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Ling is a counselor of Eldorado High School. She also has her own counseling practice of adolescents and family. She's a mother of two daughters. She worked at the University of New Mexico part-time and received a Bachelor of Science degree at Kentucky and her master's at the University of Kentucky and her doctorate at the University of New Mexico. Thank you. I've been asked to speak this evening and I really do always appreciate being asked to come out to speak. I'm black and I'm a woman and I've worked for many, many years. So I think that qualifies for me to speak on the subject which is the black working woman's perspective on the black family. Did I get that all said correctly? Very good. I am also a mother so I think that gives a little credence to my being able to speak on the subject of the family. Several years ago I put together a course here
on this campus called the black family and since that time I've really been intrigued about the black family as a separate entity. Prior to that I had thought of the family as the family and that there was some kind of amorphous thing called the family, whatever that was. But in preparing that course I came to see that the black family had some very unique features which made it quite different from other types of families. So I want to talk a little bit about that from that point of view. Like Marcia I've been trained in sociology so some of what I say will have sort of a sociological perspective and I'm presently working in counseling and psychology. So some of what I have to say will be coming from that orientation. So hopefully I can wed the two points of view and make this rather meaningful for you. I think here in America we have two nations.
We have as it relates to the black family we have had those two nations since the first blacks were brought over and deposit in Jamestown. At that time they were not slaves, they were indentured servants. And we developed those two sets of people, two sets of values, two sets of standards. There was however one government. Although the umbrella of the one government did not always shelter equally the black population as it did others. Now America is made up of many people. As we all know, many people from many, many different parts of the world. And America had sort of a theme of the melting pot. And although she melted a number of people, several of them were excluded from coming into the pot. And consequently there has always been those two nations side by side or well not side by side. One sort of envelops the others.
We're like a letter inside of an envelope. Then in the late 60s and 70s something happened. There was what was called a revolution. And many people spoke of the great American revolution in which black people were working for their freedom. And many of us can say that we won those battles. We won them because we achieved unprecedented rights and privileges and responsibilities which we lived up to in a very admirable way. But something happened at the same time that we were winning those battles. And that's what this is what I want to stress this evening. I think we neglected something. I think we neglected the home front. And I want to talk about that home front. And the effect that the home front is having up on the continuation of the nation that was achieved. You can look at any of the literature
that was written during that period of time. And you will see the word nation applied to black people in a number of ways. It was considered a normal combination with a nation. And some people even talked about establishing boundaries for a nation, a government, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. In those two environments at the time when we came together in, quote, integration, we brought together people who had lived here under the same government, who had shared the same land, and yet had a number of different points of view so that when we technically brought the blacks and integrated into Anglo-America, we brought people together who had a distinctly different historical background. So it was necessary for us to begin to teach the history of the black people. And history was placed into the school systems. And history was taught in the school systems.
And this is a true indication of a collective people when there is a unified body of history that's taught in a structured way so that people can learn about themselves. Because without a history, we are doomed to the great philosopher, Asante Ano. If we do not know our history, we're doomed to repeat it. So black Americans enjoyed, for about a period of four years in some places, five in others, the history being taught alongside of American history in mocks to the public schools. Other groups also had history placed into the curriculum of the public schools. Then something happened. Something happened very much as the great orator of earlier times, sojourner Truth, one of the historical ladies from our history, who said the Constitution was a great document. But inside the Constitution, there
was a little weevil, as she called it. She was talking about a bowl weevil that gets inside the cotton and eats away from the interior so that from all outside appearances, it looks like you have a perfect bowl there until you open it up and look at it and you see the weevil has eaten it up. Well, to me, from my point of view, that is what is happening to the black movement. And that is what is contributing to what I call the death of a nation. Is that there are a number of little weasels that have somehow gotten inside and have eaten away at the core of what this whole movement was all about? And I think the family and the direction in which the family has taken is tantamount to what's taking place in the total national perspective. If we learn a revolution, we lost the battle on the home front.
