The Joy and Challenge of Raising African American Children. – book reviews

by Emma M. Talbott Black Belt Press, 1997 Montgomery, Alabama 190 pages Softcover: $15.95

Emma M. Talbott paralyzes her parenting guide, The Joy and
Challenge of Raising African American Children, with a negativity that
is antithetical to the philosophy she advocates for nurturing African
American children. She instructs the parent “to affirm” the Black
child, but overlooks the need “to affirm” our Black parents, heritage
and culture.

It is especially unfortunate that Talbott belabors the desperate
circumstances of our past and present, apparently to stress “the
challenge” in rearing a Black child. Our present circumstances include
more crime, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, crabs-in-abarrel syndrome
mentalities and unhealthy lifestyles. Accentuating specific, less
published accomplishments of African Americans and proven interventions
would provide a more affirmative, instructive and motivational context
for presenting the parent guide.

Most detrimental, Talbott belittles her target audience, the Black parent. For example:

“Overindulging your child is a serious breach of common sense.”

“No clearthinking parent can afford to leave the education and
development of their children totally in the hands of formal educators
and educational institutions.”

“No matter how tired you are after working all day or night, you still need to spend quality time with your children.”

“Telling your children to do as you say and not as you do… paints an accurate picture of you as a hypocrite.”

“If your child’s attitude is negative, it is a good idea to check your own.”

“Wise parents lead and guide their children, not the other way around.”

“Many parents dress their children in designer outfits and
expensive athletic shoes…yet claim poverty when it comes to spending
money on a family outing or vacation.”

Moreover, Talbott exhibits–perhaps unintentionally–a strange
detachment from, and disdain for, not only the Black parent, but also
Black culture. Discussing Black churches, she reports, “Many churches
which had limited their function to serving as Sunday morning emotional
release centers are now developing meaningful outreach programs.”

According to Talbott, our religion is a “coping mechanism,” the
worship style in most Black churches is gregarious and celebratory, and
Black preachers once delivered primarily “pie-in-the-sky sermons.”
Because Talbott’s guidance is tempered with such contemptuousness,
Black parents are more likely to perceive her doctrines as offensive
rather than instructive.

The work also suffers because it contains insufficiently researched
information. Talbott fails to use research literature to formulate
substantive guidance about racism, moral development, and human
sexuality — issues that are very important to most Black parents. For
example, it is totally inadequate to simple report, “It takes children
quite a while to develop a conscience, a sense of right and wrong.”

Further, Talbott provides reductionist solutions. She states,
“Children who understand the history of African Americans in this
country will not kill another human being for a pair of athletic shoes,
rob senior citizens, or fill their veins with chemical poisons…. If
they understand their history, they would take the high road to
success.”

Let us also affirm our African American psychologists,
psychiatrists, philosophers, sociologists, and other behavioral, social
and medical scientists by using their research findings. Any attempt to
tackle such complex issues as racism, moral development, criminal
behavior, self-hatred, and human sexuality require input from scholars
who have studied these matters.

There are other serious omissions in Talbott’s parenting
guidelines. Education is central to Talbott’s guide, yet she does not
discuss factors that drive the need for education. A contemporary
parenting guide that does not discuss technology has made a grievous
omission.

Further, the commentary about historically Black colleges and
universities is sparse, demeaning and condescending. It is presented in
the bipolar format that is typical of the approach used throughout the
book. For instance, Talbott states:

“And though the Black college campuses of today cannot compete with
the average predominantly white campus in terms of physical facilities,
their efforts remain unabated in their struggle to attract and prepare
students.”

“Black colleges often lack adequate dormitory space to accommodate the growing number of students seeking admission.”

“Many professors found on African American campuses are there for
reasons other than professional benefits, financial gain and prestige.”

Also, in the “Resource Section” of Talbott’s guide, she claims,
“Space does not permit a listing of the historically Black colleges and
universities.”

The conspicuous absence of discussion about mixed-race children is
also problematic. Perhaps it would have been appropriate to replace the
“Preface to White Parents and Readers” with a “Preface to Parents of
Mixed-Race Children.”

The diligence exercised in presenting information about
intelligence, Black English, and the “54 Lessons to Teach Black
Children” is representative of what is needed throughout the book,
excluding the patronizing overtones. If a revision is planned. Talbott
should at least remove the aberrant, negative commentary and lower the
reading level. These minimal changes will make the book more appealing
to a wider audience. Further, there will be sufficient space to provide
a more enlightening view of historically Black colleges and
universities–and, possibly. space to list them.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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