Archive for September, 2009

Why Should Black Women Marry?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I don’t ask this question lightly. I’ve been asking myself the question for the past two days here at this historic conference on marriage and families. How does marriage benefit black women? I see why and how marriage benefits children (of course I mean here a “healthy marriage”). I even get what men get out of marriage. But what’s in it for women? Especially educated, upwardly women who don’t have to worry about being hurled into abject poverty if their husbands leave them.

Let me back up:

I’m here at the National Summit on Marriage, Parenting, and Families, a historic gathering that’s being held on the beautiful campus of Hampton University. More than 100 of the most diverse, influential leaders working in the area of marriage and family issues are here to witness the unveiling of the National Summit on Marriage, Parenting and Families which will be headquartered here at Hampton under the black familydirectorship of Dr. Linda Malone Colon (chair of the Summit). The summit is being touted as a groundbreaking public conversation about marriage and families aimed at increasing the national conversation on the declining status of today’s marriages, especially marriages in the black community and the importance of healthy, effective parenting.  I’ve met some really great people while I’ve been here, people working in the trenches to help families in crisis and children who don’t have a strong family safety net.

You can catch Wednesday’s sessions live on the web at www.hamptonu.edu.

It’s a great meeting with lots of provocative dialogue. I’m here because i was invited to participate on the religion panel where the discussion centered on questions like “What does God say about marriage and family” and “What can communities of faith do to transform marriages, empower parents and strengthen families in our country.” Except for knucklehead here and there who their own agenda and didn’t want anything to do with dialogue, it was a good panel.

Yeah, yeah: I’ve noticed that not a peep has been said at these proceedings about same-sex marriage. One look at the major sponsors for the conference tells me why. I get it.

There’s no denying the research that says that children raised in homes headed by their biological parents who are wedded are more likely to succeed than those who grow up in households where the parents never married or divorced early on.

Here are a few things I’m taking away from this conference:

  1. Marriage is a vanishing institution in the black community.
  2. Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase the chances of poverty for both children and mothers.
  3. Children raised in single parent households are more to have problems in school, to get involved in drugs, to enter the juvenile system, and to live without medical insurance. Not only are our children at risk, but adult single men are more likely to engage in risk behavior than men who are married (e..g, take drugs, drink too much alcohol, unprotected sex with multiple partners, reckless driving).
  4. When it comes to attitudes about marriage, one of the biggest difference sbetween those under 35 and those over 35 is that younger people think you should postpone marriage until your career or finances are stable enough to bring a spouse into the equation. Their parents grew up thinking that it’s easier to build and accumulate wealth in marriage than it is as a single and that marriage gives one the stability and inner fortitude needed to endure the vicissitudes that come with building a career.
  5. Children want their parents to stay together –even if for their sake.
  6. Men who are religious tend to make better father and husbands than those whowant nothing to do with religion.
  7. Young black people use finances, career, and emotional readiness a lot as excuses for postponing marriage. but they don’t seem equally vigilant about postponing having babies out of wedlock, cohabitating, and entering into joint economic ventures with lovers (things normally associated with marriage).
  8. It is important for the church to affirm the ideal of married couples rearing their children, while at the same time affirming the possibilities for self-actualization and purposeful, emotional healthy live for those not married.

I get all of this, but again I ask: what do black women get out of all this? How do black women benefit from marriage when you consider the high ratio of women to men (and men’s likelihood of cheating on their wives) and when you consider that many times women are better educated and better employed than their men?

The Devil is in the Computer: Technology and the Generational Divide

Friday, September 25th, 2009

A couple of weeks back a discussion popped up on a natural hair board I belong to about why young nappies dominate the hair board and why hardly any mature nappies blog about  caring for natural hair in your forties and beyond. (No comments please about my use of the “n” word. “Nappy” is a  term of endearment there on the hair board.) Several of us over forty-five types concluded that the reason younguns’ dominate the hair board is because black women our age and older are largely distrustful of the Internet. My contemporaries use the net largely for email, but that’s about it.

“A woman I know lost her husband to Facebook,” someone stood up and said at a women clergy conference I attended this week. “An old high school girlfriend of his found him on Facebook and he left his wife for the old girlfriend.” Our worst suspicions were confirmed.  “Jeeezus,” some one cried out. “Hmmmmph, hmmmph, hmmmph” said another. That does it: The devil is in the computer. Facebook. Identity Theft. Spam. Twitter. Yep, Satan is behind it all.

