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The Cross African-American Parents Must Bear

pic post_8-15-16“Cover him, Lord. … Allow him to still be here with us, Lord. Still with me, Lord. Please, Lord, wrap your arms around him,” prayed Diamond Reynolds, Philando Castile’s girlfriend, after he was shot.

These senseless deaths in the hands of police rip at the heart of every African-American parent – indeed, every parent. President Obama, rightly, says that every parent hugged their children a little tighter these past few weeks. This is true. But after the embrace, how do we prepare them to go out in the world where those who are designed to protect them target them, profile them, fear them?

As an African-American mom of a son, wife of an African-American man, my whole being is weeping. I weep with grief for the lives lost, with diminished faith that our society has the will to heal itself and rise to its own ideals, and with a palpable measure of dread as my husband and son left this morning to do the things that nearly every American does without a second thought: Go off to summer camp and work. Like every day, I whispered a prayer, “Protect them Lord, wrap your arms around them, bring them home safely” – only louder today. I want my son to have the freedom to explore and express himself; I worry how he will be perceived and treated. I remind him to behave, to do as he is told.

How do African-American parents raise their children in a society that maligns them?

Our essential job as parents includes helping our children internalize the values of our society, equipping youth to become productive members of our society and instilling emotional well-being and emotional security. But above all else, parents must protect their children from harm.

To achieve this, African-American parents are often much stricter and require more obedience than do other parents – aptly called “no-nonsense parenting.” From the outside, this parenting may seem harsh and unyielding. However, African-American parents are preparing their children for a harsh and unyielding society. And this strict parenting works: My research, along with others, shows that it’s associated with better academic and mental health outcomes. If a child might lose his life over making a mistake, as a parent you have to ensure that they never make a mistake – hence strict parenting.

There is a double standard – stricter parenting works for African-Americans; democratic parenting works for whites. Research shows that adolescents need autonomy; they should make and learn from their mistakes. Yet whereas parent-adolescent conflict is tolerated as necessary to build negotiation skills, self-assurance and confidence, African-American parents cannot afford to cultivate this self-assured assertion of their child’s contradictory perspective. At school, white youth who talk back to teachers are likely excused as mouthing off, whereas African-American youth are deemed defiant and insubordinate with disciplinary consequences. Similarly, while strict parenting practices may undermine achievement for white youth, it is related to better achievement for African-Americans. Whereas white parents cultivate self-expression, African-American parents do not have this luxury.

Read more about it here: http://bit.ly/2aUWwJ4

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