By Aminisha Black
The Imus Affair
Have we really left our children’s self-concept at the mercy of individuals such as shock jock Don Imus? Don Imus’ description of the Rutgers University female basketball team is the latest instant of individual (or private club) thoughts to slip into the public arena initiating yet another controversy. Ho Hum!!! If the protest was about needed FCC regulations, great. But if the protest was about our children being devalued by Imus, rappers or anyone else – I say we need to take responsibility and change some of our habits, meaning our actions and our words.
A major process ensuring the success of slavery was to implant a consciousness of personal inferiority. Here we are approaching the second century mark after Emancipation Proclamation and we’re still feeling inferior? It bothers me that we give folk like Imus so much power in impacting our children’s self-concept. What is our role in their development? What are we adults (parents, teachers, etc.) doing and saying in our daily contact with youngsters to let them know how special they are? How are we modeling the spirit of Africans who were taken from their homeland, suffered and survived horrific physical and mental abuse? Who, in spite of the circumstances expressed their innate genius making valuable contributions to the very society that enslaved them.
Personal Inferiority Perpetuated
Contrary to African tradition, American culture promotes competiveness, the better/best syndrome, placing money and status over family and human relationships. We are conditioned to compare ourselves to others, striving to have more or be better than they are. We pass this on to our children when we compare them to their siblings or to others – making them feel less than or for that matter better than others. We’re conditioned to judge, put folk down, even our children. Too often they leave our homes angry or hurt and go off to school filled with hostility. This is life in America period and descendants of slaves carry excess baggage in the form of post slave traumatic syndrome as defined by Dr. Joy Leary.
An uncomfortable truth is that we will continue to transmit feelings of inferiority from generation to generation until we uncover and heal the effects of the niggerazation process. Our children are more likely to be devalued by personalized remarks made in our homes and classrooms on a regular basis than by random generalized remarks by media personalities or other folk they don’t know.
Pamoja, my first-born took a human potential course in his late twenties. There he uncovered a memory of his excitement about being placed in an Intellectually Gifted Class (IGC) in elementary school. My response was “all classes should be IGC classes”. My young son was left with “nothing I do matters” that although hidden, affected his life. I sent my children through this course after I had uncovered a memory of crying to go with my mother to church and she not taking me because my hair wasn’t combed. I had short, nappy hair and my father was trying desperately to comb it. I was left with “I’m not good enough”. Recalling that memory allowed me to work through buried emotions, heal the source of conflict with my mother. It also allowed me to heal the conversations “not good enough” and ” failure” that stemmed from childhood and teen years.
Dr. Leary’s Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome powerfully documents the lasting effects of trauma. Her examples of inherited behaviors challenges us to look at what we do and what we say to our youngsters. It’s a call for us to abandon the role of victim so they can reclaim their genius.
African philosophy acknowledged that every soul came with a purpose and was therefore a valued member of society. Our job as parents is to be courageous enough to discover who we are so that our children will get who they are. We must practice the Seven Principles daily, grounding them in Kujichagulia so they repel the notion that any person or group has the power to define them
*NYC Youth – 14 – 21 – SYEP application deadline May 18th. On-line filing available at www.nyc.gov/dycd – seven week program – $7.15 per hour.
*Young Adults -out of school and debating whether to go to college? Check out City Year – volunteer work with weekly stipend, transportation and other benefits. Visit www.cityyear.org or call Stephanie Gillette at 646-452-3633.
*On-line advice column for teens focusing on teen relationships and domestic violence at www.safehorizon.org
*5O page Scholarship Directory listed by filing deadlines – by email only- firstname.lastname@example.org.