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The future of the Black Family Up next evening exchange. You know if we believed everything we read in the paper or saw on television we would think the black family is dead or at least dying. Even though the strength of the black family has been a bridge over troubled waters for many of us. Joining us to talk about the strengths and evolution of the Black family is Dr. Andrew Billingsley author of the new book Climbing Jacob's Ladder the enduring legacy of African-American Billingsley. Welcome to even thank you because I'm delighted to be here. Once again thank you for inviting me. So often we read and hear about the famishing black family I think some years ago CBS did a documentary that had that specific title. Sure is the black family vanishing of course not that title you
write CBS did was one of Bill Moyers so-called docu dramas a few years ago in which he talked about the vanishing like family. One of the reasons why you know that some well-meaning people analysts get misled when they look at the black family and see some different patterns of family structure is because they. But I understand that dynamics of African-American culture you know it's it's like Ophelia's ago when handing Glazer did a study on I think it was in New York and it had a chapter on each group in each group they had a section on the history of this particular group the history of Italians in history the Irish and the values and the culture. But when it got to the negro chapter it said the negro is only an American he has no history. I don't know is it to grow to be mentioned in your book. Well yes well that's that view is still cut current. People say well these people are not like us. They're different exotic and so they try to find strange things about about our people. So the black family has to be viewed in a particular historical concourse where you don't do that you missed a point.
But let me show you the defendant is not vanishing they're some 35 million African-American people in the world today in the country today. And and the overwhelming majority of those who live in families of the 10 and a half million households 7 1/2 million family households I mean 70 percent of all households are family households. Families are different kind to be sure different structures but families people who belong to each other who responsibly each other. Let's talk about the vanishing. Let's talk about the difference in family structures because you pointed out in your book that the so-called nuclear family was not indeed a gift from Apple it wasn't something that dropped out of the sky. I see you read the book. We've got that. People tend to think of this thing called traditional family means nuclear family and that have dropped out of the sky. Give our viewers some understanding of where the nuclear family and that concept came. There's still a view in American society scholarship public affairs in the media a notion of the family and a husband
and wife with three children or two and a half children where the husband works and the labor force and the wife is a full time homemaker. That is not true of any group in America had not been true for a long time and it has not been true for a long time for African-Americans. The fact is that in say a hundred years ago African-American families just one generation after slavery were overwhelmingly in so-called traditional stable has NY families with their children. These tended to be sure we're still not quite the same as European American families they were surrounded by extended families aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and so on who were very much a part of the intimate beta day workings of those families. In addition that these families were surrounded further by people not related to them at all but who were part of the family they were adopted by the family or adapted into the family. And they function as family members so that's the traditional African-American family pattern. It's not the same as a traditional European found a pattern. But today of course 100 years later that has changed. Radically and it has changed dramatically because while there has been an increase in the
number of husband wife families over the years and that's not generally known them or has NY families in a black now than last year than 10 years ago and so on. But the thing is other forms of family life and living arrangements are increasing more rapidly and so the relative proportion of housing white families has declined. But there is still the concept of extended family and you point out you pointed out way back in your first book Black families in a way to Merkel back in 1960 that indeed a lot of this had to do with going back to 17th century Africa trip that Alex Haley later made for more personal reasons. Exactly but in which you point out that the notions of family structure in the African-American community did at least except for our backs are influenced by that and maybe even partly Exactly in fact now we can go backward for that but the thing is about by 17th century and Europe the family was who was married to whom that was a family and that's something. After West Africa the family was well that was a family OK if you may have some of us a family but your family
only because you unite two peoples two groups not just individuals but in addition there is another way of being a family. Who are you related to by blood. The lineage is as important more important than the marriage tie. Do you know what a family is. So we have inherited from the African tradition a broad concept of the family the family is part of the community. There's a saying from Africa that says it takes a whole village to raise a child. We used to know that very well in the African-American community in times past it's been waning in recent you become more European eyes and more American eyes and more middle class and so we're losing some of the African heritage but family is a large thing still and I and our community we still have. And I mention in the book some people still have aunts and uncles and all of this talk about a lot of us. Second because you point out that the concept of nuclear family was a response to the increasing industrialization the US of Europe and the United States that it wasn't something that God simply said This is the way you should live and study in the original kind of family that we had here it was the original
