Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Deadbeats In My Village

I wrote the following article for the Philadelphia Daily News back in 1996.

Scary as it seems, and as much as I hate to admit it; it's still relevant today almost ten years later.

"If Our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all" ~Pearl S. Buck

"Forty dollars a week?" The young man sitting before me seemed stupefied. "But how can I Live if you take $40 a week out of my check?"

I wanted to grab him and shake the Tommy Hilfiger shirt, and Karl Kani boots right off of his body. I wasn't negotiating the terms of paying back a loan, nor was I talking about a delinquent parking ticket. What I had just explained to the young man was the terms of his child suppport order and his obligation that came with it.

As a hearing officer who presided over support hearings, I always wondered when I would reach my breaking point. As I sat there looking at the young man, with his natty designer clothes, his fresh $20 dollar haircut and his overall vainglorious attitude, I couldn't help but think that this was it, I had finally reached that point.

Rather than give in to my emotions, I tried to reason with the young man. I tried to explain to him that his child support obligation is the most important responsibility he would ever have. That $6 a day would never be enough for his child's needs, and the emotional support that it takes to raise a child could never be measured in dollars and cents. I might as well have been talking to the wall. Clearly I wasn't going to change years of negative indoctrination, and a cycle of single parenthood in twenty minutes. In this young man's world, wearing the right clothes and looking fresh was more important than spending the money needed to raise his child.

I thought of all the problems facing American cities----crime, drugs, high unemployment, and the lack of proper schools- and it was easy for me to come up with a common denominator for all of them. Most, if not all of these problems started with the break down of the family structure. I thought of all the unanswered questions that come when a society is faced with such problems. How can you love your child if your father never loved you? How can you respect another human being (a total stranger) if you can't respect the one you created? It dawned on me right then and there, that until we can start reaching young men like the one that was sitting in my court room, we would continue to have these problems in our society. The urban violence and senseless killings will continue, until we find a way to reach these lost souls.

I have never been a big supporter of the republican party. Like most people of color I have often seen them as being too uncaring and insensitive to the underclass. But I must confess, that I agreed more with Bob Dole than Hillary Clinton on this issue. A village cannot raise our children. What it takes is not a village, but individual responsibility, a strong sense of family, and the proper support system from those who brought them here. We have depended on the village and the institutions of the village --- such as our schools, the welfare system, and our police departments - to raise and look out for our children far too long. What we need now is less dead beats in our villages bringing precious children into the world. Children, who at the end of the day, will have no shot at the type of life they deserve. For this, they can thank the uncaring actions of someone who should have been a parent to them from the very outset, but who chose to take the selfish way out.

Now all of this is really starting to piss me off, because these deadbeats are making my village harder and harder to live in.


ugz said...

In the Society where we live, in this competetive, survival of the fittest capitalist the rich preying on the poor and all.. yes INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY is a necessity.

However where we come from, the civilized world, (as teacher J G Clarke taught me, Civilized means Peaceful) It is everyone's responsibility to take care of the kids. By taking care I means pinching the inside of your thighs until bloody swollen-- painful bruh...

I was raised like that--

field negro said...

Yes UGZ we all have a responsibility to take care of, and look out for our children. But you know what, at some point we have to hold the family from which that child comes, accountable as well.

EVERYONE has to contribute to making our society better, not just it's institutions. I am not sure where you make your home. But here in Philly, the murder rate is skyrocketing and kids as young as 12 and 13 are committing unspeakable crimes. So as far as I am concerned, the gloves are off when it comes to these people who abandon their families.


Brandon Q. said...

Powerful piece FN,

That breaking point is real talk. I had to re-read the story about that brother paying child support.

I want to know how we can catch dudes as they start to search for role models and stay with them throughout their formative years. And what's worse is the push and pull of everyday life where we are too busy even for our families, yet alone young brothers who need positive influences in their lives.

In terms of policy, sometimes I wonder how much things would be different if Black people were not concentrated in the inner-cities but spread across the country. I am tired of hearing brother's repping the "Block" like the "Block" gave birth to them. I am tired of good work being nullified by wanna-be thugs.

Thanks for the shot-out on Superspade homie,


field negro said...

Thanks Brandon, nice to see you back.

I agree that a lot of black folk --especially young ones need to get up off the block. One problem though is that many of them just don't have the means to make the first move. Obviously, if they had resources outside of the neighborhoods they could at least have some options.

As far as solutions, I think we have to get to these young heads early and let them know that it's not cool to impregnate these young girls and not have a plan for themselves or their child. The usual stuff like role models and mentoring is important too, but at the end of the day, the person who is trying to reach these young bucks has to be someone they are willing to listen to.


we saw that... said...

yes great post FN and we are still in a spiritual frame of mind after reading iranian president mahmoud ahmadinejad letter to frat boy.

god directed king david to write at psalm 127 that children are a heritage from the lord and that children "fruit of the womb" are the the lord's reward.

its not up to "the village" to raise the child. it is "the village" responsibility to ensure its own heritage is protected and kept from harm by rooting out those that seek to destroy our heritage and spoil the fruit of our womens womb.

denise said...

