Family Values | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Family Values

"It's up to the family." I always cringe a bit when I hear a variation of that statement. Or: "Where was the family?" Or worse: "If these thugs had a father around, they'd know how to act."

Usually those phrases are used about African Americans, uttered in a fit of blame and abdication of responsibility, and often to justify why the speaker opposes efforts to help "at risk" families (close your eyes; see any white kids?), whether through funding "adequate" education or funding public transit so people can get to work and feed their families.

"Well, if their families would only do their part ..." (voice trails off, eyes roll).

I agree. The "family unit" is vital. We all need role models, mentors, supporters. All kids could all use a meal around a table with their mom and dad every night. And, yes, "good" kids tend to come from stable families.

But I abhor the barely disguised racism--the undertone of "if they would just raise their kids like I'm raising mine, then they wouldn't do drugs, rob, get in trouble, go to jail." You can almost hear them proclaim: "Black people don't know how to raise good families."

That's a vicious lie. But it's a lie that many (white) people believe because, well, they don't know what they don't know. And it's a lie perpetuated throughout our brutal race history--the one that folks like Haley Barbour and that governor of Virginia would rather us not revisit. They sure don't want (white) folks to know, and to retell, the truth.

And here it is: White America did everything in its power to destroy the strong family values of African slaves. Our ancestors bought and sold human beings (which they called "product," clearly to dehumanize their own sins), and they split families. They beat, killed, mocked and hobbled the heels of slaves so they couldn't run away back to their families. They took babies from mothers and fathers; they hung daddies from trees if they tried to protect their families; they stuffed victims' privates in their mouths to send a message to others.

Our history as a state and a nation is filled with atrocious efforts to destroy the self-esteem of black men. During the entire arc of slavery and then Jim Crow laws--which did not end until the U.S. Supreme Court finally acted in 1969, sending thousands of Jackson families fleeing to the suburbs and white academies--white supremacists worked diligently to de-moralize and criminalize black men. Their excuse was fear that those men would rape women with my skin color, even as many of the white bigots raped and impregnated black women that they "owned."

So much for family values.

Once the Supreme Court got up the nerve to end the codification of white supremacy in our state (when I was in third grade), the white power structure didn't suddenly get religion and decide to help reverse nearly two centuries of institutionalized bigotry, or help break the cycles of violence and broken families that racism codified by law had created.

No. Instead, the drug war became a tool to pack our prisons with people of color, and then take away their right to vote. The irony, of course, was that the rich and powerful supplied those extremely addictive drugs to the "ghettoes" created by white supremacy.

The anti-thug rhetoric changed slightly but continued. As a child, I heard constantly how violent black men were; that "we" never went into "those" neighborhoods; that African Americans were lazy and shiftless--more language and lies of slavery times. Meantime, I was not taught that white people had devastated the black family in the first place.

And I sure never read Mississippi's Articles of Secession. In fact, I didn't until a year or two after we started the Jackson Free Press. By then, I had left the state for 18 years, studied race history in graduate school, returned home and started a newspaper here named after a Movement paper. I must have heard or read thousands of times the revisionist trash that the Civil War "wasn't about slavery." (Always uttered with extreme condescension toward those of us who can't "get over" the past.)

Then I got an unexpected e-mail from a family member in Neshoba County. He had read another nonsensical exchange on the JFP website where some dumbass scolded the rest of us for daring to mention slavery in the same sentence as the Civil War. My relative told me to go read Mississippi's Articles of Secession.

So I did. The document, born just down State Street in the Old Capitol, begins:

"A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union. In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery--the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin."

Make no mistake: Mississippi seceded from the union and our soldiers died over slavery, leaving many of their own children fatherless. Our state then subjugated former slaves through the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws, and later practices such as red-lining. Our power structure worked to keep black citizens from voting and "mixing" with whites through laws, unfair sentencing, and continued rhetoric that vilifies our black citizens, especially young men and their families.

Yes, every family needs to do its part to (a) know and (b) reverse the effects this disgusting history has on each of us: white, black and other. We are a different Mississippi now, but denying our history and its effect on our families will doom us to keep repeating it.

It takes us all to break the cycle.

The Jackson Free Press will not celebrate Confederate Memorial Day April 26.

Previous Comments

ID
157331
Comment

Bravo Donna!!!!! More thinking like this needs to be championed in more centers in influence in this state. Your points "..the rich and powerful supplied those extremely addictive drugs to the "ghettoes" created by white supremacy" and "...I was not taught that white people had devastated the black family in the first place." point toward a systemic critique that is not welcomed in the political and social seats of power around this state. But make no mistake, many Black Mississippians are as apt, if not more, to blame the current state of the black community in MS on a lack of "family values" as much as White Mississippians. It is a culture of religious fundamentalism (that, at times, can become anti-intellectual) that translates into more conservative social perspectives that needs to be challenged more in the public discourse, which you are doing everyday with this great newspaper. Thanks for all that you do!!!!

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2010-04-21T11:36:37-06:00
ID
157334
Comment

Thank you, Donna.