family was going out of the hunting and gathering era and people launch wandering and nomadic groups. That was a family. And then the agriculture era rose and more domesticated animals and so on then we had large land based families all over the world and there were more extended comics in families today. And in this country in the south and the rural agriculture era the large extended family was in the nuclear family is a product of the industrial revolution a very recent phenomenon and it is that it is very adapted to that era. It is not adapted to the new rising high tech civilization and so we're getting different kinds of families. Indeed so people who run around saying traditional family values means a father a mother and two and a half children in the home are in fact speaking about a very recent tradition so to speak in terms of history exact vary but you also find people who say that well how could. Dr. Billingsley be saying that the black family is enduring and progressing when we have all of these single parent families out here isn't a
single parent family by definition a dysfunctional family. Of course not my definition and I've said so in my book and I don't have some data but a lot of examples of families single parent families at a function quite well. And so they function quite well because they have some other resources to help them make up for not having a man resident in the family who's willing to come up to the census at all times and so what we need to look at Kojo is all of the different types of family structure we have for example in the African-American community today. We have a launch. We have five or so different structures. We have a large and increasing number of individuals who live alone. The single person households I don't like men and women more women than men but I don't large numbers of them who constitute maybe 25 percent of all of the households that's increased. Phenomenon in part because people are not getting married as early as they used to. In public US people are not getting married at all sometimes in part because of the divorce rate. Individual living alone. And so if you say that
it's a large and growing segment that decreases the percentage of the two parent families. But to say that individuals are living alone is not to say they all have families. They can be very much related to their family as act not to mention in my book my own two daughters who are grown but they are very much a part of the family so to say that this is a major segment and these people are no longer living in nuclear families is not to disqualify the family but it's often done in addition that you have two persons living together were not married call cohabitation which is an increasing phenomenon that's almost normal as well as not so not pathological. And then you have in addition of that you have two people getting married but having no children. That's not the traditional But it's happening more and more. And that's not path. Logical either it has some very good reason why people don't have children. But anyhow you have all the and then you have single parent families with a with a female head and have single parent families with a male had. Both of these exist and this could be their functional if they got the resources they need and if they got their relatives and other people they need to help them raise their children. But the real meat tonight will meet the male head of a single parent family. Good good that need to be shown because ordinary You don't see that in the media or and certainly not in the
public press unless they are in trouble or getting in the day right. As a matter of fact you make the point that a mistake that a lot of social scientists make is invariably comparing black families to white families and it is a comparison that you more or less avoid unless it is absolutely necessary to make a point why it's for the most part it is like comparing apples and oranges to compare these two groups. First of all if you compare the two groups you compare mostly middle class whites with most of working and and and poor blacks. So that's not equal. Not only that to compare them suggests that they have. Case in history where they were equal. They've been given equal treatment equal resources equal for not financial resources from the government from the society from the realities. Otherwise it's not based on comparing them you have to look at a person's people's structure and their family according to their own history. Not according to some of the history you have to look. You have to look at them according to their own resources not of course some of those resources. And if you keep that in mind you won't make the mistake of comparing blacks and whites as though they should be similar.
You also make the point that too many people are interested in studying only those funks families in the black community which are dysfunctional. Only those young people in the black community who are in the criminal justice system. And you point out that the overwhelming majority of black families and young black males are neither in the criminal justice system nor are the members of this function and know they are in trouble the trouble is such a scientist. I'm not jealous. Interest in Africa American people as a whole. But my book is an argument. It's called a holistic perspective I say that the whole is greater than the parts issue meaning if you really want to understand African-American families you have to look at the whole of the family structure you can't just look at any one not just look at poor people. Now that's important segment in a sad troubling segment and 30 percent of our families are poor and it's a national disgrace. But that is it is still not yet 100 percent right. If there was an up with I mean 70 percent are not poor. I want to look at them too we might learn something about how to stay out of poverty. When I said the people who are not poor in the same way with the big statistic
about young people being in trouble with the law it says 25 percent of all African-American men and eighteen point one from with the law. And some cities are higher and so I say OK that's terrible and we need to study that understand it. But don't stop there. Let's look at the 75 percent of the 6 percent or whatever that are not in trouble with the law. We might learn something from them. You might not learn as much as you need to know by studying people who are already in jail about how to keep out of jail. If you want to figure out if you've got a human. What is that something you keep out of jail right. So we throw it away now we know that in general people know that in general when you think about knowledge but somehow or other when it comes out of black people they forget all of their general knowledge and think with peculiar and therefore they can look inside our structure and forethought and to think that the 30 percent of us who are poor are all in the all in the under question that it's not true at all. Not true. They're down the so-called underclass which I call the non working poor people who are not who don't have a regular attachment to the workforce they may be on welfare they may be suffering some other kind of support for not being employed steadily