Many of my favorite bookmarked blogs are by black women bloggers in their 20s and 30s (e.g., opinion blogs, self-help blogs, inspirational blogs, how-to blogs, craft blogs). This generation has never met a hunch, idea, opinion, suspicion or fantasy they didn’t think deserved airing.

It seems that black women my age seem to be content with being information consumers rather than  information producers.

I’m willing to guess that the vast majority of the women who leave comments on this blog are younger women, women under forty. Plenty of women over forty visit my blog (I know because they tell me they do when I meet them); but it’s mostly young ones who jump into the cyber dialogue and weigh-in in the comments sections

black girls and computers

I should be hurt but I’m not. I know they love me. But virtually none of my friends who are my age read my blog. Yeah, I’m putting y’all on blast. (Of course, they may feel they don’t need to read my blog since I go on and on all the time about whatever opinion I hold. Forgive me.) Most of them have a Facebook page, but they use it to announce where they will be speaking and teaching next. Yet, they are all fierce, thinking women who have high profile positions or who head major organizations.

Here’s the deal: my contemporaries don’t have the time to spend time online. At least that’s what they claim. They don’t have time to blog or to learn how get their information and opinions out on the web. But time isn’t the only reason. My contemporaries feel clumsy around technology. We’re frightened by technology. The world wide web sounds too vast to fathom. We are from the generation of girls who shied away from science and technology. Dissecting frogs. “Eeeewww.” Mixing compounds. “Don’t let that stuff get on my outfit.” Dissassembling things to see how they worked. Boring. Assembling parts to improve their function. “My nail!” There were no summer programs back then for colored high school girls to spark our interest in engineering and science.

Tell me: How many black female IT people do you know? When you need help with some computer problem, how likely are you to call a black woman your know (over 40) to talk you through how to fix your computer problem? I thought not.

Let me be clear: I don’t mean to suggest that black women, even older ones, are anti-technology or anti-gadgets  It’s not like we use carrier pigeons to send messages. We love our cell phones. We enjoy our iPods. We can’t live without our microwaves. We pride ourselves on having the latest hair curling contraption. But computers are another thing. Solitaire and email. That’s it. Using the comments section to air our protest? Social networking? Keeping up with celebrities every move? We prefer real time and real friendships. We’re old fashioned like that, I suppose.

“Silver hair tekkie” is how a young nappy former student of mine refers to me. That’s because I seem always to be one step ahead of her in gadgetry and was for a long time always pushing her to up her technology game. IM me. Skype me. Snap the photo and text it to me. Sign in and give me permission to have remote access to your computer. Your computer is too slow. Why is it that I have a blog and you don’t, and I’m thirty years older than you.? Get off my blog, and get a blog of your own.  When the cable technician comes to the house to program the television or to get us back online, my husband calls me into the room to decipher the technician’s directions.

I’m far from being a tech geek; I know just enough to keep me from having to be a slave to real computer geeks. I am a life long student of technology because I have had to be. I hate depending upon other people to do things for me I want done yesterday. But I must admit: being the the computer savvy old woman that I am means that I spend a lot of my time  on the computer in conversation with women half my age. That’s not a bad thing. Except on occasion. Like when I shoot back with a response like “jive turkey” or talk about doing the “kool jerk” and I get one of those emoticons back that say makes clear that the person on the other line is clueless as to my meaning. Talk about a generational divide.

What about the rest of you? Do you agree there’s a generational divide among us black women when it comes to technology?  How tech savvy is your mother? How tech savvy are you? Why aren’t black women over 45 better represented in cyberspace? Why don’t black women use the Internet more to promote their work and/or to help shape public opinion? What do you think?

Is any Black person who disagrees with the President a ‘crackpot’?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Dear “Is any Black person who disagrees with the President a ‘crackpot’?”

