Black Men and Families: What’s Going On? by Kimberley Jane Wilson

A New Visions Commentary paper published July 2001 by The National Center
for Public Policy Research * 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web
Reprints permitted provided source is credited.

While in my local shopping mall recently, I noticed a curious thing. There didn’t seem to be any black men shopping with their families.

I saw plenty of Hispanic men, white men and even African men with their families. But I saw no American black men shopping with their families. Later, my husband and I went to a local family-style buffet restaurant for dinner. The clientele is mostly black. When I looked around the large dinning room, I saw several tables with black women and children but only two with men as well. Both of those men, by the way, looked to be over 50.

What’s going on? Is it no longer cool for a young black man to be seen in public with his family?

A teen-aged male relative of mine recently shocked me with some completely unprintable comments he made about black women in general. At his age, he’s probably just mouthing things he’s heard on the radio and on the street. I would’ve simply chastised him and forgotten about it if I hadn’t heard so many adult men make the same comments on different occasions. This kind of talk is starting to worry me. Where is the black family going?

Mind you, this is important. If black America is going to prosper, our families – the primary unit of our culture – must be strong. There is not a single society in the known history of the world that has survived the complete collapse of its family structure. Not one.

Black people face a number of challenges right now. Our boys are falling behind in school and I don’t see anybody at the national level doing one constructive thing about it. There are fewer black boys heading to college now than there were ten years ago. Some of these young men are going to the military and to trade school, but what about the rest of them? Too many are ending up on the street and turning to crime. I’ve yet to hear anyone offer a public opinion about what this bodes for our future.

There are now more single mothers in the black community than there are married mothers living with a husband. Movie stars and singers make single motherhood look glamorous. As the daughter of a widow, however, I can tell you that raising a child alone is not fun. It’s a hard business. When you are the only person standing between your children and the real world, you can’t afford a moment of a weakness. You can’t afford to have a bad day at work. Depending on what type of employer you have, you can’t even afford to stay home with a sick child for more than a few days.

My mother never complained, but I could see that she fought a battle day after day to keep us away from the poverty line. She succeeded, but it came at a cost. When Mama came home from her two jobs, she was usually exhausted. Sometimes, she didn’t even bother with eating dinner. She was just too tired to do anything but go to bed. Does this sound cool and exciting to you?

If you have a strong stomach, go to the U.S. Department of Justice or the Bureau of Prisons websites and look up the latest criminal statistics. It is not pleasant reading. Many of the young men involved in crime today come from fatherless homes. What does that mean to you and to me? Consider this: Most crime is intra-racial. That means the victims of these young men are usually black. Our streets, our neighborhoods and our own personal safety are at risk because the black family is in distress.

Things have got to change. Our leaders complain about things that don’t seem to have much to do with everyday life: Al Sharpton is in jail now for protesting in Puerto Rico and Jesse Jackson is upset with Toyota over a car ad while our daughters – and especially our sons – are drifting away. What’s going on with the black family?

The government is not coming to save us and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What the government gives it can surely take away. What’s going on with the black family? Unless we get serious quickly, God only knows.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.