I have been listening to many black empowerment pundits, such as Dr. Umar Johnson, and many of them talk about the importance of two-parent households. Most of his rhetoric on family pushes the need for a two parent household. He conveys the message that single mother households are solely the result of black men leaving black women due to a lack of psychological development. I want to challenge the idea that a lot of single mother households are a problem or retard the growth of the black community.
The first issue I take with Dr. Umar Johnson is that single mother households result from lack of psychological development of either the man or the woman. A single mother household can be the result of deep introspection. If a woman determines that she does not want a monogamous relationship and attempting to commit will cause enough emotional strain to detract from raising the child, then a co-parenting relationship maybe the best thing. Black people, just like all other races, are not longer sold on the idea of traditional relationships or the institute of marriage. It leads us to explore other parenting styles.
The second issue I take with Dr. Umar Johnson is even if the relationship is the result of lack of psychological development, the most prudent course is to move from a single parent to a co-parenting relationship. If two people did not have the mental development to take precautions to prevent pregnancy, then it is not realistic to assume they can build a relationship and raise a child. It is much more realistic to concentrate on raising the child and work on the romantic relationship later.
Buddhism teaches that nothing is inherently good or bad, we arbitrarily put these labels on events to explain how we feel about them on an emotional level. With this understanding in mind, let us look at the advantages of a single parent household.
- Children learn independence at a young age.
- Attention from the parent will not change due to problems with a romantic relationship
- The relationship between the child and parent can become deeper due to a parent not being distracted.
- A single parent has total control over the rearing of the child.
The list above is just some of the possible advantages of a single parent relationship. A single parent household has the potential to be more stable than a two parent household provided the woman has a steady flow of income of support from the community or her family. A co-parent household and generate a similar list of pros, but the reader is smart enough to determine those advantages on their own.
The most detrimental situation for a child is a single mother household in which the mother feels that she has to get a man for validation. In this case, a woman will engage in risky behavior and devalue herself in a relationship to gain a perceived advantage. The child will then see and mimic this behavior later in life. As a community, we must build each other’s confidence and encourage behavior made from a place of empowerment.
Many of our black leader and the black church want black people to return to the way we were back during the Civil Rights Movement. They talk about a time in which we all worked together and had two parent households. The problem with this philosophy is that we are not the same people from the 1960’s. Our leaders must lead from where we are now. They must also see the good and the bad in who we are now. Yes, the crack cocaine epidemic ravaged the black community. At that same time, many black people benefited from government programs to educate black people and help us get jobs. Yes, we have black people that advance in society and lose connection to their people. At the same time, we have many people that work in the community with tools and skills they learned from the greater society. Admonishing people for not being as they were two generations ago only alienates people that could be a great help. We need to learn to love and accept each other the way we are now.
As a community, we should also look at the damage caused by admonishing single parent households. When leaders such as pastors, stand-up and say not having a man in the house will cause sons to be homosexual and daughters to become promiscuous they reduce the self-confidence of the followers in this situation. This mentality is especially unfortunate in the case of Dr. Umar Johnson, as a clinical psychologist, he does not reference any scientific data to prove any of these assumptions. There is no reason he could not conduct a clinical study himself to show single parent households are damaging to children. All his assumptions are anecdotal from his personal experience as a psychologist. Dr. Johnson harms people by putting in their consciousness that their relationship is in some way inferior. As a community, we must be more careful about what we say and how we say it.