Sorry it’s taken a few hours to yank off my clergy collar, sit down and respond to the comment you left on the blog earlier today. Too bad that after reading your comment I had to dash out the house and get to my child’s volleyball game. But perhaps it was just as well. I needed to let off steam. “Spike it down her throat!” I bit my lip and kept myself from yelling at my child who plays the outside hitter position. I’m committed to civil discourse, for the most part that is.

v'ball

Let’s start here: Turn off the right-wing, conservative chatter you evidently listen to and reread my original post. I actually never got around to addressing whatever (legitimate or illegitimate) disagreements folks may have with Obama’s health care policies. A closer reading will show that what concerned me in that post was the foreboding, sinister, escalating threatening tone of Obama’s opponents.  YOU may be one of the few Obama dissenters committed to civil discourse and civil debate, but look around and you’ll notice that you’ve been dropped off at the wrong town hall meeting. Your fellow dissenters have left the building and are down the street arming themselves with assault rifles. The fighting has begun.

When women weep on television that they fear the president has designs on brain washing their children and others march the streets with signs saying “Monkey see, Monkey budget,” and when someone alleging to be an African American woman comes on the blog accusing me of being unfair and less than kind by casting such opponents are fringe, dangerous types – wingnuts– I’m wondering what planet does “Is any Black person who disagrees with the President a “crackpot’?” live on.

Let’s move on to your main bone of contention:“Many people believe in a free enterprise system and are not happy to have government run every area of their lives.” “Big government” is what you all call it, I believe. Short cut for “taxes” and “forcing equal rights for all down folks’ throats”, am I correct? Strange that you launch right into talking about big government and the free enterprise system, but never bother to say outright what you think about the notion of health care for all, which is the issue everyone is up in a roar about. And yeah, as a former broker and accountant I know well that you can’t go on spending more than you take in. But if gutting the poor is what it takes to balance the budget, I’m not for it. If denying health care to the huddled masses (e.g, the poor, the unemployed, and those with pre-existing conditions) is the price we pay to balance the budget, then “hell no.” Excuse my Ugaritic.

“No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick” is the way it circulated on Facebook last week.

There’s gotta be another way. How about: Increase my taxes, and those of Donald Trump’s and “Is any Black person who disagrees with the President a “crackpot’?” so that the forty-nine year old man at her church who just lost his job of 16 years can have health care. Bring our troops home and cut the military budget so that poor women don’t get cervical cancer because they can’t afford the cost of an annual Pap smear.

Guess what? I’m a product of the free enterprise system too and have no doubt benefited from that system in many ways, knowingly and unknowingly. But that doesn’t mean I’m ignorant of its flaws and don’t find myself wishing from time to time for a better, and more humane, economic system for this country. Just because capitalism is the system we inherited and the one we know best doesn’t make it sacred and holy, and hence above critique. And while I’m at it, just because the free enterprise system is the only thing I’m familiar with as an American doesn’t mean I’m dumb enough to actually trust the free enterprise system to do justice and be compassionate to all people at all times. No. No. No. No, I do not trust the free enterprise system (e.g., employers, insurance companies, the medical system) to make both preventative and curative health care available and affordable to everyone. Profit making enterprise have absolutely no interest in doing such a thing. Cure everyone? That would put them out of business.

History has shown again and again and again and again that” systems” do not do the right thing, unless forced to do so. From time in memoriam governments, lawmakers, judges, tribal councils, and elders have had to, step in and intervene on behalf of its citizens and demand that the rich, corporations, systems, institutions, and society treat citizens fair and humanely.  Slamming the gauntlet down and declaring: It’s illegal to discriminate.Pay people a living wage. You can’t seize children and put them to work. Cease and desist from sexual molestation in the work place. Stop dumping toxic waste into the environment. Service and maintain airplanes regularly and routinely to keep air travel safe .

reformLaws are on the books for a reason. Because human beings are not inherently good, and less so are their “systems.”

Have you ever noticed “Is any Black person who disagrees with the President a “crackpot’?”that “big government” always become the war cry of those like you when it’s folks others than yourselves big government is assisting. But let a hurricane  decimate your home, or let another Wall Street investment firm go under taking more of your savings and retirement fund with it – and big government is your Uncle (Sam) whom you fully expect to step in and come to your rescue.

But, is what those people doing any different than what we did during the Civil Rights movements?  We who? You marched in the Civil Rights movement? I don’t think so,

I just don’t want to believe that a black person came up with drawing an analogy between the civil rights marches of the 50s, 60s, and 70s and the Tea party march this past Saturday.That just doesn’t sound like anything a black person would do, certainly not one who knows that the only difference between her and her black great mother is timing and laws.  Turn off FoxNews child! True. Both events are marches. True. Both groups protest some perceived wrong by the government. But the parallels end there. The marchers of the 50s, 60s, and 70s were protesting unjust laws on the books which elevated once race over another and denied rights to one group of citizens based on race and some trumped up notions of inferiority. Saturday marchers were protesting laws proposed to get on the books that are designed to make services available and accessible to all citizens regardless of race or class based on some trumped up notions of manifest destiny.