And how do we do that? The statistics show us that there are enormous changes taking place in America, period. Some terrible things are happening to our young people. The statistics are just appalling when we read them. There are over a million youngsters who run away every year and are out into the world on the streets alone and all with that implies. Over a million teenage mothers and an overwhelming, well, that an overwhelming, but a disproportionate number of those teenage mothers are black girls under the age of 15. And teenage motherhood has a number of implications and certainly doesn't care with it a semblance of strength for the future. Black mother, young teenage, black motherhood, can look forward to contributing to the development of youngsters without the adequate home environment and which we come to think that a child needs in order
to grow up to become a responsible adult. These young mothers aren't able to provide the environment that are needed for the youngsters. They are not able to provide the food clothing and shelter. Biological research, scientific research has shown that in the first two years of life, if a youngster is deprived of proper nourishment, there is irreptible brain damage, which then interferes with the ability to learn. So if we are not providing that kind of development for our young people, we cannot expect to have a strong generation to follow. Research has further shown that young children who are deprived of the contact, the love, and the nurturing that goes with a family that has a mother and a father and other people to provide that kind of emotional support. There's something that's lacking that allows us
then to grow up insecure without direction, sense of purpose, a true self-esteem and identity. Teenage motherhood carries with it the implications that youngsters will be deprived of two of the very things that are necessary to help them to grow and to become adequate adults. Another statistic, suicide, 500,000 teenagers in this country attempt suicide each year, somewhere between 10 and 15 actually achieve it. Now that is deplorable. But when we think of the larger population around us, then we look at the smaller nation, the core of the black nation, and we see something that's overwhelming. There has been 130% increase in suicide in the large majority of people, just people in general. But that is something like 300% in the black population. Our teenagers are killing themselves at a rapid rate.
And in the early 60s, we both fully proclaimed suicide was not a black problem. And suicide is exploding in our young families. Suicide of some of our better minds is a tragic loss. Suicide is a tragic loss in any situation. But to a small number of people living inside of a land that has been hostile to them, suicide of our young people is something that we cannot afford. Another statistic, homicide is the number one killer among black males under 21 years of age. The hicular homicide is the number one killer of young males, young white males under 21. So that we can see that there is a general trend of things that are taking place with our young people. There is a decline of something.
And while I deplore that decline, wherever it affects people, when we're talking about the black population, we can least afford that. We put everything we had into that revolution. And we went into that revolution with hundreds of years of preparation. We went in with people who had had that single-minded purpose. At some day, we shall overcome. And now we're rearing a generation for whom that reality is history. And we no longer teach that history. Black history is no longer taught in the public schools. The history that we do get is the history via the media. Now there's nothing wrong with it. Except in a minute, I'm going to talk about one other little thing and I want to pull that together. Look at what is being shown on television. And you will see the black people being depicted again as victims, another weasel.
How does that weasel affect our thinking? A victim is a person who is helpless. A victim is a person who perceives themselves as unable to change the course of events around them. Now the book that came out, Blaming the Victim, was a great book. It showed us a perspective that we had overlooked. That we weren't where we were by choice or the linkancy on our part. We were there because we lived in an environment that had been hostile. We lived in an environment that had constructed things in such a way that we were never allowed to reach our full potential. And that was a revelation. But when a people accept the syndrome of victimization, a people gives up the whole reality that we have any control over our lives, that we, in fact, can control our futures.
And along with that, we would have to give up that there is a better tomorrow, because we're waiting as a victim waits for something to happen. One of the first things that we do with victims of any crime is that we try to give back to them a sense that they do have some control over their lives. The fear that goes with being a victim, we try to find ways to help a person eliminate or at least control that. If we have accepted into our whole way of thinking collectively that we are victims, then we cannot begin to take control of our lives. We cannot have a generation that would carry on. We shall overcome. We would lose that, which has been a vital part of our strength as a people. My grandmother used to raise daffodils, and she raised them in the same spot every year. And the ladies would come by and admire her daffodils.
And she'd say, thank you, but come back and see them next year. But with the statistics as they are growing and the effect that they're having up on the Black family, we won't be able to say that. Next generation will be better. That has been something that has been a guiding light and a source of comfort and strength to the Black peoples collectively. It's coming in the future. It'll be better for the next generation. The weasels that have entered into and eliminated some of the things that we want on that battlefield, that revolution. Another weasel that came in around Black history. And I just want to use this as an illustration to show a little tiny concept can enter in and then sort of undermined and destroy something very valuable that has been achieved. History was taught.
