Article by Taki S. Raton
It is sadly amazing to this writer that the degree to which we as a people become more deeply integrated and immersed into the culture and way of another group, the more of ourselves we lose and the more apparent is the abandonment of our communities, our children and even indeed of our very future on this planet.
The State Fair incident is a clear example of this outcome.
And contrary to some of the remarks of our own mainstream columnist, everything is culture.
I have in the past documented that culture provides traits of self-identity, self-evaluation, self-ideal, self-esteem, and self-knowledge which begins with where you are and with an understanding and appreciation of the collective best of who you are; with an understanding and appreciation of the collective best of what you have been and with the promise of the collective best of that which you can become.
In a multicultural pluralistic society such as America, it is the duty, purpose and responsibility of a people – of one culture – to teach, train and inculcate their respective membership with their collective best. Culture is additionally a system of social control defining, shaping and directing the standards of behavior of its membership, particularly it’s young.
This responsibility additionally entails the impartation of such common socio-pluralistic values as citizenship, civility and self-respect.
Dr. Wade W. Nobles in his 2006 work “Seeking the Sakhu” views culture as “representing the vast structure of language, behavior, customs, knowledge, symbols, ideas and values which provide a people with a general design for living and pattern for interpreting reality.”
Quoting Dr. Amos Wilson in “Blueprint for Black Power – A Moral, Political Economic Imperative for the Twenty-First Century,” the author cites Paul B. Horton and Chester L. Hunt from their 1968 work “Sociology” where they note that “From their life experiences, a group develops a set of rules and procedures for meeting their needs.
This set of rules and procedures, together with a supporting set of ideas and values, is called a culture.”
Wilson further shares the thoughts of Anthropologist Clyde Kluckhon who defines culture as all the “historically created designs for living, explicit and implicit, rational and irrational, which may exist at any given time as potential guides for the behavior of man.”
Included in his four characteristics of cultural groups who have historically dominated global commerce – the Japanese, Chinese, Jews, British, and Indians – Joel Kotkin in his work “Tribes – How Race, Religion, and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy” cites the trait of a “strong ethnic identity and sense of mutual dependence that helps the group to adjust to changes in the global economic and political order without losing its essential identity or unity.”
Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan in their text “Beyond the Melting Pot” speaks of the undisputable fact of all ethnic entities (with the exception of the Negro/Black man in America) that each and every culture defines and maintains traits that make themselves “different in its own development” and that particularly important among these what they term “cultural characteristics” was a functional and intact family structure.
The authors note that each ethnic group develops their own unique economic, political, and cultural patterns based upon their “distinctive historical experience, their culture, their ethnically based and defined talents and skills, the time of their arrival into America, and the economic circumstance that they met upon their arrival.
They would submit that all ethno-groupings in multicultural pluralistic America are attached to symbols of their heritage and have a desire and duty to “see members of their group rise to higher career opportunity positions and reflective models of accomplishment and respect.
It is additionally noted that a group’s culture provides the successful preservation, maintenance, protection and generational perpetuation of “critical ethnic characteristics” which influence “patterns of achievement” for their membership in such areas as education, business, and politics.
The point herein is that this is how all ethno-cultural groupings function in the multicultural pluralistic and white male dominated American culture.
And it is totally the responsibility of one’s people to provide the cultural tools, instruction, and paths of Higher Order model attainment for their own respective membership, and in particular again, for their children.
This duty is not the responsibility of other people or of another group. It is not the responsibility of public schooling or of any other institutions outside of the primary culture in question to model proper behavior or preferred societal expectations in its membership.
Such is exclusively the responsibility of one’s culture and this preparation must be done prior to the entering of individual ethno-members into mainstream culture.
In other very clear words, it is not the responsibility of White people to teach our children, prepare our children, groom our children, cultivate our children or mold our children in the way in which they should go.
That is totally the responsibility of African American culture and we have failed miserably in our duties and this failure is now negatively, embarrassingly, and violently impacting locally and nationally on others outside of our communities as in the State Fair, Riverwest, the BP convenience store rampage incidences; Mayfair Mall, the former Northridge Shopping Center, and violent flash mob incidents in Chicago, Philadelphia, Kansas City, St. Paul, Washington, D.C. and in Las Vegas.
Just to recap the thoughts of Kotkin and to a degree the remarks of Glazer and Moynihan, if the culture of a group is strong, solvent and most importantly independent, self-defining and self-reliant, it can and will usually adjust to and prevail over any economic and/or political changes in the mainstream culture of which it is a part.
However, if the culture is dependent, subordinate, and attached to the dominant culture for its very survival as is the case of where the Civil Rights Movement has placed African America, then you will have the social and economic outcomes that we have today in America’s central cities.
Again I need to underscore the point that the State Fair melee on Thursday night August 4 and similar national incidents are a product of our own Black culture. These children came from us.
Why are we or why should we be the only people in the known world who conclude that we should be given a pass on what we collectively produce in our progeny?
And it does not matter if one is middle or of any other social class membership. We are all Black people and should be held accountable for who and what our children turn out to be.
After all, for example, if we are so quick to blame only single-parenting, challenged inner city communities, the economy or even the “r” word (racism), what impact (if any) have all these African American middle-class school principals, vice-principals, central office department heads, staff development specialists, Black social workers, Black school superintendents who directly or indirectly have interacted with our children over the past three to four decades? With all these Black professionals in the mainstream, why are our children and our communities doing so poorly?
I am not at all surprised at our children’s behavior in Milwaukee or nationally. We as a people have literally abandoned them and our communities as compared to the above description of how respective cultures and ethno-groupings function in America. And I am not doing North American enslavement, racism or elements of White Supremacy in this writing as either a reason or excuse. We have done enough of that. And readers who follow me and are familiar with my work would be aware that I can handle these subjects extremely well. But not here in this article.
We as a people have abandoned our children and in kind have also given up on both our future and theirs as well. And they know this and are extremely “pissed’ and frightened.
Our children do not see us fighting for them or standing up for them. Says Eric K. Grimes and Butch Slaughter in their work “Why Our Children Hate Us – How Black Adults Betray Black Children,” our young ones “face particular challenges which often overwhelm their hope. However, the systematic social, educational, and economic disadvantaging of Black children is being responded to (from us) by silence and blame. Instead, our children need to see us stand up for them and not against them in a world designed for their defeat.”
They later add that Black adults “can’t blame their children for our community breakdown.” Children, they say, are the responses and reactions to adult behavior. Children are conceived through adult behavior. Children are conditioned through adult behavior. There is nothing inconsistent about their actions.”
The authors contend that if our children are disrespectful, “it is because they have been disrespected. If they are underachieving, it is because they have been undervalued,” and if they are “striking out” it is because they are “under attack.”
“Chickens came before the eggs,” says Grimes and Slaughter and “Black adults came before Black children. We either prepared the way or we didn’t. We either set the standard or we didn’t. Black children didn’t wander away. Black adults abandoned them.”
Our esteemed ancestor Dr. Bobby E. Wright in this 1984 title “The Psychopathic Racial Personality” shares that throughout the animal kingdom, “there is generally an inviolate law which dictates that the young are to be protected at all cost. Yet in Black communities, not only are children not protected, but in too many cases are offered as sacrificial lambs to the devouring enemy.”
“We have a generation that has been left in the wilderness of contemporary American culture by uncaring, irresponsible adults,” writes Rev. Clarence Lumumba James, Sr. in “Lost Generation or Left Generation.“ He adds in this 2004 title that, “Our children have not been properly taught the best traditions of our people. Therefore they are cut off from the ways of success and are practicing the habits of hopelessness as they wander down the low ways to destruction.’
Returning back to Grimes and Slaughter, they submit that “our children are learning at a very young age that this world doesn’t like them,” and that they are waiting “for Black adults to step up” and save them.
We can fix this! There are those of us locally, regionally and nationally who have done magnificent jobs with our children, with their families and in our communities. To properly, effectively and respectfully resolve these concerns with our children, with our parents and communities is however beyond mainstream representational participation.
