Monday, November 15, 2010

In The Absence of Black Shame

Shame – “The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another: He/She was overcome with shame.” The opposite of ‘Shame’ – Pride, Self-Esteem, Self-Respect.

As long as I can remember I have been somewhat introspective. Maybe it was all the sociology, psychology, and self help books that lay around the house as a kid. I’ve never really had a problem looking at myself and honestly pointing out my flaws and short comings. That doesn’t mean that I changed, but most of the time I was fully aware of my faults. Most people and groups (social, racial, economic) I interact with don’t seem to share this same introspection. In fact I often face passionate defensiveness when I point out a particular flaw. So I expect and can almost guarantee that I will face passionate criticism from my community with my position on the lack of ‘Shame’ in the Black Community, but criticism doesn’t make my position invalid.

I recently read an article that quoted a study that showed in 2008 72% of Black children we born into a single parent household. It is no longer an anomaly to see girls from 14-18 pregnant. We have culturally embraced being a “Baby Mama” or a “Baby Daddy”. Multiple births by multiple males (not fathers) are rarely criticized. And many other examples that I think have contributed to a continued decline in the Black community. I have to wonder where the shame is. When the church no longer consistently scolds teenage pregnancy where is the shame? When it’s cool in school and the community to be pregnant with no education, no job, and no husband where is the shame. It’s an insidious pathology when we have made our shame our pride. We have created and reinforced a community that attaches pride to a pregnant teen. Young girls have spoken of a renewed level of self-esteem and self-respect when they are pregnant without a dime, education, or plan.

Children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults, and have their own children out of wedlock. If I am going to be a statistic I would rather choose my statistic. In other words if statistically I have a higher chance of being successful financially by graduating from school then that is the standard. If statistically my children will have a better more productive life with a complete family then I will choose not to conceive until this is my situation. I’m not naive enough to think that everything is guaranteed but there has to be a plan for success.

James Brown sang, ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’ not too long ago. During a time where we were proud of education, proud of family, and proud of success. There needs to be a serious reevaluation of what ‘Pride’ means to us today. In the same vain we need to define what ‘Shameful’ is. I unfortunately struggle to clearly define what’s truly shameful in the Black community today. ‘Snitching’ comes to mind. Being a Black republican or speaking out against President Obama, but all of these examples are meaningless in regards to changing the plight of the Black community. I know it’s hard to truly be introspective when it comes to self, the church, and our community but it is only with that honest evaluation and subsequent actions, that we will ever make any meaningful progress.