It all starts with the family

Opinion: Arlene Jones

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By Arlene Jones

Columnist

To begin to heal the fractured and devastated black neighborhoods that exist all over this country, we first need to heal the broken black family. The family was once the refuge from all of life's trials and tribulations. Cousin Jesse or Uncle Bubba was where we could go to find peace, solace, joy or respite. The black family — from the nucleus to the extended — was there to support one another. That support included knowing your family members; you could meet someone and know they were your uncle's cousin's brother-in-law's people.

As a community, we were steps out of slavery, surrounded by Jim Crow laws that perpetuated segregation in a society so entrenched that we had no alternative but to embrace other black people. Black families knew how to stretch one chicken to feed 20. Black families could take rice, add butter and sugar and make a meal. That love for each other fortified us with the moral strength to take on this country, individually and collectively, via the Civil Rights Movement.

Yet what should have rooted us firmly together has sadly been undermined. A once vibrant black business mindset and a black nationalist mindset have been replaced by a welfare mentality that alludes to the government being our savior while in actuality that government — from local to national — has been the catalyst for our ruin.

Many people question how we have gotten where we've gotten. If one sits back and looks, the attacks against the black community have been strategic and constant. If you don't believe that, why is it we lost all the gains we once had prior to the signing of the 1965 Civil Rights Bill? Why don't we still have car dealerships, grocery stores and strong, filled-to-the-brim business strips as opposed to foreign-owned greasy spoons and storefront churches? Why are far too many of us focused on a "Heaven" that comes after death while accepting the "Hell" that we have here in life?

I believe it started with the systematic attack on the black family, both from outside forces and the acceptance by far too many of us of negative behavior by family members within the black community. In the 1960s, we looked at females who gave birth out of wedlock as having made a singular "mistake." But there wasn't any tolerance for a second one. Males and females were encouraged to marry and become a family. If a person became a fiancé or fiancée, a ceremony would take place within a year or two.

If one knows our history, you know that black people as a whole have been the most studied people in the entire history of this country. It began with how to enslave us, continued with how to keep us enslaved, and graduated with us embracing and perpetuating enslavement as the "norm."

What is the cure? The cure is as simple as the Matriarch or Patriarch taking a stand in their family — a stand that states, and means, what will and will not take place under our roof. And "under our roof" also means out on the streets as well. It means we need to address how we raise the children. That means lots of hugs and kisses and not slaps and profanity-laced shouts. It means slowing down from this fast-paced society and concentrating on family needs. It means changing our wayward family members with guidance that is focused on the long term.

And most of all, it means monitoring ourselves to make sure we are not the problem before we lecture others.

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