Why should Obama or anyone else on Capitol Hill do anything for us if we aren’t willing to do anything for ourselves? We have no right to ask for jobs if we haven’t been preparing our children with the knowledge and skills to operate competently in the job. We have no right to ask for better schools if we send the message to our kids that school doesn’t matter. We have no right to ask for more rights and opportunities if we’ve squandered the ones our ancestors struggled and died for. Change in our community doesn’t start with the President, it doesn’t start with the governor, or the mayor, or your school’s teachers. Change begins when you take control of what you have to begin to make things better. Start with your children. Reclaim them or future generations will have no choice but to reclaim our history of slavery. Peace.