And somehow we were given the idea of we were Black, we knew that history. Fallacy. Why do we teach history, American history, to everybody, from the time we start school until the time we graduate from college, for many of us? If American history is so important, that it's part of the school curriculum, the time a kid starts to school until the time it graduates at least from high school, how could we, as a Black people, know our history when it had been hidden from us? When I was a graduate student, I went to schools during a segregated time. There was no Black history available, as written in books and such. Word of mouth, yes, we had an oral history. I went into the Lyme Brewer and there was an archive upstairs. And I went up to go into the archive to do some research. And they said, you have to be a graduate student to go in here. I said, I am a graduate student. It said, you'll have to bring something that
shows your graduate students. I went back and got my little card, brought my little card, presented it, and I was allowed into the archives. And there I discovered something that I never knew existed. There I discovered book, after book, after book, that contained the history of my people that I had never laid eyes on in all of my life. My history had been relegated to the archives. And yet when, as a result of that revolution, we pulled that history out of the archives and placed it into the curriculum. We, as Black people, bought it for our children that they knew their history. I've lived it. We couldn't have lived it. Nobody lives a history. History is a story that is told so that we can remember who we are so that we can collectively have an identity. And without that, there is no identity. The weasel that came in, we allowed it to move around. And we lost another battle on the home front.
Because without that history, our children will never know who Martin Luther King was. To us, it was a great reality. It was part of our lives. We were there. We knew what was going on. But the young people today, Martin Luther King is a name that will appear in history books. Without that history book, it'll mean nothing to them. All of the other great people who made great contributions will die away without that history. And we allowed that weasel. Where were we? Where were we? That when we reaped that harvest, we had empty bones because the little weasel had gotten in. And we didn't recognize it. Land. Land was something that we, as a people, had picked up at the end of the Civil War and up until that time. And we cherished that land. It meant something to us.
In the Depression of 1929, when the cities failed us, the few of us had gone to the cities, we trekked back to the land, or we sent our children back to the land. And grandparents were able to eke out a living while some of us remained in the cities and helped to find some kind of income to send back. But today, if we compare that land at the end of the 1929, with the land that black people now own, we've lost 70% of our land. Where would we go if need be? We won a number of rights in the area of economics, the right to employment, equal opportunity. And our president just announced that one of the first things that will be eliminated in this present administration will be the need for equal opportunity. Where will we go if the doors are all shut again?
Must we fight that battle all over again? And if we do, have we, as the family people, are we rearing our children with the kind of strength that can go back out on that battle front again? Not if 84% are beginning to experiment with drugs. Not if our kids are becoming so promiscuous that they are into things that they can't handle. And we're producing a generation of young people that will not have the proper nourishment nor the proper direction. Will we have the strength that we had when we went into the battle the first time? The black family has been, my opinion is and always will be the strongest element that we will ever have in our vie for freedom in this plant. And anything that takes away from that
is going to diminish the ability of black people as a collective people to survive. I'm gonna talk about leaders, I said I was gonna talk about leaders, I wanna talk a little bit more about the lack of direction that comes. Young, young black people are not interested in being black. Young, young black people don't identify with being anything. Too many of our young, young black people have no identities. Now that's a rash statement, somebody could call my hand on that. But it worked with young people every day, I've worked with young people over the past 20 years. And I've seen the changes as they have occurred. People without an identity have no direction. Who am I? What am I all about? I don't have the slightest idea.
The family conveys that. Where is the nucleus of the family? Statistics again will tell us that there are more single heads of households and black families than any other group. Now that can occur for a number of reasons, I'm not going to debate it or try to explain it or talk about it. I just wanna talk about the results of. When there is one parent, regardless, or color, race, creed, or whatever, when there is one parent, something is taken away, unless there is something to replace that parent. When that parent is both provider and nurturer, something has to be removed, unless we have something else. And most of us don't have brennies around anymore. That can sit home and provide that nurturer's while we are out doing whatever we need to do. We need to fill that gap. It's a challenge to all families.
