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Dear mama, speak truth to your wayward sons

Updated: March 11, 2012 8:32AM



“As another has well said, to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching. It kills one’s aspirations and dooms him to vagabondage and crime.”

Carter G. Woodson,
The Mis-Education of the Negro

Dear mama, please stop enabling your grown son. For he can never be a man so long as you make excuses for, cajole, coddle or carry him, as if he were still your baby boy — though he is now a full-fledged adult male.

Please stop making excuses for the son who refuses to own up to responsibility. The son who is “man” enough to make babies but not man enough to take care of them. The son who expects women to feed, clothe and cater to him while he spends his “workdays” playing Xbox, smoking blunts and getting toasted with the homeys.

For dear mother, the black man-child sojourning in this broken Promised Land will require more perseverance — fewer excuses — more hope and fortitude — less pessimism and feebleness — if indeed he will succeed.

The world can be a cold hard place for all men — even colder for black men. But the nourishment and substance of mother wit, love, and her stern yet also gentle rearing can be fortifying for all sons.

So dear mother, love and teach the children that their black faces are not a curse or a death sentence. Teach them self-respect and to respect others. And please don’t settle for excuses.

Not from the son who chooses evil over good, or the full-grown son who has never held a legitimate job and has no intention of ever doing so.

The son with money to burn and a brand new “ride,” who insists, even as he showers you with gifts, “I am not a drug dealer.”

So you assert, “My son is not a drug dealer.”

No, he’s an investment banker (wink, wink).

Dear mother, if your children can’t read — or by kindergarten, don’t know their ABCs, nor have been trained to sit, listen and learn — who should we blame?

Who’s to blame if you denigrate your little boy with curse words, heap upon him the residue of your bitterness for his father? Or if you block the relationship between your baby and your baby’s daddy, scorned because he’s no longer with you?

If you spend the child support on everything except the children, or if your children wear $150 sneakers and the latest fashion but have no solid sense of history; or they have flat-screen televisions but no computer; or else clutch handheld video games but seldom a book, who’s really to blame?

“A math book will not solve the problem,” a mother wrote to me, regarding my recent columns on personal responsibility. “. . . If you are going to address this issue, you need to be for real and say what is really going on, and not just something that will please white people.”

What’s really going on? It is that we — black people — have grown comfortable playing the blame game and reticent in discussing the need to heal ourselves.

What precious tools did our enslaved and brutalized ancestors have, except hope, hard work, fortitude and faith?

And what more transformative tools had those who were forced to bear segregation’s cross than the truth that all men are created equal, and the will to die for what was just, moral and right?

And if the hand that rocks the cradle won’t instill in children these fundamental truths — in a day of far too many absentee fathers — then will somebody please tell me, who will?



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