The behavior of some Black males has always been called into question. Adjectives like intimidating, aggressive and rude have been labels that have been affixed to us for as long as I can remember. It seems at times in today’s one-strike-and-you’re-out society that these aforementioned adjectives trump our education and our socio-economic status. It is said by some that no matter the education, the wealth or fame that we as Black men achieve, we are all placed in the same gumbo of indifference. I have often wondered why we carry this cross. Growing up in the South my parents wanted for me what all parents, Black and White, wanted for their children and that was for me to be successful.
This attainment of success was also coupled with a code of civilized behavior. In some ways, I believe, Black parents back in the day thought that appropriate behavior was just as important as being successful. I believe their thinking was that it didn’t matter how successful you were if you didn’t know how to behave. In fact, I am not sure that you can have one without the other. There was really an unspoken rule in my neighborhood that said you represented your family, your neighborhood and yourself. As a result, we wouldn’t just come out and impugn our family’s name. For example, having it said in the neighborhood that you committed some infraction was simply unthinkable. There was a time during my elementary school days that I used some inappropriate language. Word spread in the neighborhood, and I was completely ashamed. It never happened again.
Unfortunately some Black men made some missteps and exercised poor judgment. These errors in principles can be attributed to several factors, some of which are well documented. What has occurred over time is the creation of a negative perception about Black men. So, for far too many people, all Black men are to be feared. While some may disagree, this is what we wake up to each day. The pressure is on to do our best and not to cave into the stereotype of what people think we are. Despite the positive actions and the dignified behavior, there are those who still cast aspersions. Take for example the White woman in the Philadelphia area who said that two Black men kidnapped her and her daughter. The alleged victim gave police a convincing story, and off the media ran with it. I won’t spend a lot of time on this, but what got the media’s attention? Was it the kidnapping or was it that two Black men did it? I will let you answer the question.
Black parents and grandparents who are raising Black boys face some particular challenges in the new millennium. It seems to me that there should be some “old school” rules implemented. First off, Black boys must know who is in charge, and it is not them. We as parents cannot compromise on discipline. We must be parents and not friends to our male children. Furthermore, we cannot let technology babysit our kids, thinking that the latest gadget will satisfy them. Nothing takes the place of human interaction between parents and children. Black boys need nurturing from their mothers and guidance and discipline from their fathers. You can add more to this equation as I won’t quibble with you. I can remember when your parents said no, and the answer was no! There was no equivocating on the answer no. Black parents back in the day did not have to explain themselves. Go back to the old school!
The expression “it takes a village to raise a child” was practiced back in the day. I was chastised by adults in my neighborhood even before I got home for my transgressions. Obviously the times have changed. We must become more visible in our schools as volunteers. If we want to know what is happening in our schools, then we must go and find out. Put on a school badge and volunteer your time. You will feel good and your child will feel better. The library was a staple in my neighborhood. We must foster and promote reading in our homes. Lastly, but most importantly, we as Black parents must ensure that our boys have a spiritual foundation. Sundays must return to the Sundays of old when we went to church and had dinner together as a family. We can change the prognosis for our Black boys if we go back to the “old school”.