To the black family especially. Are we going to fill that so that our children can come home to something other than a latch key? The term originated with us, latch key, latch key children. Children who came home. Little children who couldn't reach the door knobs. And this is, I'm not exaggerating. Mothers had to leave little stools on the doorstep so they could push the stools up to reach the door to unlock it and get inside. What does that child do? Who answers that child's questions? Who helps that child with its curiosity? And who listens to the problems that that child has had for the day? Another weasel that came in and helped us to lose the battle on the home front. What's needed? I can stand here and give you three things that are needed in the black family or any family.
Respect. If you work in the public schools you are very much aware of how little respect young people have for older people. And I don't mean old people. I'm talking about just adults. We're losing good teachers and large numbers because they can no longer tolerate the disrespect that's being shown to them by kids. Those teachers who are less assertive and less strong don't last very long at all. The tougher ones hang around. Or they become very tough and very irritable and hate their jobs. Respect. Respect starts in the home. Respect can only be nurtured when there's somebody there to make the proper corrections immediately. Someone who has the time to devote to children. Wearing children is a difficult job. It's not easy. It's not something that kids can do all by themselves. Now I'm not offering a solution as to how that's going to be done
because I don't know. Somebody else will come along who can inspire that. Somebody will come along who will know exactly how to bring that to fruition. All I can do is raise it as a proposition that somehow we need to do something that develops the respect in our homes. Where young people respect themselves. They respect elderly people. I think it's a shame that old people are being mugged and victimized in their own communities. And young black people are the perpetrators. I'm not ashamed to say that. I am ashamed to say that. But I'm not ashamed to speak the fact on that. I think it's a disgrace and something that we need to address immediately. When I was young, you could walk in any neighborhood if you were an elderly person and you were treated with respect. Elderly people locked themselves inside both the doors and it's not even safe to stay inside. Responsibility.
Actually, we can call these the three hours of character. Respect. Responsibility. In order to teach young people how to be responsible for themselves, their own behavior, their communities, somebody has to be there. And when there's a deviation, somebody has to say, what did you do? Was that a responsible thing to do? Could you have done it another way? But if there's nobody there to provide that guidance, how are young people to know? Just condemning them is not enough. How are we going to find ways to provide the kind of training that helps develop a responsible human being? What's regarding that is reasonable rules. We learn respect, we learn responsibility, when we're subjected to reasonable rules. And we have a voice in those rules. And the consequences are swift. Again, that implies that somebody will be there.
Somebody will be present to make sure that I follow those rules. I said I'd only speak 30 minutes and it's eased right up there. So then you can think, how would you do something like that? Where do we start? Federal funds are gone. And I think we have relied upon federal funds for a number of things. And I think it's made a difference. But I also think federal funds sort of builds in an internal weakness. It sort of gives us an idea that somebody else will do it. Maybe because I have bridged the generations. And maybe what I'm speaking from is another experience. But I don't think so. I think the government has a responsibility to all of its people. But I don't think the government can ever do for us what we won't do for ourselves. Maybe we need community mobilization.
Maybe we need simply to start two families sitting down and talking about how can we make this happen? Maybe we need people who go into the schools and say, we want to develop respect in our children. We want to develop them into responsible human beings who will accept the responsibility for their behavior rather than project that over there. They did that to me. And therefore pity me. I can't be held responsible for what I'm doing. Somebody I am sure will pick up the challenge and make that happen. Because unless we do, we've lost our history. And with our history we've lost a collective identity. A dying history as a dying people. We're talking about a disinherited people who are losing their land at a rapid rate. And the first sign of extinction of any species is an interruption of its habitat. We're talking about the fate of people who are beginning to view themselves as victims.
Not people of power in self-direction, but what has been done to me. Victims are helpless and hopeless. And they feel the loss of power. Unless we can stop the flow and the direction of events that I've just described. I truly fear we're looking at the death of an nation. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Black Women and the Family
Iola Harding
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KUNM (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
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A talk by Iola Harding, Ph.D, counselor at Eldorado High School, about the black working women's perspective on the black family.
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Producing Organization: KUNM
Speaker: Harding, Iola
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Duration: 00:30:00
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Chicago: “Black Women and the Family; Iola Harding,” 1985-02-14, KUNM, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 21, 2024,
MLA: “Black Women and the Family; Iola Harding.” 1985-02-14. KUNM, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Black Women and the Family; Iola Harding. Boston, MA: KUNM, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from