The other day I realized that one of the reasons the blog is updated so infrequently is because I don’t like to talk about my private life that much. Quite the paradox isn’t it? Blogging for all the world to see, yet wanting to hold back all sorts of stories that would probably reel people in by the boatloads.
Some of that will change with this post. I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty, mainly because the details are disheartening. On two separate occasions, Hubby and I ran into a young lady, barely 18 and just out of high school, whom we’ve both known for years. I’ve known her since she was in her mother’s belly, and I used to babysit this girl. Well, she’s pregnant. Pregnant without a solid alternate plan to finish college and for the most part, dependent on her grandmother and mother for financial and emotional support. This is such a disappointment to us, because this girl has such a bright spark in her. At least we think so, and you’d be hard-pressed to convince us otherwise, teenage mood swings notwithstanding.
What is going to happen to her life? Graduating from Howard University and going on to dental school is now out of the picture, and although it is still possible for her to become a dentist, how long will that take? Do you know that all of the emotional and other responsibilities of an unplanned pregnancy takes a major toll on a person’s will to succeed? My worry is: how will she resolve to make her dreams come true?
This evening, on the commute home, I couldn’t help but wallow in self pity for the black community, and for black women in particular. We can rhapsodize in song, poetry and around kitchen tables everywhere about the ‘strong black woman’ all we want, but all too often, we set ourselves back with silly little mistakes like unplanned pregnancies. Here is my greatest fear and the reason for writing this blog: once our gutsy Black leaders have thoroughly chastised black men for being negligent fathers, they’ll turn some of their firepower on us. And can you blame them, at the end of the day? Black women are not stupid, not on any level, so I’m at a loss as to why we collectively make the same stupid mistake. Why do we repeatedly, in numbers that outdistance our Latino, Asian and white counterparts, allow Tyrone and Rasheed and these other characters to knock us up and leave the scene? I don’t want to rehash statistics on the likelihood of single mother households to exist in or below poverty, or the likelihood that our households will need public assistance, that our sons will end up recruited or victimized by gang crime. Worse, it’s hard to think about the fact that unless our daughters display an incredible amount of resolve to carry out some basic or well-developed plans for a prosperous future, they will repeat our mistakes.
This is happening for two major reasons: our culture accepts, as a fact of life, out of wedlock births and early pregnancies to women who are too young, underemployed and undereducated to have children. You know I’m right. Why? Because in the case of my young friend and girls like her, they know for a fact that Mama and Grandma will take pity on them, marshall their resources and ‘help them.’ Now, that is messed up. First off, if he was man enough to get you in the family way, then he shouldn’t leave you to the mercies of your overworked mother and your aging grandmother. He’s a pathetic jerk if he allows women to step in to do his job. Worse, it makes people second guess our judgement, too when we fail to recognize these chumps for what they are and boot them out of our beds.
I would be more sympathetic if we were dealing with scattered cases of women who got pregnant in med school, law school, or after they had completed their studies and just needed a bridge to finish getting from point A to point B. But I see too many black women languishing in their circumstances, then popping out another one, two, three or four kids.
And I know full well that a lot of white women struggle with having a bunch of kids with multiple fathers and don’t become as educated or as gainfully employed as they could. But not to the extent that we do it, sorry. It’s just not as acceptable in white culture to have an early pregnancy and life in poverty. It’s downright shameful and they’re pretty vocal about it. It was only last year I ran into a white women in the office who recoiled at the idea of allowing her boyfriend to get her pregnant and bringing a ‘bastard’ into the world. Granted, she might have been expressing a more unique point of view, but I can count maybe one white woman, of whom I am aware, that has fallen into the trap that I’m talking about and continuing to lead a hard life. Unfortunately, I personally know twice that number of black women.
I would revel in the opportunity to give my hard-earned money almost exclusively to black financial advisors, dentists, carpenters, masons, surgeons, obstetricians (actually, the ob/gyn I trust the most is affiliated with a nightmare of a hospital. Hence, Baby Silk will be delivered by an Italian dude in a Catholic hospital.) and any other black professional or top-notch blue collar service provider. But where are they all?On the women’s side, maybe one quarter of them are not ready to pick up the phone and answer my call for business, because they’ve been delayed by unplanned pregnancies. Do you know how many potential women nurse practitioners I know? Engineers? Entrepreneurs? Their numbers are not nearly as staggering as wasted black male talent, because for whatever reason, black women have been able to hold it together and complete their degrees, then get great jobs and take their places in society in greater numbers than black men. But I’ve spent too many years as the only black woman journalist writing for the newspapers, magazines and newsletters where I’ve worked. And although I cannot count on my two hands all of the black professional women I know, I shouldn’t be able to count them up at all. If I need a professional service in any area, I should be able to flip through a personal rolodex of dozens of black women to come up with three good names.
This reality is becoming uncomfortably more noticeable, and it will only get worse as more of us integrate into the dominant culture, or white society. As white editors, managing directors and company presidents watch us ‘strong black women’ turn in great performances at work, you had better believe that they are asking themselves: where are the others? Why are there only four of you in the entire company? Of course, white folks wouldn’t dare call us out on this nonsense, because it would remind everyone of the way black welfare mothers came under harsh Republican attacks during the 1980s and subsequent welfare reform campaigns in the early 1990s.
This is why I’m warning us now: our comeuppance is coming from within the black community. Maybe I’m being paranoid and unreasonable, but I think some counterpart to Bill Cosby or Barack Obama will hold us to account for allowing ourselves to fall from grace.
Without descending into calling black women the M-word as I’ve seen on other IR blogs, let me ask us to be judicious about how we help our daughters, granddaughters and sisters in need. If black women really want to be strong, resilient and powerful, then more of us need to have the backbone to first resist the temptations of certain black men (I know they are vast, because let’s be honest, black men are a work of beauty), and hold our daughters accountable for the same. That means if your daughter/sister turns her massive pathetic pregnant eyes up at you for help, you calmly and without sentiment pull out a document that spells out exactly how and when you will be compensated, in money or deed, for rearranging your vacation and retirement plans to help her through her knuckle head phase.