By PAT WATSON
There is a parent in my neighbourhood, a woman originally from Jamaica who, along with her ex-husband, is raising her two Canadian-born children. Their marriage didn’t last, but their responsibility to their children didn’t end when the marriage ended. Whenever we meet at the supermarket, in the local thrift store or just in passing on the street, we always find ourselves talking about our children. Both her children are in high school and both are doing well. The woman and her ex-husband love their children and would sacrifice anything so that they do well in their lives.
There is another man I know of, a family man born in the Caribbean and who grew up without a father, whose daughters are the most important part of his life. Although he does not earn a high income, he chose to move out of a depressed neighbourhood so that his children would have the benefit of a more prosperous environment.
He recently had a chat with his oldest daughter along the lines of how proud he was of how well she had done in grade two and how much he is looking forward to what she will achieve as she heads into grade three. He would do anything to ensure they have the foundation to do well in their lives.
There is a divorced father who, along with his ex-wife, made their own agreement without bothering with the intervention of the courts to ensure that he would always be a presence in her life. His daughter lives mainly with her mother, but she has her own room at his home, where she stays on alternate weekends and holidays. When she began to show an interest in learning music, he arranged piano lessons for her and every weekend, he would take her to her piano class. He is doing everything he can to provide a stable upbringing for his only child.
Like the youth of other social and ethnic groups in our city, the majority of Black children are well supported in loving families and extended families. As evidence, just about every week in Share you will see stories of young people who are doing well and making their way in life.
But every time a young Black person is in the news because of tragedy, the usual pack of critics come out with all the vitriol they can find to condemn the entire community of Black parents for the delinquency of the lawbreakers. To racialize bad parenting is particularly disgusting, after all, who hasn’t been witness to episodes of parents of whatever ethnicity not acting in the best interest of a child?
To hear them tell it, the real problem with troubled Black youth is that something is deeply dysfunctional in the way we are parenting in the Black community. And Black single-parenting comes in for special disrespect. As if the idealized nuclear family is the singular salvation for raising children.
This pathological need to condemn an entire group for the transgressions of the few is mind-boggling in its many expressions. Take for example the marriage pledge put together recently by a group called The Family Value in Iowa in the U.S., a pledge which they then had Republican presidential hopefuls Michele Bachman and Rick Santorum sign. The original preamble to the pledge stated: “Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American president.”
There just is not enough space here to rebut this kind of desperate attack on the Black family. The ignorance that we face as an identified group is apparently never ending, but the reality of the vast numbers of our young people successfully making their way in a world where far too many still insist on judging them by the colour of their skin is rebuttal enough.
A note on a new nation…
Congratulations to the people of the new nation of South Sudan. The decision to form the 54th African nation came through a vote, but the vote came after decades of fighting including civil war against the mainly Arab north. Now Darfur waits for its independence.