Sunday, October 30, 2011

Preserving the Black Family

I've been looking for more information on this author all week. She was pretty controversial back in the 80s.  She discussed a lot of the problems that we have that cause us to have failing and unhealthy relationships, single-parent homes, lack of leadership and other issues that cause us to pass down problems to following generations. She wrote quite a few books, but the two books that were the most controversial were the relationship manuals she wrote for black men (The Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman)
and black women (The Blackwoman's Guide to Understanding the Blackman).

From what I know about mainstream feminism, there is the idea that women shouldn't be required to play a specific role within the [nuclear] family, if they choose to have a family at all. For black women, they have issues to deal with on two fronts being both black and women. And their hooking up with the white feminist movement kind of help take the black man (who, being black has common problems), out of the driver's seat and create a more submissive role for him in the family and relationships in general. The best example I can give in response is the quote "being a strong black woman doesn't mean 'have a bad attitude'." And a lot of times, families break up because of drama caused by either the man or woman being so "independent" that they felt they didn't have to respect themselves or each other. The child is just there soaking it all up and that's how the following generation gets left to fend for itself socially, intellectually, and/or financially. Not only that, but these types of problems are even indirectly supported by the government through the requirements needed for aid programs like housing, medical, and other forms of assistance that may require the man be absent from the home. If our families and relationships were more functional, we as a people wouldn't need to depend on such programs to the degree that we do.

For those who caught on to her jargon, Shahrazad Ali is a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI). According to the NOI and their idea of the most efficient family structure, the black man (original man) is the leader, provider, protector of the family. The woman supports him (shares the same goal/idea, and showing it through her actions) and teaches the kids. From that, many feminists would say that the woman is being treated like property, or a subject of the man. That's not to say that there's no room for individuality, but one person's individuality doesn't take precedence over the good of the family or community. Personal freedom is good, but should be limited when it comes to maintaining the welfare of a relationship or family unit. And that goes for both men and women.

According to Malcolm X, each member of the family had a set of classes related to their role in the family.  They basically have 3 sets of classes. One for the men to learn subjects relative to their primary role(self-defense, how to get/keep a job, how to keep a woman, etc). One for the women to learn about subjects relative to their primary role (general housekeeping, raising the children, how to keep a man, and how to act at home and abroad). And finally one where they both congregate at the same time. The men also have to take a section of the womens' classes which includes general housekeeping duties and how to act at home and abroad. The idea is that a man can't expect a woman to do something that he can't do when it comes to maintaining the house and family. So it's not that one can't perform the generally accepted tasks of the other. They have their own respective duties that allows their partner to handle their own responsibilities. Of course a member of the NOI could explain their perspective on relationships better than I could, but the points that Shahrazad makes are still valid in repairing our relationships today. The historic concepts and forces that she explains and points out throughout her videos are still relevant, 20 years later.

Polygamy and inter-racial relationships are added to the discussion on a talk show in this video

A continuation

 Finally, I end with another video of Shahrazad's discussion coming to a more positive end.

Notice that when she's speaking by herself the message gets across clearer than it does when she's on talk shows. Once we can get past the sensationalism and compulsive habits in our everyday, personal conversations then we can start progressing toward healthier relationships and stronger families - the economic and political power will come with that. But we have to start by looking at ourselves first, acknowledge the good and the bad, and change to make the relationship work.

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