Thursday, April 20, 2006

i be talking...

these are excerpts from stuff i've said in message board conversations i've been having with various folks on various topics over the past few days:

on the idea that people should homeschool their kids, at least part-time:

"this is a default for good parenting. leaving EVERYTHING up to the school is never the way to go. it's called, 'helping with homework,' or getting a tutor or other family member to do so. it's called, "preparing them for school," which many parents don't do - children should have already begun to learn things at home before being sent to kindergarten, and they should have already begun to get a mindset for school under their parent's supervision over the summer. but too many parents don't think that way, and then they expect the kids to do well in school. so far as a supplemental home curriculum is concerned, it may not be a default, but it's certainly something i've known i'd do since i learned that there were things i wasn't learning in school..."

"my parents did [it] and i think it made all the difference. they did it by making their encouragement of my intelligence something that i could count on and look forward to. my mom read to me every night before i could read, sang and wrote the alphabet with me, and was enthusiastic about spending that time with me - i picked up reading early and with no problems. my mom would buy me golden books on basic spelling, and arithmetic, and i loved it because of the stickers in the back. my parents would get me flash cards and educational games... they would brag about my intelligence to friends and family members, so it was obvious to me at a very very early age that they 1) expected me to learn 2) believed that i could be very smart and 3) wanted me to value learning for myself and see how great it could be. given our literacy rate, i think that all parents should be able to help their kids with at least the basics before preschool/kindergarten and throughout elementary school. their attitude and enthusiasm will rub off on their kids... i don't even consider that homeschooling, i just think it's a common sense thing to do."

on the question of whether black women feeling abandoned,
and if so, what men can do about it:

i don't know how other girls from other cultures are raised, 'cause i haven't lived their experiences. but i do know that me and my black girlfriends were raised to know for sure that we had better do well in school and aim high for careers so that we could be self-sufficient, because there would be no guarantees that a man would be willing and able to wife us and take care of us, along the lines of a 1950's stereotypical family.

on another message board i read, the men are always seemingly frustrated by how women want to do what men do and still be treated like a lady. they don't understand why women are talking about being able to do the same things as a man and why women insist on having men respect their autonomy but then demand chivalry, as if they're too damsel-in-distress-y to do things for themselves only when it's convenient for them. i tend to think that it's because at the same time little girls are being raised to be self-sufficient, they're also being told the fairy tales about men being their umbrella, their protector, their sponsor - perhaps not out loud but subliminally through culture traditions. can't blame women for being a bit conflicted. but the truth is, part of the reason women are hustling so hard is only 'cause they feel they have to, 'cause they expect that nobody else (male) will [for them].

i'm not married. and i am totally responsible for myself. but i don't feel like i've been abandoned, so much as i feel like this is just the way of the world. i do feel like what my upbringing said rang true - it's a good thing i got myself together and didn't go out looking for some man to take care of me. i suppose if i had expected that, i might feel abandoned. perhaps that sounds like lowered expectations for the brothers on my part. but i know the state of our community, and i know people are picky about who they marry, if they even marry.

but i don't take it personally to feel "abandoned." and what also mitigates it that is that there are men in my life, family members, friends, acquaintances... some women don't have the supportive communal network of positive men that i do. shoot, this time a year ago, even i didn't have it. and yes, i missed y'all. but i still didn't feel "abandoned," as if y'all didn't want me or care for our community. to me it's just the way things are - unfortunate but true. some of y'all are just absent for whatever reason. circumstances come from all sides to make that a reality.

i'm guessing that the best thing concerned brothers can do is be around, interacting with people, visible, and active. befriending neighbors. coaching teams. going to community meetings. walking women to their cars. being role models for community boys. fixing stuff. being leaders. 'cause in my neighborhood, my dad was one of two or three married family men on the whole two-block street. but nobody who needed to see them actually saw these good men. they were like, mythical. all you saw was them going to work or working on the yard, and folks, that ain't often. shoot, if you go to a community meeting, pta meeting, church event, block party, family reunion, etc. the women always outnumber the men noticeably and substantially. that shouldn't be so. good men need to "belong to" more than just themselves and their families, 'cause there are children and women who need to see that you exist, and raise their expectations for manhood and change their warped macho/thuggish ideals for what manhood should look like. i think that as we as a community raise the bar, we should see less absentia and more positive male presence. i thought that's what the million man march was about..."

"we need to see that brothers get married, too. we need to see that they love their children, too. nothing warms my heart more than seeing adult black men with their kids, or with their families as i'm out and about. i don't see it often enough. i was with my cousin's wife and daughter yesterday when he came home from work. and the first thing he did was reach for his baby girl and talk to her and love her. it felt good to see it - inspiring, you know? and i wish i wasn't their only audience, 'cause so many people could stand to know that black people really do live and love that way, and not just in a movie or on tv or with a certain household income...

i will say that i've heard brothers wonder where the good women are - i know. they are making the same mistake the good men are making. staying on the grind and out of trouble is a good thing, but not so much if it isn't balanced with getting out there into the world. you will never find a mate from your living room. you will never be a role model or an inspiration for your community from your couch. or, for that matter, from the stage. like [my one of my poet mentors] says, if you're at an open mic every night out of the week, there ain't but so much you can honestly say you're doing on the streets. to every thing there is a season - i ain't mad at people doing what they have to do, 'cause shoot, i'm one of them.

but our community is in crisis. we don't believe in each other. we don't believe in our men. we don't exalt their potential. we don't see their achievements. and i think it's 'cause we're not inspired. but we can be. it would be so nice to walk in our communities and feel safe, knowing that if anything breaks out, concerned people will intervene to help a victim. knowing that if you flag a man down to help you jump your car or push it out of the way after an accident, he'll help. knowing that if a child is doing something bad or dangerous, some adult woman or man, will stop them, and teach them, protect them. but we can't wish for it. we just have to do it."

on being in search of chivalry:

"[this] girl i know [and respect] told a story today about how she called her man a bad word out of his name during an argument (which i have never done). and instead of lashing back at her in the same way, he just gave her hurt eyes, and said, i will never call you out of your name. he hasn't yet and it's been years. they're married now. she said that until that point she just thought such bad treatment was a normal and expected part of relationships. it wasn't until she encountered his love and patience that she learned better.

i've been fortunate enough to have always been with and around men that knew how to treat a woman like a lady. i see now that that's a fortunate thing, 'cause i've never had the same delusions about drama that she [used to have]. if there's too much conflict, my spirit wants out, so i bounce. i also know that i've received such treatment because i act in a way that sets the tone for being treated nicely. a girlfriend of mine told me recently that there are guys she knows don't approach me because they're intimidated by their (correct) assumption that i will not entertain bullisht. that must be the reason why i've always been around men that know how to treat me right. class doesn't attract or accept riff raff. because i act like the woman my parents raised right, i get treated right, and when i'm not, i don't linger and complain and bemoan the loss of chivalry. as surely as i was raised right and know how to treat a man, there are men who were raised right who know how to treat a woman. and i'd rather spend time with them."