and they are obviously in major trouble. They are the down and out and so we need to do more. George you're not a permanent underclass they're not they're not permanent. We learned in the 60s that there's no such thing as permanent poverty. It would reduce it reduced drastically for whites and blacks during the 60s because of those programs. But on this on the question underclass the so-called on the class they were. It was at about 15 percent of all our family structures so if they 15 percent who had the non-working poor There's another 15 percent who are working poor. Jesse Jackson says these are the people go to work get the early bus and they were going to go away across town and they worked long hours and yet they cannot support themselves above the poverty level so you've got two groups of poor people. One is a non-working poor one the working poor they both are in trouble. And yet we need to look at them both. But if you put them both together there's only about a third of the population so you have the you know the working poor the middle class and upper class these constitute the majority of black people. So you can't understand the whole thing without without including them as well. A lot of the individuals who have conducted studies say let's compare African-Americans to those Caribbean Americans who happen to be living in this country and then variably
come to the conclusion hey the Caribbean Americans seem to be doing better. Therefore racism cannot use be used as an excuse for why African-Americans are doing well. Your study finds it's a lot more complex. It's much more complex and that's another effort to try to divide us to drive out one type of black people and other black people because they like to get together as they did in New York in one of those political action they got together than they could could have great influence and in politics they got together economically have great influence in economics and so on in education. But the history of. Of Koreans in this country has been that Koreans and African Americans have had work together live together and communities join the same organization went to the same like schools when they were not it made it into the white schools and work together politics of this fantastic degree of commonness. Not only that but the most serious study done by Bob here will show that that the committee dont do well better in general than the native born African-Americans because if you look at their situation the economic situation or income occupation so when you find that they suffer the same kind of discrimination that blacks suffer and why each group may have some differences here and there is some
cultural difference to be sure. Some studies in New York found of that when they get together in communities in organizations they have a powerful influence both learning from each other and impacting on the larger society. So what its surprising statistic for some people and that is there is higher unemployment among Caribbean heads of household and it is among African-American has for us. I was particularly interested because being born in the Caribbean myself I always tell people look people who travel 3000 miles are highly motivated to get a job. You can of course we have a lot of people down in the Caribbean who are unemployed you know because to do that underclass many of the same problems that you have here but those people who come abroad are very highly motivated. If you discuss selective migration get out. You also make the point that there is a long and remarkable tradition of self-help within the black community lest our viewers feel that this book is some kind of prescription merely for more government help. You say that a great deal of the future also depends on carrying on the tradition.
Absolutely. I looked back into the past called The End Point to see what is it that has made enable our people to overcome the tremendous obstacles of slavery and racism and segregation and unemployment and and I find that there is something in the African-American culture that's which gave me the title of the book Climbing Jacob's ladder that says. If I'm going don't give up. Turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones. It says reach into your spirituality and find ways of conquering things that happen to you. It says work together with other people to talk on these obstacles create ways about your own that can sustain you and let me give you an example. Just after slavery. The slave is a good example to black people to themselves to overturn the system. But just after slavery I want to give an example of what happened all around the country but especially from a study done in Hampton Virginia. It
found that doing the years between 18 70 80 90 two decades there was fantastic progress in this in this town of Hampton in all areas. And so I'm explaining really why you get four strong families right. They have strong families in 89 as I told you and because this study shows that they had a strong anchor in economics. They had a quarter of the people were property owners. Just one generation after slavery they own half of the businesses and in the Main Street downtown they had occupations across the entire spectrum. They had another was an economic stability in the political area. They had elected a majority of blacks on the city council but they didn't deliberately elected a white man from a because they believed in sharing power with some other people don't believe in because they had to. Political power and economic power they were able to have strong families in addition that they built and own and control their own institutions. Elementary schools and high schools and the city kids to college and in the social area they own organizations like churches and fraternity organizations and and temperance society and so on in other words if you want strong
