June 19, 2011. Father’s Day.
Allow me to be pensive for a bit. I awoke this morning wondering how my kids are doing. Not so much how they’re doing managing their lives in the cities in which they live (for the two who have moved out); rather, how they are doing in understanding the America in which they live. None are old enough to remember the Reagan Era when their father was hopeful for his future in this country. In contrast, their father has reason today to wonder if his country will survive long enough for them to experience the kind of excitement and hope of those years.
Oh, I’m sure this piece of real estate known as America will be around for quite some time. The question I’m mulling is, whether the United States of America will still exist. I’m finding reason to ask the question because our current federal administration seems pretty determined to ensure that it will not. I want you to understand why I think this way. To understand why, you need to know a little about me.
I was born in the mid-south to a married Black couple. Dad had served in the Korean War and Mom would eventually go on to earn a Master’s degree. My education began at all-black schools in the two towns in which we lived prior to their desegregation in 1969. Those schools were key to the formation of my view of our nation and the world. Our family quit growing after the birth of my youngest sister in 1971. Three boys, two girls, a mother and father married to one another living in the same home. There. You now have the backdrop for the most important pieces of information I want to share this Father’s Day.
By the time I graduated from high school in the late 70’s, things had already begun changing for the Black American family. And those changes were not good. Those changes would eventually go on to virtually destroy Black America, and are threatening to do the same to the rest of America. Getting there seemed to be a direct violation of four principles I was taught were critical to having a successful life.
Principle 1: Learn: Educate yourself. I heard this at home, at school, and at church. The adults in my life –parents, teachers, preachers, and neighbors – all understood that not every kid would make it to, or through, college. But it was not an excuse for us to not try. We were all expected to learn to read. That way, those of us who did not make it to, or through college, would not find ourselves at a disadvantage in the ability to learn. The thought was, well-developed reading skills would make knowledge forever available to us. As students, we understood it was our responsibility to learn. To not do so would relegate us to the ranks of the illiterate.
Principle 2: Think: Think for yourself. Also heard at home, school, and church, the ability to collect information, analyze it, and draw logical conclusions was an expected outcome of our grade school education. And while those expectations disappeared from the school system after desegregation, they were still very prevalent at home and church. Critical thinking skills were the invaluable tools necessary to for success in life.
Principle 3: Do: Rely on yourself. ‘Never become a burden to others’ was the lesson here. This was primarily taught in the home and at church. But it was not out of the realm for a teacher to yank hard on our collars when we would exhibit signs of laziness. The ability to provide for ourselves was a natural expectation. We were taught to work as long as we are able, to achieve as much as we possibly could so we would be in a position to help others who needed it should it ever happen. The goal was to avoid being one of those who would need help in the future. It was shameful to have to rely on others, and especially on government. We knew even then that reliance on government means being a slave to government.
The character traits of honor, integrity, respect, commitment, personal courage were inculcated in the expectations placed upon us by our parents, teachers, preachers, and even (to a lesser degree) our neighbors. Today, all the negative consequences I was warned would happen if I violated those principles has happened to American society at large. Those consequences have decimated the Black community and threaten to do the same to the rest of the United States.
Today’s youth have no concept of honor or integrity. They’re taught that simply because they are alive, they “deserve” respect. They don’t know what it is to earn respect. Today’s youth are taught that if something requires a commitment that temporarily makes them uncomfortable, is somewhat difficult, or doesn’t provide an immediate reward, that it’s perfectly okay to abandon (or not even start) the project. What was once considered abnormal is taught as normal today.
In spite of the sad condition found in current American culture, it’s not necessarily all gloom and doom for the future. I do feel (generally) good about the upbringing my kids have had. I’m also encountering more and more people of color who are questioning certain “truths” they’re being taught. I am heartened through the knowledge they have a much firmer grounding in the founding of this country than many of my contemporaries.
It puts a smile on my face to meet so many of them who are younger than I. For all of you who have discovered what America is supposed to be, I hope you will have thanked your fathers for the influence they’ve had in your lives. Regardless how active or inactive your Dad may have been, you are who you are today in some part because of his influence. One Black American encourages you to continue fighting to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.
Happy Father’s Day!
* MBA = Modern Black American