October 23, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I haven’t linked to a Salon.com article in a long while. There’s a reason for that; it’s just too awful a publication for me to read with much regularity. In that regard, this article certainly doesn’t disappoint (Salon.com, 10/7/15). If it reflects anything about mainstream culture or the zeitgeist, friends, we’re in a lot of trouble. It’s so wrong in so many ways, I’m not sure I can do it justice.
The writer is Brittney Cooper who teaches Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers. Her theme, to the extent that I can make it out, is that the culture considers single motherhood to be bad when African-American women do it, but just fine when well-heeled white women do it. One subtext is that single motherhood is just fine when anyone does it. Or maybe it’s not; Cooper contradicts herself on that key point.
What is Cooper’s evidence for the notion that our culture approves of white single motherhood? A cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Yes, it seems that one of the truly worthless magazines ever to exist features a photo of multiple Kardashians emblazoned with the words “America’s First Family.” Instead of taking this for what it is – a ridiculous statement by a ridiculous publication - Cooper instead takes offense, something that I suspect is one of her strong suits.
That seems to be because the actual First Family is the Obamas. They look to be a strong family with a husband and father, wife and mother and two growing daughters, a fact Cooper hastens to point out.
Apparently now that the official first family is African-American, achievement of a nuclear family is no longer a mainstream cultural aspiration.
Yes, there can be no doubt about it; if Cosmo says, tongue in cheek, that the Kardashians are America’s First Family, then the nuclear family clearly “is no longer a mainstream cultural aspiration.” What other conclusion could we possibly draw? That’s just how that rag works. But hang on to your hats. Next month, Cosmo’s cover story may feature the 16 best ways to please your man, feed your macaw or have sex with a space alien. And then our “mainstream cultural aspirations” will whiz off in another direction altogether. Sounds like we’re in for a rough ride, but at least Salon.com will be there to explain it all to us.
But having criticized Cosmopolitan for its imagined takedown of the nuclear family, Cooper plunges right ahead to agree wholeheartedly. Readers should beware of the dangers of mental whiplash.
American families are changing, and we should celebrate the fact that the two-parent, nuclear family ideal has gone the way of the floppy disk.
Really. Children being raised without two biological parents is something to be celebrated (except when Cosmopolitan does so and then it’s not, or something like that). Needless to say, Cooper offers not a word in support of that theory, nor does she grapple with any of the mountains of social science demonstrating to a certainty that non-nuclear families are anything but cause for celebration. For that matter, she barely mentions kids at all and certainly not their well-being. No, too much of a focus on children and children’s welfare would have derailed her narrative that Cosmo’s cover photo constitutes, all by itself, a discriminatory cultural zeitgeist.
Greater nonsense I may never have witnessed. But amazingly, it gets worse. Cooper goes on to compare the Cosmo cover with both the recent Atlantic Monthly article by Ta Nehisi Coates entitled “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration” and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report from the 60s warning of family breakdown among black Americans. Honestly, I didn’t make that up.
Significantly, Coates understands the problem of fatherless children, particularly boys in black America. Indeed, our eagerness to incarcerate black males is one of the leading causes of father absence from black families. But of course the other side of the coin holds an equally true message – male children, black or white, are much more likely to spend time in prison if they’re raised by a single mother.
In what must be some sort of record for hypocrisy or just plain stupidity, Cooper celebrates the breakdown of the nuclear family while bemoaning the incarceration of males that inevitably comes from it. It doesn’t get much crazier than that.
I’ll give Cooper one thing. To the extent that we’ve criticized black mothers and fathers for not getting and staying married in order to give their kids the best chance in life, it’s inappropriate of anyone, Cosmopolitan included, to give white mothers and fathers a pass for doing the same thing. There’s no evidence that fatherless families are any better for white kids than they are for black children. Indeed, it’s one of the most telling aspects of the social science on fatherlessness that the social, emotional, psychological and educational deficits associated with fatherlessness cross all lines of race, class, income, religion, educational level, etc.
But Cooper needs to get a bit of perspective. Cosmopolitan isn’t a serious magazine and no one believes it is. Coates wrote an important article, Moynihan an important report. They’re different from a Cosmo cover photo. Cooper should learn to tell the difference.
Not content with being astonishingly illogical, self-contradictory and hypocritical, Cooper moves on to being flat wrong.
But given that Black families have long experienced this shift away from the nuclear, traditional family, it is telling that we don’t see non-nuclear Black families as paving a path to the future of the American family. Black people, Black families, and Black women, especially, never mark the path to the future.
Actually of course, many people have pointed out that very thing – that, against all that’s sensible, single motherhood has spread far beyond the confines of black culture into that of everyone else. Unsurprisingly, the dysfunction we see among African-American youth resulting from fatherlessness we’ve for a long time seen among whites and Latinos. In fact, that’s been a fairly consistent topic in many different publications, including this one, over many years. Cooper either doesn’t know the obvious or doesn’t want her readers to. She seems to want us to celebrate black leadership even when it resembles that of lemmings.
Patricia Lowe’s family [the one profiled by Coates] is represented as the kind of family that America still does not want to be, despite Coates’ argument about how Black families are victims of structures.
That’s right, and that’s the way it should be. Families without fathers strongly tend to produce the type of children who become adults and contribute little to the commonweal and take much from it. We should bend heaven and earth to keep fathers and children together whenever possible. Children need both parents. Period.
One of the problems of black society in America is that far, far too few black leaders lead in the direction of stable, two-parent families. How many messages do we see in which a black leader encourages black women to put off childbearing until they can do so with a reliable father? Any?
What we do see are articles like Cooper’s that extol the very behavior that is most detrimental to black children. It’s enough to raise the question whether she really wants to improve the lot of black Americans. Indeed, one of the salient features of black single motherhood is that it’s a type of behavior that’s subject to change by black people alone. No government program, no massive bureaucracy, no huge influx of funding is needed for mothers, fathers, politicians, ministers, community leaders, teachers, etc. to start preaching the good word that children need two biological parents in their lives and adults need to alter their behavior to achieve that end.
Instead we get Cooper’s celebration of family breakdown. Disgraceful.
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#singlemothers, #children'swelfare, #Salon.com, #fathers, #Cosmopolitan