Monday, August 19, 2002

We Are One Lazy, Ill-Informed Writer

This week's Memphis Flyer contains a "First Person" column written by Lee Hubbard, and taken from the syndicated columnist via Alternet. It's called "We Are Family" and ostensibly is a call for strengthening the black family reunion, a venerable institution.

But buried in the story is some really egregious hoo-ha. Like this:
It was during this time of vicious racist actions against blacks in
Mississippi that hundreds of thousands of blacks -- including most of the
Hubbards and the Spanns -- migrated from Mississippi to the north and the
west, were [sic] racism was less fierce and opportunities were more available to
There's no denying that racist whites made life hell for blacks in the South. But that's an easy out. When you say Ku Klux Klan to someone, they immediately think of Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia. But the largest chapter in America in the Forties and Fifties, with nearly two million members, was in Indiana. Racism was just as virulent and vile up North as it was in the South.

It was the explosive growth of factories and industry in the North that called to blacks. The weather was less hot and humid; the work slightly less back-breaking; the money was infinitely better. The blacks up there sent word down to family in the South about the jobs going begging and the money.

Hubbard goes on to relate a family tale of how some land was nearly taken by a sheriff. It's used to show how power was used to intimidate, in order to steal. Well, I hate to let Hubbard in on this, but blacks have no monopoly on this kind of victimization! Power has been stealing from both whites and blacks since time immemorial.

Then comes this:
"About 100 years ago, 90 percent of the black family was headed by
two-parent, married couple households," said Hare, who is also co-author of
"The Endangered Black Family." She said this figure could be attributed to the
fact that during slavery, blacks weren’t allowed to marry, but after slavery
was abolished, blacks rushed to marry and strengthen the family unit.

Today the black family is in a crisis. According to census figures, married
couples head only 46 percent of black families. Dr. Hare says the break-up of
the black family began when blacks started picking up many of the societal
norms of the dominant culture. This was aided by the disappearance of
industrial work that took place in the cities in the early 1970s into the ‘80s.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a landmark study of black and white culture (The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, 1965) that pointed out the massive dysfunction growing in the black community--the increasing single-parent households and the growth of extramarital child-bearing. At the time, white families were overwhelmingly married, with children borne in the marriage. Moynihan noted, in a prophetic call, that the black community would only get worse and the white community would follow. He turned out to be right. And Hubbard and Hare have it backward.

A culture that survived slavery and institutional racism is one to admire. It takes massive strength of character and will and spirit. But as the restraints of racism loosen, the black culture grows darker and uglier. Some of the problems--teen culture separate from adult culture, media dominance of social lives, alienation and rootlessness--are common to both whites and blacks. But I think there are two unresolved problems: unhealed cultural trauma (the history of blacks in America) and rootless rage. Until those two things are addressed and healed, I believe black Americans will continue to have problems as a whole. There are numerous individual blacks who have made that peace and moved ahead.

This one-two punch drove jobless men away from their families, and it helped
contribute to a culture that is present in a small segment of the black
community. A disconnect took place between the youngsters and extended
family and many of the positive traditions and rituals that were practiced and
taught by the elders began to disappear.
His first statement is a mischaracterization, plain and simple. It's not a "small segment," but a pervading culture. And his second point is just as true for whites and for blacks. The root of that one is in liberal, progressive-socialist, identity, Democratic politics. It fractures and separates along every possible line there is.

During the worst of Jim Crow, the black family was stronger than it is today, in an era of black freedom unparallelled in American history. True, racism is still very alive and well; I've run into it time and again. But if people like Hubbard want to continue to blame whites for problems that arise within the black community, then they'll get nowhere.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

No comments: