by Taki S. Raton
It has been this writer’s position that when speaking to the downward spiraling issues of Black male youth – anti-social behavior, poor school performance, homosexuality, crime, incarceration, etc. – you are too late.
The focus should be and should have always been on the Black adult male; on the presence of an active Ethnically Potent (EP) father coupled with the quality and substance of grown Black men and the resources that they can provide, command, and control to model and fashion the highest order of cultural integrity, economic sustainability, academic excellence and a documented African Centered legacy in all fields of masterful accomplishment unto which our progeny (the males in particularly) can be proud to grow into , become and carry forth to even higher absolutes.
Such a “Higher Order” (HO) is clearly defined from the Black man’s own ancestral foundations and experiential lessons learned from successes and failures revealed throughout their presence on the world stage from humankind origins through current day realities.
The concept of Ethnic Potency is clear. It is the ability of the man of a culture to reproduce the Highest Order model of himself – i.e., the best of who he is, the best of what he has been ancestrally and historically, and the promise of the most perfect best of that which he is capable of becoming in his tomorrows.
He must first have the ability to Higher Order reproduce himself in men of his own kind. Second, this Higher Ordered culture and unique “Way” of life must be reproduced by the women of his race and reflected in every respect in his institutions which he defines and controls in accordance to and within the exemplar models, needs, expectations, and vision of his community.
And lastly, Ethnic Potency demands that the men and the fathers of a culture have the power, ability and command to eternalize in their future the Highest Order Perfect Best (HOPB) of who and what they are as a people and cultivate and flourish this HOPB first and foremost for themselves into their own tomorrows (into their children), and second cultivate their HOPB as a responsibility to the multicultural mainstream arena of which they are a part such that their unique ethnic “Way” as a distinctive culture can be progressively contributory towards the onward flow of pluralistic humankind ideals.
If this does not happen, if such a man is not present in the culture in question – for whatever historical or current day reasons – then in the words of Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1933), that race will have to justify its reason to exist. And as the African proverb instructs us, the destruction of a race begins in the homes of its children.
If you want to gauge the strength and quality of a race of people, then just look at the behavior of their children and the status of their women and families. Such a view will tell you the quality and substance – or lack thereof – of the men of that particular ethno-cultural group.
And even elephants are aware of this fact. According to a March 28, 2013 Techyville reading as posted by Dr. Boyce Watkins, founder of Your Black World Coalition. Headlined “Homicidal Teen Elephants May Explain Impact of Mass Incarceration, Single Parent Homes,” scientists at the Pilanesberg game reserve in South Africa just west of Pretoria were faced with a dilemma as to why teen elephants were randomly murdering rhinos.
Rhinos, it was reported, were being found with “gaping hole” wounds in the shape of elephant tusks. The trampled trees at the “scene of the crimes” let scientists know that elephants were likely responsible for the homicides. These killings were not natural as positioned in the report. Elephants “don’t normally kill rhinos, except in instances where they feel that their young are being threatened,” it is noted.
The scientist also witnessed a group of teenage elephants who tried to kill a rhino right in front of them. They tracked this gang of three, shot them all dead, and the killings stopped.
The scientists soon realized that the reasons the teen elephants were engaging in the random killings is because the ecosystem had been thrown out of balance. An “ecosystem” is formed by the interaction of a community of organism (life forms) with their environment. Within this context, in order for the organism to survive, there must be a balance between the life form and the environment in which the life form exist.
The Techyville post adds that normally, mothers drive their male children from the heard around 15-year-old. The males then typically join up with a “gang” of other elephants who are led by a male who “keeps them in check.” The unique problem in this particular reserve is that there were no adult males to serve as a role model to the young elephants, which led to the “violence and chaos that eventually ensued” as quoted in the account. The animals would “aggressively” test their strength on other animals, leading to several rhinos being killed.
Quoting Clive Walker, chairman of the Rhino and Elephant Foundation of Africa, the teen elephants’ behavior “was primarily driven by childhood trauma from watching their parents being slaughtered, and also by a lack of parental authority during their developmental years. Many of them had been displaced (in the Pilanesberg reserve) to protect them from hunters who’d killed their loved ones.”
Dr. Watkins concludes that although he is not an expert in animal science, that is it is still “difficult not to see the parallels between what happened at this animal reserve and what is happening to millions of Black families across America. Watkins list the so called “War on Drugs,” gun violence, the mass “exodus” of economic and educational opportunities and the growing Black male incarceration rates as causative factors in undermining the abilities of men to serve as providers and protectors of their families and communities.
This writer would further maintain that a group’s socio-cultural “ecosystem” must be maintained and balanced no matter what occurs in the environment. This is what the men of a group/race must be able to accomplish. I would further add to Watkins’ list such impediments as social integration, Affirmative Action, where everyone else benefited except the Black male, and the feminist movement which literally “captured” and misdirected cross generationally huge numbers of African American women – all combined throwing the Black American socio-cultural ecosystem out of balance.
