I was recently on a shopping trip with my almost three year old when I returned to my car and I found a white van blocking me in, I kindly asked the driver if he could move the van. The driver looked at me with perverted eyes and then went onto to make very rude and inappropriate suggestions, in which I shouted, “how dare you”. My son firmly gripped my hand at this point then shouted at the man “don’t you talk to my mummy like that, come in the car mum”. Once I heard these words from my son, I froze.
Watching my son feel the need to protect me in this situation whilst showing no fear not only had me in utter shock but also fast-forwarded my mind to him at 18 years old. If I’m being honest the thought of my son at 18 terrifies me, I am terrified that I will lose my outspoken, confident and charismatic son along with all my invested time, energy and hard work and all the family efforts would be in vain. There is hardly a day that goes by without the negative stereotypes and portrayals of adolescent black males in the UK.
When I watch the news, read the paper, receive a social media feed about black boys in the UK it will always reinforce exactly how I do not want my son to be. It seems that no matter what I have planned to create, which is a solid foundation and skill set that he will still be judged by the colour of his skin, by his demeanour, or by the type of clothes he wears until he proves himself otherwise, is that fair??
I remember once before I had my son a close friend of mine said she didn’t want her son wearing tracksuits or hoodies at that point I couldn’t appreciate her reasoning however now, having had a son of my own I completely understand the reasoning.
With all these negative labels and stereotypes I am strongly considering sending him through private education to ensure he gets an exposure of different circles whilst minimizing the negative peer groups, he is more likely to interact with at London inner city state schools. My own turmoil with the private education is I accept there are other issues faced besides knife, gang and gun crime. I also don’t want him to lose his cultural values or identity I have taken time to in-still in him. So would strategically placing him in private education system avoid/minimize the stereotypes and eliminates him possibly becoming one of the black males we hear on the media?
Unfortunately we’re experiencing a generation raised on reality TV, social media and a rap culture far removed from a social climate that our parent’s parents grew up in that sparked lyrics such as James Brown’s “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m proud, and Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).”
Expecting a community or person to value the life of others, when they have no love for self, is like expecting a baby to run, when they haven’t learned to walk — it really is not going to happen without proper knowledge and understanding of where they have come from.
In the words of Frederick Douglas, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”. What I understand from this quote is that it’s the responsibility of parents to teach a love of self at an early age. This is a family value that is paramount, and impacts how children grow, learn, and interact with each other in the big wide world.
Studies have proven that the first five years of a child’s life the brain develops faster than any time in their life.
Therefore as a mother it’s paramount that my main focus during these vital early years of my son’s life will be to endeavour to build an unbreakable, levelled foundation that allows for my son to uphold himself as a strong black male character in society.
A society in which sadly constantly portrays the black man in a negative light and that highlights their failures and not their successes.
It’s important for me to quantify the extent of our issues within the black community in the 21st century. It’s concerning when you analyse these statistics as it clearly outlines the knock on effect that growing up in a single parent household, deprived areas, low income families can manifest.
Did you know the biggest percentage of lone parent households is among black ethnic group?
- 48% per cent of black Caribbean families have one parent, as do 36% of black African households.
- Single-parent families are less common among Indians (10%), Bangladeshis (12 %), Pakistanis (13%), Chinese (15%) and Whites (22%). Mothers head 9 out of 10 single-parent families.
- Did you know that children who grow up without their biological father are more likely to be unemployed, commit crime and leave education early, according to research by think tank Civitas. They are also twice as likely to be homeless.
- Did you know that out of the British national prison population, 10% are black and 6% are Asian. For black Britons this is significantly higher than the 2.8% of the general population they represent.
- Overall black prisoners account for the largest number of minority ethnic prisoners (49%).
- Did you know that 9 out of 10 street crimes, knife crimes and gun crimes are committed by men rather than women.
- 12% of London’s men are black. But 54% of the street crimes committed by men in London, along with 46% of the knife crimes and more than half of the gun crimes, are thought by the Metropolitan Police to have been committed by black men.
*Please note that crime statistics have to be approached with extreme caution, because it is very easy to leap to conclusions which are not justified by the figures, these figures could highlight the extent of racism within the metropolitan. (Let’s not go there right now)
Iyanna Vanzant once said “we can become so afraid of them (our sons) failing that we forget to affirm their success” but with the statistics I have just shown isn’t it hard not to be afraid and worried.
I have memories of my grandparents, parents and even myself responding to the commonly asked how you doing with “I am surviving” or “just trying to hang in there”. I just don’t believe that our ancestors envisioned their future having such limited aspirations. That’s why history is so important because if our children are taught correctly and informed of their “true” history they would have a burning spirit for real freedom, liberation and self actualization. Our children need to know what hypocrisies happened to our ancestors.
Many say that happened years ago let’s forget it and move on. I say surely the torture that was experienced has had some impact on us today but let’s look at it from a positive and ask what can be learnt from slavery and our ancestors?
Our ancestors valued an education the brilliance demonstrated in Africa and the threat of death in slavery if found studying should inspire youth. I encourage all who are exposed to our youth to fuel them with a burning spirit to do more than survive and hang in there. We need to develop more current positive and historical images that give the youth positive self-images and discipline.
I hope that from this article it has raised some questions, given you some critical statistics and made you think about (whether you are a parent or not) how crucial it is to teach our off springs and youth the importance of self worth, self respect and most vitally our history as black people. I leave you with these words of wisdom. Know where you came from to know where you are going. Know whom you came from to know where you are going.
Deshaea is a Mother About Town
This article is originally featured in
the October – November issue
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