family you can have a strong community and make it a strong community a strong institution that the people can identify with. So that's no secret how to get stability. The secret is to get a strong community. Then what do you say. In addition to that to people who say let us look at the level of homicides and violence in the inner city or black communities today and they say well that must have something to do with the deterioration of the family. Rather you say it has something to do with the broader society. The jury will have to decide in it. Lack of opportunity. Absolutely let me give an example of how that society changes in society impact negatively on people. They did a study at Hopkins Johns Hopkins universe some time ago about what happens to men who are unemployed for a sustained period over six years. These are mostly white men and they find out that when these male and unemployed for that long a time they begin to disintegrate they drank too much they had tremendous problems of cirrhosis of the liver. They drove their cars too fast to miss accidents. They beat their wives to community suicide they left their families in other
words being unemployed it was devastating for these people. Or Peter six years. Ah people have had unemployment for maybe 30 years beginning in the middle to late 1950s. Unemployment became twice as high in the black community as white community so it does something to you in America if you're not employed if you don't have a job you can't secure your future. And so people tend to do type of destructive things. But it's not innate It is not growing out of American culture it is growing out of the societal conditions in society so people are turning to drugs in part because of despair. You talk about the ability of the black family to adapt to different conditions over time and what to me is an intriguing theory that a lot of things like teenage pregnancy have to do with people seeing a lack of opportunity in the future. Exactly exactly. People see that this society around them as blockages doesn't understand them. Doesn't Haslam then create opportunities for them they turn to other things. When people see tremendous changes in society that's overlooking them for example we've had in the last few years remarkable changes in
society and the conditions of life for people and we had two parents who are working and the children are not supervised at school because a school close at 3 o'clock the school calls at 3 o'clock in 1093 for what reason I don't know but I know I may use it or why they close at 3:00 at 3:00 o'clock so kids get in the fields and work. But that's an example of how the community you can affect individuals saw their problem. The commute had to create structures that will go on after three o'clock where the young people have something to do. They can keep learning stuff they can be safe and they can be secure and they can see a future. In addition that we have to have schools that they train people real jobs jobs of the future and not the jobs of the past so they can be optimistic they can see they can get a job. But if they see around them people graduate from high school semi getting jobs and their school is not meaningful to them then they become discouraged and they drop out and they turn to other things. It's not because they hate me don't like school education it's because the society has failed them and the communities have failed in climbing Jacob's Ladder was the name of the book the author is Dr. Andrew Billingsley adverse contain recommendations for how to conserve the future
preserve the future of the black family so that black families in general and black people as a result of a possible mortgage we will hear a lot more about that during the course of this discussion because when we return we'll give you some practical examples of what raising a family is like. And so on.
Welcome back tonight we're talking about the strengths of black families. Joining us is Rashid Nuri a single father of six who is raising his kids by himself. Shane Salter Shane Salter who grew up in foster care from the age of 4 to age 19 and whose family now includes three biological daughters and one son was adopted. Surely Ted was a recruiter with the adoption placement resource a branch of the CS Department of Human Services and still with us Dr. Andrew Billingsley author of climbing Jacob's Ladder the enduring legacy of African-American families. Shane let me start with you because your story sounds like it takes a long time to tone. You have been exposed to every conceivable experience that the African-American family has known. Tell us about. Just just generally I grew up in foster care and care as you said and to care. At about 4 and they've been numerous different foster homes and was a place to be adopted by families and went through to fail adoptive families.
At one point after those failed I went back to the foster homes and eventually went back to my father who himself had been living in the South Bronx in New York and that was a tenement type situation. My dad was a hustler in that experience I realized I wasn't the best for me and eventually I turned myself back into care. By then you know how I was 15 16 years old and after I was returned back to care I mean I they accepted me on that condition that I promise to straighten up my act and not run away any more and I sewed on by while those we had all hoped for and I was placed into a group home at that time I realized that I only had a couple of good years left and need to get my act together night and I did. You did you got married once and you have any children by your first marriage I said Do I have a daughter Tiffany. My first marriage that marriage failed. I married someone who was also from a home. And on this dream that she and I together would emerge from the
situation in life would be wonderful understanding each. This problem's Exactly exactly and it wasn't quite that simple. So but then you remarried again not want to give up hope. And on this occasion you have three daughters and I have two additional daughters and and we adopted a son. What led you into adoption. My wife was also adopted she was adopted at nine months old and she and I when we were dating always knew that we would adopt at some point in our marriage. And so we just went in into the marriage knowing that there would come a point in time when we would reach back and bring a child that was ins and similar circumstance out of the six our biological children how old is your adopted. I haven't. My oldest daughter is 9 I have a 3 year old daughter and a 2 year old daughter. And then I adopted a little boy who just turned 9 in January. So he got along well with the family of the family as a whole doing well he gets along behind. Family said Well well if it were actually were doing he you would we. We can't imagine a time when he wasn't there he actually fits right in.
