Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Conversation About Race

I bet the world would be a much smaller place if all pregnancies were planned. 

I bet the world would be a lot smaller if all couples waited until they were exactly where they wanted to be in their careers with the right amount of money and the ideal living conditions. I wonder, more specifically, what this country would be like if that were the case.

Even more specific than that, what would the Black community be like? 

In Keli Goff's article in The Root, she outlined some of her opinions of problems being faced in the Black community and what could be done about it. The first being the need for major institutions to acknowledge the existence of racism and discriminatory hiring practices targeted at Black people, and the second being people need to wait until they have the money, education and partnerships before they have children. She goes on to describe poor, Black people that have children out of wedlock as selfish and likens parenthood to adopting a dog from a shelter. 

While I do agree with Ms. Goff on the importance of both parents being involved and for people to be able to afford to have the means to care for their children financially, I think she is missing the point as to why there are so many single parent households or why people do not delay parenthood until they are older. 

I would also like to point out that not all households are the same. Not every single parent household or two parent household is alike and it is unfair to suggest the problem in this country is the Black woman's inability to stop having children. I think we should look at why many young women without the financial means to care for children decide to have their children in the first place.

Could we place the blame on a poor education system that does not prepare the poor youth for college? Could it be because our children lack an understanding of their options with regards to their future? Discrimination? Harsh police tactics? An unfair judicial system? Rap music?

Is it fair to suggest to people of color their neighborhoods will be cleaner and safer if the very people that live in those areas stopped having children? What message is that sending? I honestly don't see how it is any different from what we would hear from a conservative pundit on Fox News.

I think instead of focusing on money, we should focus on values. You don't have to have $250,000 laying around or have a college degree to teach your kids the importance of hard work and an education. You don't have to have a college degree to motivate your children, help build their confidence and be the support they need to live a life better than yours. I am sure most people in poor, Black communities aren't criminals or throw trash in the street. I am sure most people would love to see the gangs and drugs go away, I am sure most people want the best for their children and want to escape poverty but may not know how or have the means to do so.

I am not suggesting that we play the victim role either, or blame all of our woes on racism. What I am suggesting is we find ways to help these poor communities get access to the tools they need to get out of poverty. I don't think telling people to stop having kids is the answer. Do we know for sure these young men and women would go to college if they did not have children? Can we be certain they would not be stuck in the prison system or work low wage jobs, but do a little better financially because they don't have additional mouths to feed?

If our children don't have anything to look forward to, then how could we expect them to be good decision makers?

Those that are already in the throngs of poverty with children, should we just give up on them? Should we not offer access to parenting classes for young women and men with children so they are better prepared for the challenges of parenthood? Should we not have increased screenings for postpartum depression for new moms to help reduce the amount of young children that get abused in poor communities? Should we not offer more access to childcare so that young men and women may go to school and work and be in a better position to support themselves? Should we not demand more funding for public schools and after school programs so that not as many children are left unattended because their parents work? Should we not invest in training programs to prepare the unemployed and underemployed to be able to fairly compete for work in an already competitive market?

Don't get me wrong, I do believe in tough love. I do believe we need to teach our kids the importance of being responsible for their actions and the importance of making decisions regarding their lives and the future of those they may bring into the world. I think instead of placing blame on a group of people and saying "You're the problem" is only going to continue to create more of a divide, especially within the Black community.