Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Black and white ways of child-rearing

September 23, 2014

Brittney Cooper, who is black, wrote for Salon about why black parents are often so authoritarian and white parents are often so permissive.

In college, I once found myself on the D.C. metro with one of my favorite professors.  As we were riding, a young white child began to climb on the seats and hang from the bars of the train.  His mother never moved to restrain him.  But I began to see the very familiar, strained looks of disdain and dismay on the countenances of the mostly black passengers.

They exchanged eye contact with one another, dispositions tight with annoyance at the audacity of this white child, but mostly at the refusal of his mother to act as a disciplinarian.  I, too, was appalled.  I thought, if that were my child, I would snatch him down and tell him to sit his little behind in a seat immediately.

My professor took the opportunity to teach: “Do you see how this child feels the prerogative to roam freely in this train, unhindered by rules or regulations or propriety?”

“Yes,” I nodded.

“What kinds of messages do you think are being communicated to him right now about how he should move through the world?”

And I began to understand, quite starkly, in that moment, the freedom that white children have to see the world as a place that they can explore, a place in which they can sit, or stand, or climb at will. The world, they are learning, is theirs for the taking.

Then I thought about what it means to parent a black child, any black child, in similar circumstances. I think of the swiftness with which a black mother would have ushered her child into a seat, with firm looks and not a little a scolding, the implied if unspoken threat of either a grounding or a whupping, if her request were not immediately met with compliance.

So much is wrapped up in that moment: a desire to demonstrate that one’s black child is well-behaved, non-threatening, well-trained.   Disciplined

I think of the centuries of imminent fear that have shaped and contoured African-American working-class cultures of discipline, the sternness of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ looks, the firmness of the belts and switches applied to our hind parts, the rhythmic, loving, painful scoldings accompanying spankings as if the messages could be imprinted on our bodies with a sure and swift and repetitive show of force.

I think with fond memories of the big tree that grew in my grandmother’s yard, with branches that were the perfect size for switches.  I hear her booming and shrill voice now, commanding, “Go and pick a switch.”   I laugh when I remember that she cut that tree down once we were all past the age of switches.

via The racial parenting divide – Salon.com.

I think there is a lot of truth in this.  How parents bring up children depends partly upon whether they see the world as a harsh and dangerous place, or whether they see the world as a place of opportunities to be explored.  (I’m writing now about normal families, and not about messed-up families without any real parenting).

The differences are not just between black and white families.  Blue-collar families, of whatever race, tend to more strict than upper-crust families.  Contrary to the stereotype that some black people have, not all of us whites are affluent, college-educated professionals.

I think there also is a generational divide.   Looking at the generations in my own family, my grandparents were much tougher disciplinarians than anybody would be today.   That was because of the customs of the times.  Nobody then would have thought that slapping or spanking a child was a form of abuse.  But those customs were a product of a much more demanding and unforgiving world than the one I grew up in.

One of the problems of the children of the Baby Boomers was that so many of them were raised to live in a kinder, gentler world than the one the found themselves in.

I think it’s tough to be a parent.   I don’t know how you strike the right balance.

The passing scene: Links & comments 6/19/14

June 19, 2014

How Inequality Shapes the American Family by Lynn Stuart Parramore for AlterNet.

We are always free to choose, no matter what our circumstances.   But we are not free to choose the options we have to choose from.

Lynn Stuart Parramore wrote that our choices as to when to get married, whom to marry and whether to stay married are limited by our life circumstances.  And those life circumstances are shaped by how much money we have.

There’s an old saying: Half the world doesn’t know how the other half lives.  And another old saying: Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes (at least in imagination).  These are things to keep in mind when judging the life choices of people in circumstances other than our own.

Making Schools Poor by Diane Ravitch for the New York Review of Books.

A judge in California ruled that teacher tenure is a violation of the state constitution.  His reasoning is that tenure protects ineffective teachers, that poor and minority children have a disproportionate number of ineffective teachers and that tenure is therefore a violation of their rights.

Ravitch wrote that the problem with this is that financially-strapped school districts will tend to lay off the more experienced teachers, whether effective or not, because they are the ones that are paid the most.

Not covered by the decision: Overcrowded classes, the elimination of arts programs, or the lack of resources for basic needs, including libraries, librarians, counselors, after-school programs, and nurses, all of which disproportionately affect poor and minority children.

Julian Assange Hopes New Information Filed in Swedish Court Will Remove Arrest Warrant by Kevin Gosztla for The Dissenter.

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past two years rather than be extradited to Sweden to be questioned in a sexual misconduct case.

He is afraid of being re-extradited to the United States on espionage charges because of all the secret information he has published.  He offered to go to Sweden if he was assured he won’t be re-extradited, and also offered to be questioned where he is.  Sweden has refused both conditions.

Kevin Gosztla noted that Sweden has meanwile passed a law that you can be extradited unless there is an actual criminal charge against you.  Assange has not been charged with a crime, but the law isn’t retroactive to him.   Gosztla also noted that Swedish prosecutors have traveled to foreign countries to question suspects in other cases, including murder cases.

Assange’s lawyers are working on a new appeal to Sweden to set aside the arrest warrant, and also are appealing to the United Nations Human Rights Commission on the grounds that Sweden violates international human rights treaties..

The Pig Punisher: Building drones to fight devious crop-devouring hogs by Yasha Levine for PandoDaily.

The real enemy within.

The ideal family

May 16, 2012

The conservative Christian writer Rod Dreher believes that the ideal family consists of a man and woman committed to stay together and to raise their children to be healthy, responsible adults.

My good friend Walter believes the ideal family is more than that.  It includes two sets of grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins as well as brothers and sisters.   He thinks children need all kinds of people in their lives – a crazy uncle, a sympathetic aunt, an adventurous cousin and so on – that they can relate to and they can see as examples, good and bad, of how to live.

I think Walter is right.  Sadly, though, this ideal isn’t always attainable.  I have divorced women friends and a widower friend who’ve had to bring up their children on their own.  It was a lot tougher than if they’d had a partner to share, but the children turned out all right.

Click on Some Burkean Thoughts on SSM for Rod Dreher’s argument that a society disintegrates when people regard marriage as a contract rather than a sacrament.  My problem with his argument is that, even if I were convinced he is right, I believe or disbelieve in religion based on what I think is true and false, not on what I think is theoretically best for society.  Maybe that shows I am a product of the individualistic American culture whose bad side Dreher deplores.

Anyhow, the data indicate that families are most stable, divorce rates are lowest, fewer children are born out of wedlock, etc., in the so-called blue states where social attitudes are most liberal than in the states where conservative Christianity is strongest.  That is not necessarily a criticism of conservative Christianity; as Jesus is quoted as saying, it is the sick and not the healthy who need a physician.   I take Dreher’s argument seriously, but, at the end of the day, I am not willing to make good people suffer in the name of a theoretical ideal that may or may not be valid and may or may not be attainable.