The issues I think the struggles that we have a very common to probably most family doctor Billingsley here you have a young man who has been in the foster care system the adoption system and he seems to be sane and mentally healthy and now he is adopting himself to what extent is his experience reflective of the adaptation that we were talking about the book have a very good example of what I talk about in the book of how people and families can adapt to conditions even very difficult conditions and he just told us about some of the difficult situation head in foster homes. But they didn't destroy him they did destroy his spirit. And even when his father was not functional he had the judgment no doubt which he got from his foster care parents to try to look for something better for himself. But the most important thing about this young man chain saws is that he is still young. I'm still optimistic still believes in family still believes in progress and is and is and is making his way and his reaching out to his wife reaching out to bring the children of the famine that's characteristic
African American culture values the family an African-American history is not just something that two people found something you share. You reach out to other people. It's a mistaken example it's an extended operation Rashid Nuri you find yourself a single father of six children three of those children have either graduated from college or are in college one graduated from Harvard. But as a sophomore toughs 3rd boy is where Let's quote have a second son is a senior at Tufts. My daughter is a sophomore it's this I want to correct one thing he said. I raise about myself I don't want to overrate what I have done and it's but one of the things that Dr. Billingsley said that the there are a lot of other people that get involved people in the community that have helped my oldest son is living with his grandparents his mother's parents and he's a college graduate and still broke. I don't I mean I think and I thought he lived there. So it's I don't want to make it a singular achievement.
I can testify. And I know you have a lot of help raising might My sons also but you also have three who are currently living with you that's great and I know that your mother lives in San Diego and you have the option of just sending them out to San Diego which is a very good woman she probably would have taken care of them when you decided to raise them and raise them as a single parent who it's a good question I am a product of a broken home raised by a stepfather to me 19 and a commitment that I made a long time ago was to be a father to my children and to the extent that I married a mother white pick him. Unfortunately it didn't and I don't would not either want to denigrate the role that he has played in the children's lives. But I can say that my commitment to raising the children and being a father to them. Well of course as a product of a broken home it also graduated from Harvard also so it
obviously didn't affect your academic career but you're a man who learned how to break here on my feet. Or because I raise my hand my career was always in having daughters as a single parent but I did not have but it would take a joke but that we would have lived in Africa for a number of years and by also lived in Singapore you also lived in London with no children. Yeah we travel a little bit my oldest daughter got better. Her head game grow very well but it was easy just a little. After all you're not my youngest daughter have a lot of hair and when we got to overseas directly in Nigeria by a bloke they could braid it. Their name is Erina what we call the rostering going through I really don't know and I makes it a little easier but occasionally I have very well there are a lot of people a lot of single mothers and you wonder how they make out and we thought we'd give you the opportunity to meet a single father and figure out how he makes out.
Surely Ted let us talk a little bit about adoption because not the Billingsley points out in his book that middle income black families adopt at a higher rate than middle income white families which is contrary to the popular perception let me stay with Dr Billingsley for a while why does the popular perception of this country because of the popular conception just looks at blacks and whites as two groups and assume that they are martyrs and so it says blacks adopted a lesser rate than whites. That's classic comparing middle income whites with most of the income blacks. When you disaggregate them and look at them income by income group when you fund it women become lax. I thought that I read because of blacks in general have a fantastically more interest in children but they just so often don't have the resources to do a lot and I have a victim of their own. Or the bringing up the children. But if you find them in the situation where they have those resources and if you've got an agency to do the job we find a lot of people adopting children. Not only do we
mowen from people who have children in foster care into their homes but we are adopting children who we just don't know that because we don't. We do too caught up in this simple black white comparison. Surely I see you're not going to get asked certainly do because as a recruiter for the Department of Human Services I'm in the community often talking with people I speak at church is trying to educate the community about the bantz need we have for homes for our children and all in times people are concerned about well if I adopt this child I don't think I make enough money I don't have enough money which is a very ballot concern because as a matter of fact one of the requirements to become an adoptive parent is that one have income sufficient to take that meet the needs of the family. Indeed it's my understanding that you have just been the recipient of a federal grant but you personally but the department that's right in order to place young black males in this.
