Remember my post here, where I outlined what I believe to be the root causes of some of the behavioural problems affecting black children (and students) in schools in western countries?
This post can be considered to be its continuation.
As you can probably tell after reading that initial post, there is no one single answer to the present conundrum since there are quite a number of issues that need resolving if there is to be any chance in rectifying the situation.
But firstly, considering that reclaiming the afro-caribean or black child involves as much reclaiming their parents as the child itself, if I were to draw a mental snapshot of what I believe urgently needs re-addressing, it would probably look something like this:-
With each symbol representing something that either needs addressing, learning, re-learning, or that needs fixing in some way or form.
Thus, in my view, if society is to make any headway:-
We must address the trauma at its source
via initiatives such as [a] support groups (e.g. anti-substance / alcohol abuse, victims of trauma, anger management, unemployment forums) that refer to, or provide counselling [b] member based financing initiatives (e.g. crowd funding to support members who are experiencing difficulty) [c] Phone lines for children or parents with specific concerns (or for those who need to get something off their chest) to call in for independent and impartial advice or support [d] Food banks (without the stigma associated with them) and crucially [e] using Community Leaders with influence over certain communities. We need more organisations such as Turning Point and Self Help Services, but with a wide range of services, and critically, led by ethnic minorities. But, this will only work if those affected are willing to receive help and improve the situation in which they (or their children) are in…
such as employing teachers to provide free tuition for families that cannot afford it are essential. There are no two ways about it. In order for this to be a success, there is a need for greater community involvement (not only from black parents, but also parents of other ethnic minorities, especially those on low incomes) so that parents are ‘on-board’ as to why such activities are crucial for their children’s education in the long run. And to make things easier for the parents, transportation (and food) would need to be provided by the organisers (possibly an organising committee), essentially a bus and a driver to go around town collecting kids to take them to this central location, where free-tuition, mentoring and other after school activities are provided, say twice or thrice a week.
We have to study African and American history, African culture and African Art
Maybe African culture is too broad a term to use here, but, how do you instill a sense of pride and achievement in young Afro-carribbeans when some of them have been told (explicitly or implicitly) that their people are no good; that they have never made anything of value? How do you get to know why there is a problem in your society without studying exactly how, and at what point things went wrong? When the derailment occurred, and what caused the road to be slippery? If not for information, then at least for a sense of identity. Remember the 13 year old jewish boy example in the 1st part to this post?
Further, we have to write our own history + discredit (rather LOUDLY) the histories which have been written for us (some of which are extremely questionable, and were probably written with bad intentions, to degrade, belittle and subjugate people of afro-carribean origin). This is quite a hard thing to do (but not impossible) because how does one get rid of Rudyard Kipling’s poison, or rubbishing out the likes of Arthur de Gobineau and Georges Vacher de Lapouge, considering there are many people alive today, in western countries, who (whether consciously or otherwise) have a mental bias that conforms comfortably with some of the theories propounded by these men. I know at least 3 such characters in my circles, some of whom make no attempt to hide this bias, at least not to me.
Another problem is that when those who are largely responsible for setting up what I term ‘the racist institution‘ created their web of deceit, they went to great lengths in planting the roots of hatred and discrimination in society.
Their ideas infiltrated all aspects of society from drama and literature, religion and culture, sports, finance, politics and banking, … practically everything, and crucially some of the building blocks and segments of such an institution still remain standing today. In present times the remnants of these beliefs have created an unfair and irreconcilable society in which ethnic minorities are objects of ridicule and scorn.
Yet those with power, privilege, and position, some of whom appear to somewhat benefit from the status quo, and whose equals in ages past (and in some cases, even in the present) believed they deserved a greater share of the world’s resources (by virtue of these same crooked ideas, or by virtue of some rule/law, race, nationality, social background, gender, religion, etc) will not voluntarily renounce their beliefs, or even begin to act to rectify the clearly unbalanced and nonsensical situation that we currently have. Why, because they can’t see anything wrong…Which leads me to my next point
Instead of moaning noisily about why Oxford or Harvard is not accepting more black/ ethnic-minority students, I believe a better way is for leading and influential black and ethnic minority groups, academics, politicians, professionals and other influential ethnic minority individuals to begin to seriously think about why they can’t create their own learning institutions that will strive for excellence; and that with time, experience, and mistakes, can be considered world-class-in the long run; institutions that can give their children a quality education, and instill practical skills and values that will prepare them for a vocation, and for life.
It may be 2013, and yes many naysayers will sneer at the idea. But these are to be ignored, because how many things out there which were sneered upon in their early days have ended up as great successes?
There are many examples of institutions like these in the US, and while there is likely to be vicious opposition from some sections of society, I believe it is an important factor in rectifying the situation for a whole load of reasons, not least because it will instill in most of those who will be involved a sense of ownership, pride and responsibility to this cause. Further, there’s no shortage of prominent individuals of Afro-Caribbean background, including black Americans who can be consulted about such an initiative.
In addition, I believe some of the American colleges and universities listed above ought to do more to help students from other parts of the world receive a decent education. It may not be their call, but I think it would do them much good, by increasing their offerings and broadening their influence, in that it’s not only about offering a scholarship to a child from the Bronx, it’s also things like organising exchange programmes with coloured students from other parts of the world. In order for Africans and Afro-caribbeans to advance, I believe there must be more cultural and educational exchange initiatives. And it doesn’t have to all be grand or fantastical dreams. It can even be as simple as organising short (say week-long) holidays for afro-caribbeans from another part of the world, to visit Europe or America, to give them exposure and enrich their cultural experiences.
Religious instruction and activities
I’d like to say that religious instruction has no material role in helping to fix the current problems experienced by black children in schools…but unfortunately I can’t, not least because there is little incentive for a child to behave themselves, and keep order, if there will be no consequences or rewards. And the threat of a beating from the parent just doesn’t fully do it in my view, as it could create worse problems. Especially when the ‘superhero’ that is Social Services is about.
Disclaimer: I’ve never experienced what it is to grow up in a family where you do not acknowledge the existence of a supernatural being, so I probably can’t force this point too much.
However, what I do know is that there is evidence from research, that suggests that people who hold some kind of religious views are comparatively happier, and lead healthier lifestyles than those that do not. That’s not denying the uncomfortable fact that historically, religion has also had a wicked face to it. But my point is, religious instruction will be necessary not least to instill discipline and create a sense of community in young people. Interestingly, I’ve been to various churches where every summer, parents arrange for the children to go to a summer camp. This is an excellent idea because even those who cannot afford to pay for a ‘holiday’ for their children, are assisted, and the child is accommodated. Further, tied with the idea of a member based financing initiatives, this can be extended to pay for trips abroad, enriching the children’s cultural experiences.
In addition, some religious settings have lessons and activities on issues like parenting, fatherhood, rasing up kids alone, divorce, etc…and as much as some people may not fully agree with the core message offered by the ‘religion’ itself, these other additional offerings may go some way to provide help and support to those who need it.
Role Models and mentorship
There is a need to encouraging role models to give their time and effort into addressing the issue of trauma through personal stories as to how they (or someone they know) overcame certain problems. It doesn’t end there, those in positions of power could go a step further, by offering short internships ( if their position allows them to do so) to students of ethnic minority background, most of whom are hugely disadvantaged in terms of finding employment and getting the jobs for which they are qualified. They could also help provide emotional support to children whose parents for example are getting divorced, or those whose father or mother has been imprisoned, etc. I know that this would take a lot of time, but it also means more ethnic minorities should consider undertaking mentorship lessons on how to be a good mentor, as it will be uselful in the long run.
Skills and training
Another aspect is tertiary training. Not everybody can get a job as a doctor, engineer, lawyer or manager; not everybody can play in the Premiership, or become a Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist that can spin lyrics like Lil Wayne. Certainly not in the present society. Sometimes it will be practical for some of our children who haven’t performed well academically, or who can’t act or sing as convincingly, to try a shot at other of their skill sets (even if it is while they wait for the opportune moment of fame), with a view to adopting and developing that skill set for a living.
So, if a child is dexterous and good with their hands, let them try their hand at an apprenticeship, in a role where they get to develop the use of their hands (even if they are DJying part-time at the weekend). If they have some facility with electronics, let them train to be an electrician…and so on
It seems there is a lot of pressure from parents, for children to excel academically, and to a point this is justifiable as most parents want their children to do well, and traditionally, most Afro-carribbean parents view academic achievement as a safer route to stability, a job, success…
But there are other ways of killing a cat, and afro-carribean children should be provided with all the available options, whenever possible. This will also call for a united approach to raising children.
The Afro-carribean fraternity (that word again) have to develop independent industry. Unfortunately, there are no two ways about this, and a barber shop, hair dresser or convenience store is not really ‘industry’, unless 90% of the people you know buy their goods from it (or have patronised ), and it’s turning over a decent profit for the family that owns it.
Further, consider this: If far too few of your children are being offered jobs they are qualified for by the society in which you live in, and there is clearly a disparity in incomes and career prospects (between those of your children and those for the majority population), why not create your own job(s)? And give those jobs to your own children? Or at least help your adult children create their own jobs?
There are many business ideas out there, from the simple such as running a post office or going out to Asia to buy goods which are then resold online at a profit; to the not so simple, such as setting up an international currency exchange, or importing fruit and vegetables from across the world. One common thing about both simple and complicated is that they are doable :-), and it is possible to make a profit.
It will be essential for parents, and their children to re-learn economics and the machinations of money-making; re-investment, debt, profitability, tax, insurance, and everything else that comes with starting a business, because post-credit crisis, you can’t always bet that someone will give your child a job. In any case, if in prosperous times your children were struggling to get jobs, what about now, when ‘austerity’ is the most commonly used word??
Having said all this, I acknowledge that there are some ‘inflexibilities’ in the ‘system’ which are biased against ethnic minorities, and people of Afro-carribbean origin, and which will make one or more of the above difficult to accomplish. But such inflexibilities don’t make the task(s) impossible to accomplish. What is needed is persistence, unity and increased support from those who have overcome such challenges.
From friends, family, venture capitalists who believe in such causes, crowd-sourcing-obama-election-campaign style, from do-gooders, corporations and others. The more people are united in a cause or specific initiative, one that has clear advantages for a community, the easier in theory it will be to raise the funds for it.
Pride in Africa
Parents of children living in western countries need to re-affirm their pride in Africa. Here, I know there are some people who have had bad experiences with people in their home countries (or with people in countries from which their ancestors, grandparents or parents came from), but this point is important because it will help the child have an affirmation that they belong to a larger people.
Later on in life, much later on, if they do have an identity crisis, those visits to Africa will also give them an option. It can be done via annual trips, reconnecting children with their roots. It sounds cliché, but there are countless examples of young people who have been positively influenced by a visit to the motherland. Also, such visits could pave way for a trade-relationship later on in life…
The dark side
Black children need to be taught from a young age that there are pirates about. Hateful shadowy figures and ‘Mercenaries’ with toxic minds, who they most definitely WILL meet (as long as they live on this planet) as they grow up (be it in school, at work, etc).
Some of these people are manipulative, others are ignorant and opinionated liars who will tell them many lies; a good number will not be pleased if the black child does well, excels or is succesful in some way. To the child, such knowledge alone will begin to prepare them mentally, to guard their minds, against what is to come later on in life.
This is not about instilling pessimism or negativity in children, instead if I am to draw from my own experiences, if I knew some of the things I now know about the world in which we live in, when I was much younger, I think it would have helped me avoid certain places, and certain kinds of people (who unfortunately have had a negative effect on my life), some of whom have created unnecessary problems for me.
This also means that from a young age, issues like alcohol abuse and drugs must begin to be addressed. If one or both of the parents in a house have an alcohol abuse or drug problem, close relatives (or close friends) MUST assume responsibility and begin to talk to those children. It can be in the form of taking the child from home for as many weekends as is possible, to sleep overs, etc… ideally the child needs to experience a healthy environment, they need to know that the circumstances at home are not common everywhere, and the message that a drunk (or ‘drugged’) father is not the typical father must hit home sooner than later. I’m not saying this is necessarily easy, instead what I’m saying is there must be greater involvement and support against negative influences, whether those negative influences come from the parents or not.
for able black / Afro-caribean kids to attend the best schools… It sounds like an anti-thesis of what I just advocated above, but it isn’t, as I never said we should create a parallel society. I’m not going to try to explain it, scholarships are essential and go a long way in helping the child financially. As someone who has won two during my studies, you are just going to have to trust me on this one.
Although this is a divisive issue, I believe It must be encouraged as there is money to be saved. Why have a spare room empty in your house, when someone you know who is also living alone in a space bigger than he needs can occupy it (and thereby save on his bills, and possibly put aside some money for some important purpose that will enhance your community), and you can have an additional £100 a month? Unity and a collective approach to even the little issues has to be harnessed, as its potential benefits could greatly outweigh the initial and minor annoyances.
It is sad to note that diaspora groups do not relate closely and are divided on national, religious and social lines. The Somalis hang around together in small cafe’s in their neighbourhoods, the Kenyans can be found in their own packs, the South Africans appear aloof, the Zimbabweans, don’t even go there…even when some of the common problems affecting all your children are the same. Why can’t there be greater dialogue between such groups. Unified formulation of problems, better engagement and exchange of ideas?
While there may be language barriers to blame for this fragmentation, I believe a united response to some of the problems outlined in my initial post has a lot of benefits for both the parents and the children.