At this time and in this particular challenged era, available mainstream and system resources would be requested and tapped (as should have been the effort in 1954).
But conversations and vision would clearly be an all-Black on Black culturally specific discussion and programmatic thrust. We know what to do. We have done it before and have been successful.
In looking at the behavior, positive socialization and competitive academic performance of African American children, we can point to the building of self-esteem, self-ideals, self-knowledge, and self-confidence.
Jocelyn Freeman Bonvillain’s September 21, 2004 study shares that in her sample of 175 seventh grade African American students, that racial identity and self-esteem are predictors of academic performance. She concludes that students “who exhibited high levels of self-esteem and racial identity performed better academically than students who showed low levels of self-esteem and racial identity.”
There was additionally an earlier 1993 study appearing in the “Journal of Black Psychology” by Arthur L. Whaley of Columbia University where in his research findings on “Self-Esteem, Cultural Identity and Psychosocial Adjustment in African American Children,” he found that a strong cultural identity “seemed to be more influential in the (positive) psychosocial adjustment of African American children.”
Black Identity and specific school performances are further supported by Benjamin Harold in the February 2011edition of Philadelphia’s Public School’s tabloid “The Notebook” in his article “Why aren’t African Centered charters running turnarounds?”
Highlighting successful schools under the African Centered banner, Harold spotlights Imhotep Institute as one of Philadelphia’s most successful high schools. Imhotep, according to the article, send more of its graduates – 66 percent – to college than any other charter school in the city and in 2010, of the school’s 525 students, 99 percent of them African American and 87 percent low income, had proficiency rates above 70 percent in reading and math.
Quoting 12th grader Khaliah Arrington, Imhotep’s African Centered approach creates a nurturing atmosphere that more traditional schools can’t match:
“They teach you like your family teaches you. At other schools, you might get good academics, but when you go to Imhotep, you learn about yourself.”
This model is further replicated in Kansas City at the all-Black African Centered schools J.S. Chick and S.B. Ladd, both of which in 2003 received above norm competency testing results from the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP).
The Chick school scored above the state and district norms and the S.B. Ladd program, the first court ordered African Centered school in the nation, met the national AYP (Adequately Yearly Progress) goals of the “Leave No Child Behind” program in mathematics.
Chick and Ladd schools were cited as being two of the highest performing elementary public schools in the entire state of Missouri.
“You cannot build a healthy child. Most certainly, he or she will not have a healthy world view if he or she does not see himself or herself involved creatively in the development or civilization, culture, industry or science,” says literary award winner, author and scholar Haki R. Madhubuti.
Madhubuti and his wife Safisha founded in Chicago the Betty Shabazz International Charter School where in 2006 ranked first in composite test scores among 10 public schools in the area Greater Grand Crossing district where this African Centered academy is the only charter.
According to Illinois State data, both Betty Shabazz outperformed several neighboring schools in the 2006 Illinois Standard Achievement Test.
Culture allows understanding of how a people interpret their world and how they may function within their world from their own unique ethnic frame-of-reference. Culture shapes personal and group values and attitudes to include perceptions of others outside of the primary group; perceptions of what works and what does not work for the benefit of and in the interest of the group; what is and is not helpful towards group health, advancement, community growth, and the needed institution building to service the community, and what makes sense and what does not.
When we as a Black people subscribe to our own exclusive racially identifiable culturally ascendant Higher Order Upline, noting and modeling the very best that the group has been ancestrally and historically and the promise of the perfect best that we can become – as we have been in our “Old School” past – only then while enhancing and building ourselves can we again master and properly prepare our membership (young and old) for humane interaction, civil cooperation, skilled competency and the ability to positively contribute towards the onward flow of progressive humankind ideals in our mainstream pluralistic society.
Citing a closing thought by Haki R. Madhubuti in “Liberation Narrative” from his poem “Too Many of our Young are Dying”: “When our children do not share their young pain, it is a sign of our closed ears and punctured hearts. Do not misread the silences in their eyes. They are seeking sunshine from us–immediately.”
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