Our village, as you put it FN is too busy trying to grasp for an imaginary American Dream; and had not realized that at one time We actually had it.

Some of Our kids are on a wrong path; some I even feel are unreacheable - but I would never say let's caste them out.

This all comes down to the Village, becoming a Village again; and everyone taking on responsibility of Our kids....
When I was a child, everywhere I went, somebody knew my parents, and if I was in a store, I was watched... If I was playing I was watched... and If I did something wrong, I was in trouble(.)

denise said...

What I was trying to get at in the other post; in reaching for the American Dream; We followed American right into hell with Our children...I can almost remember to the moment I heard Black folk talking about this "Time Out" nonsense.

I know, and respect Bill Cosby, a proponent of such...but all his kids had problems at one time or another...c'mon!

White folk, for a long time did not raise their kids...and as a child I would wonder why White kid's could cuss their parents (and hell no, you would never find a Black child doing such...that was a recipe for murder...) and/or talk to them any kind of way....

Then We followed right behind them, in this nonsense... and look what happened.

"Time Out" and "911"

I am not talking abuse here...I am talking a good old fashion ass whipping is what most of Our kids need.

One way I suggest in stopping this; if your child is so bold to call 9-1-1 on you... let the cops come, and you tell them to take them with them....

Better yet, parents should pack up their kids bags, and drop them off at the Capitol buildings in each state and tell them... since you want to tell me how to raise my child, and what I can and cannot do.... you raise them.

That's just the angle I'm seeing this from.... yes, Parents have to parent; but what of this insidious proliferation by government to harm that.... my conspiracy theorist side says this was intentionally done to harm what was the African American family.

field negro said...

All true, and yes, maybe it takes a different type of discipline for different cultures-I don't necessarily subscribe to time out either. And yes Denise, I remember those days too. But what if there are no families home to do the disciplining, and what if those families that used to be on the block are all fractured and separated? What then?

That was the issue I was trying to address in my article. Simply stated, it goes like this: Unless we take care of step one,-having both or at leas one solid parent at home- we won't even have a chance to raise our children properly and take them to the next step,which is where I believe the village should get involved.

mark said...

Denise said: p.s.
What I was trying to get at in the other post; in reaching for the American Dream; We followed American right into hell with Our children...I can almost remember to the moment I heard Black folk talking about this "Time Out" nonsense.

I know, and respect Bill Cosby, a proponent of such...but all his kids had problems at one time or another...c'mon!

Mark said: Denise Im feeling were your comming from but I dont think that using the time out or 911 method as tools when dealing with kids is inherently wrong or right. I have absolutely no problem with kicking a childs ass if they deserve it. But time out doesnt not undermine a good old fashion behind beating because they are only a few tools of many when it comes to dealing with children. Of course each parent decides which tools they will use. I believe to the bottom of my heart that we should not even mention the white write now . I believe we spend way to much time talking about he white man. especially when we have some many negative pathologies in our communities. For intstance the most naturally gifted person I know is in jail for possesion crack. This cat has 7 kids who wont get the benifit of thier dad who is a remarkable person. The Tupac shit should never happen again. I am ready to try to began the process of descrediting self destructive behaviour. I am ready to change things for the better.
Why cant we put social pressure on families to pressure the young men amongst them to do more for thier kids. Mark

ugz said...

Currently Tuned to: Sunz of Man - The Plan

FN and Mark:
Nobody wants to live in Poverty. Nobody, not even the poor black man with a hair cut and a Jeans and a T-Shirt that he bought at Burlington Coat factory who found the $40 a week hard to pay. Not even him-- wants to live in this village of depression, crime, drugs and ill health.

Do you think he wants to get his family business judged and evaluated by some third party-- remember he is American too, he values privacy and individuality. If he was capable to pay every week wouldn't he pay $40, rather than get judged by a hearing officer.

Y'all can theorize on your solutions to black problems from their culinary manners to their criminal behavior... (apparently the same subjects are discussed on white supremacy websites)

Our village, as you put it FN is too busy trying to grasp for an imaginary American Dream; right to hell...

In the ghetto, Denise, where I come from, where the crack-houses, the corner liquor stores are right next to the churches-- when we talk about something, we got to show that we know what we talking about. We cant talk about jail if we aint never been in jail...

one cant say jail is bad, for the ghetto ears without being in jail. You can't have a solution for a problem that you do not confront on a daily basis on an individual basis.

Y'all (them and those) are alienated from our struggle... spending too much time on the Cyber world.

And Mark, the solution I have for Black people is in the patent office... you know gotta make that $$$ now... so I can't tell ya right now... once patented though... :-}

FN, I love what you are doing, may my pessimissim give you strength.