What do you get a generation later, Watkins’ ask? “Millions of angry young Black teens who’ve had very little parental guidance and almost no male role models to support them. The secondary impact is a great deal of senseless violence occurring in the cities, as gangs become the families that many of these boys never had.”
Returning to the above opening premise of manhood and Ethnic Potency. Such a consideration is not Black male (or elephant) specific, but is a natural law as it relates to the role of the male species, a man, or men, in any society. Jim Sheridan in his academy-award-winning work “In the Name of the Father” stated that “If you want to destroy a society, remove the fathers.” As cited in a Wednesday, February 6, 2013 Canada Free Press excerpt, David Popenoe in “Fathers, Marriage, and Children” posits that “The presence and activity of dads in a culture is so important that they cannot be removed without precipitating social collapse.” Per notation in this Canada writing titled “Is Fatherhood Being Killed so the State Can Play God?’ writer Kelly O’Connell positions that, “From a practical viewpoint, a world without fathers is rudderless, lacking principled leadership.”
O’Connell shares that in contemporary society (and I might add that this is very apparent in Black culture) that the acceptable notion in what he terms “undercutting fatherhood” and men’s contribution to family life is reflected in the current popular culture trends, to cite a few: a) Make marriage into a very weak intuition; b) Sexualize the society; c) Develop a culture that heavily stresses individualism; d) Deemphasize the importance of children to the continuation of society; e) Overlook the importance of fathering when discussing male gender roles, and f) When fathering is discussed, don’t mention that fathers are unique and irreplaceable as protectors, challengers, disciplinarians, and guides.”
A report released in February 2013 by the Urban Institute on the state of the African American family, that by “almost every measure,” the status of African American families have declined since the 1960’s with reference to the 1965 Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan report, titled “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” Moynihan said then that “at the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family. It is the fundamental source of the weakness of the Negro community at the present time.”
He further attributes the deterioration of the Negro family to the absence of the Black male in the family structure. He wrote then in his conclusions that, “There is one unmistakable lesson in American history: A community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationships to male authority, never acquiring rational expectations about the future – that community ask for and gets chaos.”
Moynihan predicted then that such a community, such a culture would find itself in what he terms a “Tangle of Pathology” that would become a self-fueling, self-generating and self-destructive cycle in the Black community regardless of what the government or “others” do or not do. This “Tangle of Pathology” he predicted 48 years ago would manifest itself in a downward spiral of increasing juvenile delinquency, joblessness, school failure, crime, and fatherlessness.
Our Black socio-cultural “ecosystem” has to readapt itself to the surrounding social, political, and pluralistic mainstream, and to the future demands of the societal fabric in which African Americans now find themselves. Nothing right now is working. We – Black male and Black female – are totally out of balance with each other, and the Black community is out of accord with the realities, demands, standards and challenges of present day society. We further are without any collective plans for the future growth, survival and stability our race.
There is a lesson to be learned here, even from the elephant, regarding men, Black men in particular, and the culture of a group specifically. It does not matter what may befall a people – be it war, enslavement, discrimination, “Jim Crow,” racism or the supremist ideologies of others. Most if not all men in the world will always rely on the quality, substance, resources, lessons, historical/ancestral models and guides of their own unique “Way” to adapt, balance, survive and master whatever circumstances in which they and their people find themselves.
The ways of “others” exclusively, do not and will not serve us. This is why integration – as it was presented – was, still is and will continue to be a damaging dynamic for African Americans and for our children. Believe it or not, our enslavement in this country may have been among one of our proudest moments relative to how we adapted, balanced, survived, and mastered our peculiar condition. We also demonstrated mastery during Jim Crow, well through the “Old School” era and into the Black Power and the Black cultural movements.
History will reveal that the only time that we really “gave in” or “caved in” as it were, and began to go into this downward spiral (Tangle of Pathology) was during the 1970’s and in particular from 1970 into 2013 – again, drugs, the economy, guns, violence, integration, incarceration, Affirmative Action, the women’s feminist movement, more guns and violence from the 80’s onward, increased incarceration, mis-education, popular culture genres attracting our young, the psyco-academic holocaust war against Black boys (Umar Johnson), LGBT – all of this and more just over these past 43 years.
Where is our balance Black men? When are we going to abandon the ways of others that cannot and will not serve our interest and the progressive collective welfare of our children, of our families, our communities, nation and race? When are we going to rescue, reclaim, reinterpret, reconstruct, restore, and resurrect our Higher Order Perfect Black to rebuild again the best that we are, the best that we have been, and the promise of the very best that we and our children can become in our eternal tomorrows? All that we need to know is in our history. This Sankofa path is there for us to follow, to build upon and to love ourselves – all over again.
Taki S. Raton is school staff consultant in the African Centered instructional model and an adjunct professor at the Springfield College Milwaukee campus. He is host of his own Internet radio show “MenThink” on Harambee Radio & TV and can be reached by email for presentations and consultant inquires at: [email protected].
by Taki S. Raton