My 8‑year-old twins have a problem. There are three sides to the story.
The Black Family in America has suffered tremendous setbacks since our arrival over 400 years ago. In recent decades, some, like Bill Cosby in his infamous 2004 comments and subsequent book “Come On People,” have placed the blame on the black community, itself, admonishing us to retire the victim mentality, take some responsibility, and stop having so many babies out of wedlock. That’s one side.
Another belongs to Cosby’s opponents, namely, Michael Eric Dyson, an ordained Baptist minister and professor of Sociology at Georgetown University. He calls Cosby out for “blaming the victim” and turning a blind eye to the injustices that still pervade the unfair society in which we live in his “blanket indictment of poor blacks.” The second side.
After all, it is, in fact, true, that blacks are disproportionately targeted by police, the issue lit recently by events in Ferguson, Missouri; blacks in low income neighborhoods have access to fewer resources, educationally, and otherwise; and the job market has historically been skewed in an opposing direction. But it is also factual, that 70% of children born in black households are born to single parent families, me and my twins, among the number. The conundrum compounds many matters and has introduced a host of problems that have affected the Black Family mentally and emotionally, specifically diluting the strength of the Family and weakening responsibilities to each other. So who’s right?
Let me suggest that the question can be answered in examining, as I have begun to do, our identity. The family’s identity is not what it looks like through America’s lenses, set against a backdrop of European ideals. But wait, it is also not found in “going back to Africa,” and learning who we were in another culture, a polygamous one at that. After all, that’s simply exchanging one opinion for another. As Christians we know that the biblical view surpasses any other, and the right answer can only be found with God. The final side, and more importantly, the truth.
The Bible tells the story of our salvation. Creation. The Fall. Redemption. And Renewal. The family is held in high regard in God’s eyes and was created to fulfill his purposes perfectly. One mother and one father in an inextricable bond (Genesis 2:24–25), obedient children (Deut 5:16) and a fear of the Lord, the organizing principle for all aspects of life (Proverbs 1:7, 3:5–6).
Let me say it this way… The Fall separated man from God, broke order, and among other detriments, put Whites against Blacks. Slavery created a situation of profound dehumanization in the Black Family, which could be easily broken up and family member’s sold simply at the master’s whim, the breakdown of the family ideal still evident today.
But we know that we have been redeemed and are being renewed day by day if we be in Christ. This is the story of salvation. It is not simply salvation from death, but also salvation from any and everything that is destroying us, by the grace of Jesus Christ. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5–6). The victim mentality, while based in fact, dismisses God’s authority over heaven and earth that we have declared in our hearts to be true. And while we have been called to be responsible, we are casualties of sin and will never live our lives in perfect accordance with God’s intent until the coming day of glory. Our truest identity and the solution for an ever increasing problem in the single parent household can only be found in submission to Christ.
I heard a preacher tell a story of his dear friend who had recently undergone surgery to remove cancer from his body. While the surgery was successful, and the cancer eradicated, the friend still groaned in pain for weeks, side effects of the operation. Psalms 6, arguably, one of the saddest Psalms, filled with lament and anguish, illustrates David’s suffering, much of it perhaps, a consequence of his own irresponsible behavior (2 Samuel 7, 11, 12). And yet, while he has been forgiven, his prayer is for deliverance from sin’s consequences.
Likewise, the hope, for my own children, is that they would come to know the importance of the nuclear family despite their own upbringing, and regard God’s ways as perfect. My prayer is that God would fill in where I have fallen short, apply grace in empty crevices, and have mercy on our house.