Author
JSL1
Date
2010-04-21T12:03:13-06:00
ID
157338
Comment

Great take Donna, Let's also remember that the "plan" to continue to destabilize the Black Family and Black Youth is designed into the current welfare to work system. Man or husband in house?...no help for you. Throw him out and you and your kids can become the children and wives (concubines and chattel?)of the Man. The Earned Income Tax Credit does offer some relief for working and intact families, but it is a poor substitute for a living minimum wage and an effective education system. But you see these wage and education reforms would lend too much dignity to being less than wealthy.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-04-21T12:27:20-06:00
ID
157341
Comment

Thank you, all. This one had to be done. And thanks to Gov. Barbour for his inspiration.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-04-21T13:10:46-06:00
ID
157352
Comment

Great job, bravo bravo!! To FrankMickens above, did you also know that to live in Section 8 or tax-credit housing, you cannot be attending an institute of higher learning? Nobody in your home can attend anything past high school, or you aren't eligible to live there. Think of it this way: You make $8-10/hr, have one child, and live in either Section 8 or tax-credit housing, and you are able to get by just barely by not having to pay much in rent, driving an older car and not having a car note (or just having a friend drive you to work, or walking or biking where possible), and you have food stamps to help pay for food. However, you'd LOVE to attend college so you can at least get an AA and maybe get a raise or a little better job. You would be evicted and have to live somewhere that costs $700/month or more, up from...$100something. While you get a little bit from Pell to help pay for school, but that won't make up the difference in rent payments. Now, what would you rather do? Most people just stay where they are. It's nearly impossible to attempt the alternative.

Author
nfields
Date
2010-04-21T17:27:23-06:00
ID
157357
Comment

To FrankMickens above, did you also know that to live in Section 8 or tax-credit housing, you cannot be attending an institute of higher learning? Are you serious? How are people expected to improve themselves?

Author
golden eagle
Date
2010-04-22T10:13:23-06:00
ID
157358
Comment

nfields said "To FrankMickens above, did you also know that to live in Section 8 or tax-credit housing, you cannot be attending an institute of higher learning? Nobody in your home can attend anything past high school, or you aren't eligible to live there." NF, if this is true woe be onto all of us! How about a source for this statement? I'm looking in the CFR Regs for this, but save me some time and provide a link. Thanks.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-04-22T11:50:57-06:00
ID
157359
Comment

To nfields< My initial research found this link. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2126975/student_eligibility_criteria_for_section.html Very confusing at first reading; however, the author sums it up with this statement: "Confusing? Yes, it can be. But what confuses me the most is that if a person was not a student of higher learning but stopped their education at high school or earlier, whether or not they are dependent or independent no longer matters. You can have been claimed on your parent's taxes every year and have lived in their home every day your whole life and move right out and in to Section 8 subsidized housing. Fair? Hmmm. Believe me when I say that I think our welfare system is out of control and is being abused by many, MANY people who could be doing more for themselves (not all, but many) and I don't think that more government assistance is the answer. But we seem to doing something wrong when we offer better benefits to those who do less for themselves rather than those who are working toward a more independent and financially sound future. I wonder what kind of message we're sending our student's (who're usually scraping by to make it through school) when we tell them they would be able to get housing assistance if would just drop out of college?"

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-04-22T12:12:00-06:00
ID
157378
Comment

BRAVO! Wonderful story on so many levels! I'm a little older than you, similarly grew up here, & similarly (as a white person) have listened to the racist crap all my life. It's one of the reasons I'm a Democrat! Keep up the good work! Sara Anderson

Author
Sara Anderson
Date
2010-04-22T14:42:13-06:00
ID
157379
Comment

I tried to post this on Facebook and got a message that it was blocked because it "was reported by users as having abusive content". Were you all aware of this blockage?

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-04-22T15:20:52-06:00
ID
157382
Comment

I just posted it on my page, Clifton, and it worked fine. It's probably FB being contrary; try it again.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-04-22T15:43:50-06:00
ID
157384
Comment

I was able to finally get it to post! That message had me thinking there was a conspiracy against the JFP!

Author
CliftonWhitley
Date
2010-04-22T15:59:34-06:00
ID
157385
Comment

There are a couple, Clifton, but they are a bit more local and trifling than Facebook. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-04-22T16:08:51-06:00
ID
157386
Comment

There is a book recently published called "The New Jim Grow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" that says many of the things Donna says here, but goes even further to say that mass incarceration is now being used a means of social control for Blacks and Latinos especially. The book is written by Michelle Alexander, a law professor at Ohio State. The book is beautifully written and a great history lesson on Black Americans for those who don't know the history. Every Black person interested in the plight and survival of the black family ought to read this book for sure, and others too who are interested in justice, equality and progress. She says today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you become or is labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination - employment, housing, denial of right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps, other benefits and the exclusion of jury service, all are then legal to practice against the situated persons. She goes on to say people who have been incarcerated have little difficulty identifying the parallels between these systems of social controls. Once prisoners are released they are relegated to a racially segregated and subordinate existence, and confined to the margins of mainstream society and denied access to the mainstream economy.

Author
Walt
Date
2010-04-22T17:19:39-06:00
ID
157399
Comment

Painfully inspiring, Donna. Since being exposed to your writing(s) like this one I have experienced one of the true meanings of "If I am not a part of the solution I am part of the problem." (I am white and male, btw) You have helped me become aware that I have to acknowledge and address my own bigotry, fear & denial in order to have an authentic voice in this conversation. Thank you.

Author
Jack Blasingame
Date
2010-04-23T09:35:19-06:00
ID
157416
Comment

Are you really going to discount the deterioration of the family unit so off handedly as it relates to the problems society is facing in today's age?

Author
bill_jackson
Date
2010-04-24T14:40:03-06:00
ID
157417
Comment

"Discount"? "Off-handedly"? No comprende.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-04-24T14:45:51-06:00

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