This a chapter from Philosophical Street Chronic, my second installment in a 3 book series about the state of the 21st Century Black Man, Woman, Child and Community.
As a child you only know what’s inside the home or within the close proximity of your home. This is where your environmental education begins. You imitate what you see your parents do, so if those things are good, then you will imitate good, and if they are bad, you will imitate bad.
So what happens when things that are really bad, are not perceived as being bad by your parent/s? I will use parent in its singular form sometimes for this book because studies have shown that children who grow up in single parent households are more prone to negative societal behaviors, than children who grow up with both parents in the home. This is in no way saying that single parent households can’t develop good children, as I am the product of a single parent home and I am a positive influence on society.
As a child, growing up poor has its ups and downs (ups would be considered downs by middle class and upper class people) but you rarely notice them as long as food is on the table and you have a place to sleep at night. Those who don’t have these basic necessities end up adopting the “I’m Just trying to Survive” Syndrome earlier in life. As you get older and want the same things that your friends have, but can’t get them, is when you really find out what being poor is all about. This is when you start to question your parent, because you want to know why you can’t have these things also. What happens at this point will be what you base the rest of your life off of.
If your parent sits you down, and have a good talk about why you can’t have the things that your friends have, and they can soundly demonstrate to you why this is so, you may be able to maneuver out of your poor upbringing as you get older by making sound decisions and working hard for what you want and ultimately get. If they can’t explain it well enough, or do what a lot of parents do, say “don’t worry about that”, then you start to look to the streets for the answers. Even if you are the product of a 2 parent home, and receive erroneous teachings, you are still likely to fall victim to some of the socially negative behaviors that plague poor Black communities. So, if you are the product of a single parent household, it becomes even harder to overcome the negativity and wrong teachings that a lot of Black children grow up experiencing in their home and neighborhood environments.
Children who grow up in single parent households in middle class communities do far better than those in poor communities because of the surrounding ecosystem that doesn’t allow the proliferation of negativity on every street corner. This gives the child far less encounters with negativity and a greater amount of positive people to learn from directly. This will help later on in life when indirect peer pressure kicks in.
As we know, poor communities are breeding grounds for drugs and crime even when the poor community is a white one. Now take into account that the vast majority of Black people in America are growing up in poor communities and are in the lower tax brackets. What does this give you?
It gives you what we have seen for the past 30 + years in Black America. It all started with where the home was located, how many parents were in that home, and how financially stable that home was.
The poorer the neighborhood and parent, there is an increase in bad decision making and it shows in the very communities we live in. Although these communities were basically created to handicap Black people we must now understand that just because this is where we grew up and what helped create who we are, we all can leave it behind and become a better person, just as a lot of Black men have done over time. You don’t have to be the product of your environment if you choose not to be.
Although it starts at home and is key to your early development, it can be overcome and you can become something better than what the ghetto has to offer, and it starts by knowing that it is possible.