Is any Black person who disagrees with the President a ‘crackpot’? Hmmm…let’s put it this way: Any black person that disagrees with his O-ness resolve to reform the system and make health care available and affordable to all regardless of color and class, and any black person who sides with those serving cyanide laced racist kool-aid to topple his O-ness’ health care initiative and his administration — is downright foolish.

It just seems that most of time the only people who consistently leave comments [on this blog] are the “Amen Corner.” So today I thought I would offer a slightly different type of comment.

[Neck snap. Eyes narrow.] You don’t say?

Grey Goose on ice. Please.

What’s All This Racket Outside My Door?

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. (Sojourner Truth speaking in 1851 at The Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio.)

Let’s begin with sports.
My girl Serena had a meltdown during the semifinals Saturday night that even folks like me, a Die Hard Serena fan, can’t defend, but one I suppose that’s been brewing for decades given the intense scrutiny and criticism she and sister Venus have been subjected to ever since they bounced onto the tennis courts with all those darn noisy beads in their hair. Here’s hoping Serena uses the toughness and smarts she’s gained over the years and figures out a way (with a good public relations firm) how to recover from the serious damage done to her career and image with her outburst. I agree that Serena did nothing Saturday night that the bad boys of tennis, McEnroe, Agassi, and Connor didn’t do all the time. But I’m not in the mood for whining about racism (nor even sexism). I’m looking for ways for Serena to turn this thing around and get her career back on track.

And then there was Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech Friday night. Who knew the man could talk? I didn’t. As I was huffing and puffing there on the elliptical machine watching the ceremonies I kept thinking that I’d never seen an interview of Jordan in all my years of keeping the sports channel on as background noise when I’m writing.  Jordan offended many in his speech, they say, by refusing to play the role of the gracious giant. Jordan was funny, fierce, and frank in what he had to say to his colleagues about the game, the politics of the game, and his rise to fame. I’m tempted to say something about the white arm candy wearing a rock on her finger he brought along with him to the ceremonies. But I won’t…because I’m bigger than that. At least he didn’t mention her when he started thanking family and loved ones.  Cough. Cough.

 And now a ceremony of a different sort…
Then there was Kanye West’s self destructive behavior at the MTV’s VMA awards last night. Interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for “Best Female Video” to announce that Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.  What the….? Is the boy still grieving his mother’s death and having a problem pulling himself together? Repeat after me: All black people are not stark raving crazy.

But try telling that to Saturday’s Tea Party Activists. Don’t be fooled for a minute. They are part of a well organized conservative wing-nut strategy to overthrow the Obama government. Yeah, you heard me right. Overthrow the government.  Obama and the white male advisors he’s surrounded himself with had better get hip (old school for “wise, savvy, man-up). These nuts are not playing. Toppling the government is their goal. Revolting against progressive politics, against an America that looks different from the one they want, and against a black president, And conciliation and playing nice nice be damned.  Snuff out JFK. Gut Bill Clinton.  Do whatever you have to. Except for insiders, few knew who was behind the deadly political games. But now that a black man is president, the ante has been upped. Lunacy. Anarchy in the halls of Congress. Fringe elements  Crackpots. White women on camera weeping in fear that their children will be brainwashed by the president. Blacks joining Saturday’s Tea Party crackpots, one being a black woman on stage before the mike with a strip of fabric from a flag tied around her neck saying, “I’m here too, and my neck isn’t red.” (It took me a second to decode that one.)  Again, no whining. It’s nasty out there. Tell Michelle to cover up bring the girls inside.  Call the prayer warriors. But, don’t forget to call for your fighting warriors also. There’s going to be blood in the streets before it’s over.

Finally, to those of you who have left comments welcoming me back from blog retirement, thanks but I didn’t retired. I simply got off the merry go round of trying to live up to the expectation  (mine, not yours) that I HAD to post something several times a week whether I had anything pressing to say or not.  I’m not back. I blog when I can and when I can’t keep quiet anymore.