I have been somewhat hesitant to write anything about Black Lives Matter because American society has become so racially charged. Witness, for example, USC professor Greg Patton, who was suspended from teaching an intensive communications course last month because during a lecture, he used the word neige as an example of a common filler, or pause, word in Chinese. (A common filler word in American English is “Umm…”) Unfortunately for him, that word sounds somewhat similar to a racial slur which I will not repeat here; thus, his suspension. Black students in his class complained, and he was summarily replaced by another professor for the duration of the three-week course. He was not even given a hearing before a “faculty body.”
Let me give a similar personal example for the sake of comparison. Many years ago when I was a university teacher in China, I commonly gave my students English names if they wanted them. Sometimes the students wanted to choose their own; sometimes they preferred that I give them one. Students commonly wanted an English name that sounded somewhat like their Chinese name, so when I had a graduate student named Hu Kaibao, I gave him the English name “Hugo.” One of the young women in my class burst out laughing because, as it turned out, “Hugo” sounds somewhat like “Heigou,” which means “black dog” in Chinese. I had unintentionally embarrassed, even insulted, my student; one of his classmates suggested the name “Frank” because it fit Hu Kaibao’s personality, so that became his English name. Was I “reported” and suspended because of this? No. Did “Frank” hold this against me? I don’t believe so, based on our interactions both inside and outside the classroom.
Another example from American higher education where someone has been suspended or fired for a perceived racial slight is Leslie Neal-Boylan, former dean of the nursing school at the University of Massachusetts; she was fired in June because she wrote in an e-mail to the nursing school community, “BLACK LIVES MATTER, but also, EVERYONE’S LIFE MATTERS.” The student who complained to the university about this email used the hashtag #BLACKLIVESMATTER in her response.
These examples and others caused me to go to BlackLivesMatter.com to investigate what the organization really stands for. I discovered this statement on their About page: “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.” (This statement was “scrubbed” from their website about two weeks ago, but they have neither replaced it nor repudiated it.) Even at first glance, there are a couple of things about this statement that are troubling. First of all, they have as their goal to “disrupt” the nuclear-family structure (two generations: mother, father, and children). The extended-family structure which they reference has commonly been understood to be at least three generations, usually consisting of grandparents, parents, and children, but that doesn’t seem to be their goal, either. Here’s another statement from their About page: “We affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.” In fact, if you read their About page now, you will not find a single reference to families, which is stunning to me. Another thing that is less obvious at first glance is that Black men are not specifically mentioned. (Black women are.) I wonder if any of the Black men who display or tweet “Black Lives Matter” are even aware of this.
Perhaps you are familiar with statistics like these: 72% of Black children are born out of wedlock, and 65% live without a father in the home. According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, children from fatherless homes (in general, not specific to Blacks) account for the vast majority of suicides, runaways, high school dropouts, juvenile detentions, and substance abuse. (See https://www.liveabout.com/fatherless-children-in-america-statistics-1270392 for more details.) I know that there are people who blame law enforcement and the criminal-justice system in general because of so many Black men being incarcerated. However, that deflects attention away from the more fundamental problem: Men need to learn how to be good husbands and fathers. However, I don’t see anything on BlackLivesMatter.com that encourages them in this.
Thankfully, there are Black men like Marcellus Wiley, former NFL lineman and host of FS1’s “Speak for Yourself,” who are not afraid to critically examine Black Lives Matter and to speak up for the nuclear-family structure:
“I don’t know how many people really look into the mission statement of Black Lives Matter, but I did — and when you look into it, there’s a couple things that jump out to me, and I’m a black man,” Wiley said. “Two things: My family structure is so [vitally] important to me … Being a father and a husband — that’s my mission in life right now. How do I reconcile that … with this mission statement that says, ‘We dismantle the patriarchal practice. We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement,’” Wiley asked before sharing statistics showing the negative impact of single-parent homes versus two-parent households. “So when I see that, as a mission statement for Black Lives Matter, it makes me scratch my head.” https://nypost.com/2020/09/24/blm-removes-website-language-blasting-nuclear-family-structure/
I believe that the key to transforming largely Black communities, in fact any community, is for men to take responsibility and lead their families. (You can view my recent Christian Manhood posts to find out more.) And when my Black brothers do this in the power of Jesus Christ, they will experience genuine transformation in their lives, families, and communities.