This is true. We recently got a federal grant from a big Department of Health and Human Services with the purpose being to focus in on the recruitment of black families for young black males and half of young black males been somehow more difficult to adopt them. Most certainly it's specially Kojo when they are over the age of 8. As a matter of fact the grant covers young adult I mean young you know males from 8 to 15. And we found that is so difficult to place them often is because of the psychological barriers be a number one because and the media perpetrates this is people are kana in consensus that young black males will grow up to be young black males and then consequently they become criminals
and they all compare families are concerned about bringing in a child that they about which they have little or no history. They are worried about this child's ability to act out sexually or to participate in other criminal and past social behaviors and that's the big determinant to adoption. Talk about those perceptions and those stereotypes saying that that kind of stereotyping have any impact on your placement in adoptive homes. Certainly certainly. I think that one of the reasons why it was hard to identify permanent type of home for us is because of the fact that people are afraid generally as you've said a lack of a black void. There are and it's really unfortunate because black boys know this and especially boys are in foster care. They know this. I knew it I knew that it was because I was a boy that other people didn't want me and that there was a large demand
for for girls even the family that I spent the majority of the time with in foster care. They had a son by birth. And when they entered foster care they asked for daughter. It just so happened that it just so I. We were available and they said OK we'll take them. And I you know and after I fell to going through the system realizing that it just wasn't as easy to find placements for boards rescue them. I'm going to Arklow Joe and I just wanted to add to what Shane just there in terms of it being so much easier to place girls we find as recruiters and adoption foster care workers that it's harder to place the boys it's things that the extended families are more readily accept the girls as opposed to the boys and I think for the same reason that outsiders don't adopt because they are afraid that they can't handle the child's actin out. And my role as a recruiter when I am in the community is to try
and really educate people and get people to focus up on the behaviors that might be displayed by our young male black male or specially doing the adolescent years. My grandmother used to call it going over food scale and I started to remember making the trip over there you know. But the jury's still out on whether that I am going to marry. But it's not a fact and this is normal adolescent behavior but people become so caught up in their delusions about the negative expectations of these young black males until they they get stereo at black people we stereotype this pop you know us and rush them interested because your son's having lived overseas for a while and just having moved here from Minnesota and it is my understanding that they're already adopting the DCB boy look at this as it is. But is there a particular problem of perception for them was there any kind of culture shock
about how they were regarded as young black males when they got back here that may have been different to how they would be guarded in say Nigeria where virtually everybody is black. That's interesting question the not particularly I think that my children have traveled so much that that that movement is not significant however the two younger ones. This is the first time they've gone to school in the U.S. They went to school overseas started school there and it was good because they were able to be in environments where everybody looked like them and I probably had to grade it I probably had the greatest acculturation the acculturation problem both of the children coming back. Realizing what being a black male means period. You know Joe I think both these guys are fantastic examples of how you can despite difficulties overcome those and keep on moving with your children. But it reminds me discussion about like boys your mom did often black boys have a difficult because they are suspected by other people and sometimes their own
people and in school they're sometimes treated differently or shunned and so on and so one of the things we need to give more attention to is how how can we as a society as adults as teachers and so on. Reach these boys or they get positive images of themselves and not a negative image of themselves. I'm very impressed with the fact that for example some some like educators in Milwaukee I guess last year so decided that well these black boys are not doing well in school but we know they can do well we know they can learn we believe in them so let's take these boys and set up a school for these boys and we'll teach them whatever they need to know mathematics science and so on and they'll become excellent. But you know the system said no you can't do that the way we did we don't let you separate them with us. That's you don't you won't be part of us and we don't want that. You see they are asked and they said it might make them hate white people also their nonsense. But there's no way in which black boys in this country can be separate from white people no matter how you teach them. If you speak to him well especially if you teach him well because he had I mean to get so we sometimes missed the boat and not looking at the cultural differences among people and not focusing on what really works with these kids in assuming that something works for other people out of work for
them. If not there's something wrong with them. We tell that the blackboard all the time how about the argument that some people make that if you establish a separate institution for black males then they will have feelings of inferiority because they see themselves as somehow different to everyone. I said Look it was up to the boys now. Let's try something that might work better. One of the things that I find interesting is that even public service agencies that we spend a lot of money into family into actually rescuing children out of families that have fallen apart as opposed to looking at ways of keeping families together. I think that a tremendous amount of effort needs to go into family preservation looking at some families that are beginning to fall apart and to begin to into invest resources into finding out that it is this family going to fall apart because they they're losing housing. But what can we do to help them to be able to retain housing because very often once the housing is gone then they're on the street and then the thing and then they were looking at children winding up in foster care and being removed
from the black family and and we have a whole bunch of the issues that go along with that. Got to take a short break when we return we'll want to hear what you have to say about the African-American family so don't go away we'll take your phone calls right after this. I don't know.