---and the song goes on---

You think you got it all setup
You think you got the perfect plan

Sleepin' on persians
We used to wear turbins
Daughters the virgins gold slippers
Now they gon be strippers
Can't hold they liquor
They fight and bicker
God sent blew out the projects
No life left jobless
Diggin' out garbage
No welfare with no healthcare
The pain is felt here
They decieving with TV's
Turned her into a species
Won't feed the seed
The government raise the rent
Birth control pills
We owe mills
Black man and the black woman can't get along
Because Rikki Lake is on
With two horns

You think you got it all setup
You think you got the perfect plan

You guilty or innocent
Rap black internationalist
Niggaz kill me with that old fashion shhhh
Claimin' buy this
They ain't real with they topics
Claimin' worldly knowledge
You get tossed like the Thomasses
It is a promise, kid

field negro said...

"If he was capable to pay every week wouldn't he pay $40, rather than get judged by a hearing officer"

No UGZ, he wouldn't. That's my point, had he been paying he would not be in some hearing officer's court room.

You see, I don't believe for a minute that there is just no way for him to make SOME kind of payment. How about $5 a week, Could he pay that? In the scenario that I gave you, the young man paid ZERO!

Now I understand that the village is f#@%#d up; I get all that, but we are talking about your seed.And no matter how f#@%#d up the village is, you have an obligation to give your seed the best possible chance to survive it.

BTW, I loved your fast food rant on Dell's blog.(Now there we have some common ground)


ugz said...

I see what you mean... and tell the truth we have many many common grounds.

I am for Personal Responsibility, you know that. But when we say Personal Responsibility, people tend to see the fault of the young man and leaving all other variables on the macrocosm of the young man's environment.

And they bash and kill the young man with words...

Nevertheless, I will agree to the point that the young man needs to absolutely take care of his seed.

mark said...

P.S UgZ this gentleman had 7 kids, was not looking for a job the should have been. He worked out jobs here there but not steady work to earn steady income. But the was dressed pretty fresh but he couldnt spent time or money with kids. When I say take responsibilty, this is why Im saying it. Mark

denise said...

"All true, and yes, maybe it takes a different type of discipline for different cultures-I don't necessarily subscribe to time out either. And yes Denise, I remember those days too. But what if there are no families home to do the disciplining, and what if those families that used to be on the block are all fractured and separated? What then?" -FN

We keep the game plan, and just flip the script. When I was living in Boston; and my best friend was a single mother...out there working 1 to 3 jobs, if need be, to tend her children's needs. And like her, I had other friends and associates in the same boat.

It was hard for them because Boston has laws whereby children under the age of 16 cannot be at home alone... and/or children under 16 had to have someone in the home with them at all times at least the age of 16. So, daycare and afterschool care are a boon there; but what of the single woman alone raising kids (as
We know the majority of Black women all over the world are - that is some shameful shit); And in Boston, I witnessed DSS coming into homes and taking away kids left alone.
One of my best friends is Haitian, she has 3 kids that she takes care of alone; and working still today 3 jobs... I am talking Our regular 9 to 5 and 2 other parttimes...and I don't remember a day, that the 3 years I was there, that she did not call her home every hour on the hour checking up on her kids...she could not afford afterschool care... plus she had to appease people who she called her friends who when they did not get their ways with her would threaten her with a call to DSS (example of how We kill Ourselves and each other).
Anyway, just thinking about the issue... I suggested that these women form a bond and look out for each other and each others children; and pool whatever excess funds they may have.
This was not easy, as I have stated in the past my best friend is Trinidadian, and then there is a Haitian and still today, although We laugh about it now, they had this mutual distrust/dislike of each other (another example of Our self-destruction)... But, then they all had to learn to rely and trust each other...they agreed to look after each other's kids as their own; and trust that each adult would do right by their kids. This was understandable.

They pooled their funds and kept their homes stocked with food, with games, etc.... so their kids were together afterschool; they took turns picking up and dropping off each other's children at various activities; they took turns on weekends, keeping each other's children etc... the biggest thing they did was to employ an unemployed woman from the community (All of Us lived in Roxbury or Dorchester); who would be at one of their homes each day of the week to watch the kids and make sure they were fed and did their homework etc... (they could not do it alone, but together it was a breeze); plus these women learned to share the wealth of their knowledge with each other; for example my Trini friend is a great cook; my Haitian friend is a computer wiz; another lady is an accountant and in fact did all Our taxes for FREE! Another lady kept up with and was able to help some others with employment....

I am simple and practical FN; sure, in today's America, you will find fractured communities...but I believe that even those that are fractured can play a role.

Winos were always around; but even the wino would get on you for doing wrong shit; and berate you for getting caught up into his or her ways and destroying your life.
And wouldn't hesitate to stumble over to your house and tell your parent's if they saw you doing something wrong.

I remember, being yelled at, just out of people's houses; "What you holding your head down for, walk straight, walk tall, like you gonna be somebody!"

Mark, you are right; I will try not to even mention Whites - they are not the barometer... and too much time is spent there.

We all write dissertations on here --- sounds like You need to come up with a plan.

ugz said...


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On Black Feminism, Black Female Leadership in the Black Community, and Queen Lafonda, lord of the flygirls OR Bill Cosby is a tool, and too many black women talking and not listening. Whichever title you like better.

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