Welcome back the enduring legacy of African-American families that's what we're talking about tonight. The newly single father of six Shane Salto grew up and also to care and now has three biological children and the child Shirley Temple requoted with the Department of Human Services who finds foster and adoptive homes for children. Dr Enderle Billingsley author of climbing Jacob's Ladder the enduring legacy of African-American families I was rudely reminded during the break the during the course of the last 10 or 11 years I too have. A single parent but obviously could not have done it in any remote way successfully Were it not for what we called the extended family. That group of relatives and friends around us in the black community who are a support system for so many of us and what she did when we broke we were about to make a point I want to pursue a conversation we began in the holding room and the point that Dr. Billings made I had asked him about a doctor the boy study turned century and pointed out that it was a fine study still holds up a lot of
students Ph.D.s couldn't do it today in the first segment you're also discussing the strength of the black family in the black community and that is worse today and how it ties into with those young boys in Wisconsin he said where they wouldn't let allow them to have a segregated school. You said that the disintegration. Of the black communities meant that the integration took away the schools from us so we couldn't study with ourselves. What effect has that had on the raising of our children black families and the images that we have of ourselves. Yeah I think that as a sociologist I'm increasingly aware that almost every event that is complex has an upside to it in the downside and that the same is true with integration and it has an upside and the downside when the downsizing that we have been encouraged to lose our own identity hopefull of benefit to degrade I wanted to tension and not to do anything together as a people afraid somebody will call it segregation. It is not segregation where the people want to do it I want segregation somebody forces you to get
over there and stay with it. They don't let you out. That's segregation. GRATION that when you decide you want to do something yourself that is going to improve yourself and connect you with other people so I think what we need to recognize is that families have changed dramatically during the last hundred years and we're going to see more and more of families that are alternative to the traditional nuclear family and what I and so pleased about tonight is the three of you guys illustrate the fact that that people do not have to give up because of the disadvantages of being single parents they can find strength from their extended kin and from none kin and from that church use the institution of community to help them be strong you're going to have strong families. You've got two parents all the time it's harder to plan to raise your children you've got to you've got to have more people doing that. So the fact that you three have been able to reach out and embrace other members of your families in one family to help you raise your children is a good example of how the secret of how there's an enduring legacy one afternoon there and you don't give up you keep on going you find ways of meeting they've got you know I don't think it's all true. If I might jump in having I just want to come
in the three of you the wonderful jobs you've done as single parents and I'm going to want to wrestle I was about to say what I want I know you and I don't really know how I don't know. Either it really is no big thing in that respect. However I'm glad the three of you are here because so many paths when I'm out in the community. Or when I'm alone in take phone talking with people who have an interest in becoming perspective adoptive parents. A lot of people are surprised that they cannot be in Sango. There's something about how long it's been it's been about with me that single people can't do this. But you all are proof that you can with the X in their relative I mean all those single although women have been doing it forever. I think more people need to know that more men are do know quiet and that then they are more of us out the I think that a lot that has to do with what happens to little boys when they're grown up. Are the lack of these images to know that you can be a strong black map you can maintain a family on your own and it
does not necessarily take a woman to do that and I think that other brothers need to see that I successful at doing it and can find a support system than necessary to keep the family intact. Do you want to do what we have in the world of London cooking instead of being. It was an absolute As a matter of fact that's one of the premises of the grant we just received because we are looking for actively looking for the last males to adopt some of these black people black males and some people say well why black males so that but for the right reason all the rest male but showing just prevented black males need to say that this in fact can be taught. But he said to the telephone it's your turn calling you on the air thank you for waiting now go ahead. Yes good afternoon. Good show you. Two things that were brought up. First just to comment on the mail. I don't see any
dominant culture dismantling any of their male female schools either whether they be private or public. And even though they wear certain uniforms either of the ladies or for the upscale people went to an all male high school and wore uniforms all the way through high school. Right well some of them have military uniforms some have a little blazer. Now the second point is one of the things you kind of glanced over was informal adoption that occurs in the extended family that is when relatives take in me this book Climbing Jacob's ladder does not glance over it at all it begins with that something like you mentioned it. Just kind of glazed over it and friends and neighbors that they take in children that maybe they can't get along with their family or in other situations can tease the system on the rest of the ship. Thank you very much. That is a point that you make extensively in your book that how social scientists who are white generally define families as completely different to how we
define family. You know going OK I get it. I lived in Nigeria for half years and I have to admit that my understanding of families tribe community was so hence by that experience to see what an extended family is to understand a marriage in traditional African culture for lack of a better term marry a family. Families come before you get married. Both sides will sit down and monks the Yoruba you write letters a couple weeks before you formally get even senior The Bhutto family to write letters exchanges back. So you marry a family that is a problem in the family the family sits down to discuss it and you do have many polygamous situations so there is rarely a problem of who is going to take care of the children at any particular time. So that those extensions work you're in. It's amazing. To see people come to me in my office and they say well this is my brother. And the real question you have to ask is that same mother same father will know all this is this is actually my cousin but he's my brother because
he's from the same community right and I am. So our concept here in America just of brotherhood and sisterhood of siblings is entirely different than what I've experienced in my travels several what with the word times removed. Still my brother Michael he's from the same village that I'm from and I have a responsibility if I have a house if you come to me from the village and you assume you have a place to stay. If I'm an employer you have a job it will be just being nobody could understand if I said no you can't stay here go find someplace else to go so now you see we used to have a lot of that we being informed to be sure but the European system doesn't allow for that. And it's and it's and it's sort of pressured out of us and the conditions of change and so part of what we need to do as a people in this discussion my family values and you want to have more values but to go back to some of those o values that we used to have and find ways of using our collective strength and not just doing what somebody else does. Back to the telephone you're on the air Caller go ahead please. Go right ahead.
You're on the air go ahead caller are you there yet. Some day I'll be going out a bit. I will wait my turn. Will that Mr Nori my wife and I started my wife and I just recently returned from Singapore and I could know what challenges did you find raising kids in Singapore. It was interesting that I didn't see very many black people in Singapore but I felt very comfortable. But what challenges if you find your kids. Singapore Singapore is one of the easiest places in the world. I mean it's it's an invented country fundamentally to support Western business so you have good transportation it's very clearly I think the only place I ever been that's as clean perhaps was Geneva Switzerland. The lobby can't spit in the street you can't chew gum on the street there's no spoken in the street. Singapore is really an artificial environment. So if living there was in that difficult HALL You can't chew gum
if you chew gum on the street told me to give you the fine particularly if you are a native Singaporean. I have yet to get a way out of that but not them. How are the schools. A This is one of the benefits of living overseas. Children went to private school they went to American school there which is just like a private school. Back to the telephone you're on their call or go ahead please go right ahead caller yes if you go right ahead. Don't like to compliment first. Now that you have on I think a very interesting discussion. Secondly I would like to echo the first caller from an extended family. About two months into a third of all the there have been experiences where black kids have been separated in school except Kelowna from the seventh to the ninth grade I was in the individual ass Learning Center where black males and sleep female knew separating class also like you're calling ME an idiot and a door that attendant remembered it as Jacey issue I don't know she's going to
just know I also like the policy of all role models and the gentleman displaying on your panel think they're on their own while they do community. Has to search out and get these individuals to go forward. Thank you very much. OK thank you very much our caller understands I guess that he was raised in the in the extended family but you point out that even the statistically extended family still make up at least 40 percent exactly 40 percent of black children still being raised in extended family still a very lively system of raising children but I also wanted to say to commend the caller for pointing out that these three men or have raised children and are on this program usually and I want to commend the program for doing that because usually you don't see men on television and in the news unless they in trouble. So to have all of that my book I get that a lot of ordinary black men I've met who do invest constructive ends of the year that we need to give more attention to. And so
by doing this you have open. I get an opportunity to show for us to show to the to the Afro-American community and to the larger society that there are men constructive men out there who doing things and not all of them or at the present moment up with the long lest we get too slow headed that's enough attention for now we've got to take a short break we'll be right back after this.
Evening Exchange
The Future of the Black Family
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Episode Description
Historian Dr. Andrew Billingsley discusses the structure and concepts of the Black Family presented in his work, "Climbing Jacob's Ladder". The myth of the vanishing black family is looked at as an inequitable comparison between the larger community structures found in traditional African American families versus the nuclear European family patterns that were developed during the Industrial Revolution. The inherent flaw of the studies, comparing middle class white families with lower class black families, that claim a breakdown of traditional family patterns is also discussed. Guests representing modern African American households include single father Rashid Nuri and married father Shane Salter. Shirley Tabb represents the Department of Human Services on the panel.
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Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
Copyright 2003 by Howard University Television
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Host: Nnamdi, Kojo
Producer: Jefferson, Joia
Producing Organization: WHUT
Publisher: WHUT-TV
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WHUT-TV (Howard University Television)
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Format: Betacam
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:58:05
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Chicago: “Evening Exchange; The Future of the Black Family,” 1993-02-22, WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 22, 2023,
MLA: “Evening Exchange; The Future of the Black Family.” 1993-02-22. WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 22, 2023. <>.
APA: Evening Exchange; The Future of the Black Family. Boston, MA: WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from