Friday, December 27, 2013

Metamorphosis in America pt II: Need for Structure

When I started this series I was frustrated and perhaps even long-winded about the general lackadaisical attitude of people regarding racial inequities and gun violence in low-income urban communities.  And as I’m typing this, I’m listening to the counter thoughts of my readers who are thinking, “yea Brandon…so have a lot of people before you.” And they’re justified to think that. I’m not trying to insert myself as another intelligent observer who is ranting and preaching to the converted. I’m more of an unexpert and I’m really trying to understand and gain knowledge about what sorts of things are contributing to the problems in this community, and then offering any type of solution that’s possible.

Fast forward (well actually rewind) to a conversation my immediate family had with my aunt, two elder male cousins and my friend Daniel on Christmas night.

We were discussing the scarcity of structures in black families, neighborhoods, schools and yes….even the gangs which meander through our streets and communities.

Some black churches of today
 focus their structure on means
to prosperity and materials, 
Black churches were organized community
structures during the Civil Rights Movement
and played a key role in voter registration.
During times of distress for blacks living in the 1940’s – 60’s there were organized structures that focused on healing the lamented hearts and souls of their oppressed brother. The black church was an epicenter and place of refuge, and often did not remain silent in the face of social injustice.  Generally speaking, and please note that I’m saying GENERALLY SPEAKING, most black churches today have shifted their focus from being an organized group that does outreach and advocates for their communities, but rather have become insular buildings that give motivational how-to-steps about how to use God’s Word to get the things you want in life…some are particularly savvy in applying this to money, a spouse, and material possessions.  We need more churches whose structure includes a social justice lens and have organized systems of uplifting the communities.

 The black family structure is also flailing and needs to be revitalized. I don’t mean in the sense that every black family has to have two parents, etc. While those are ideal, I’m simply addressing time  and sharing that is reserved as a priority to  create a communal/familial presence within nuclear and extended families. If I were to have 20 houses in a black community turn on their lights and open their windows for me to see what was happening, I wonder what the percentage would be of those who are spending time together and supporting one another in healthy ways. Unfortunately what is prevalent amongst some black families is the imbalance of berating ex-spouses or children, and/or people who are so busy with their personal lives and social media that they lack deep or meaningful interactions with one another.  While there are a host of issues that sometimes keep families from healing and operating as a united support structure for one another, there is always THERAPY! But that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

When discussing the gun violence and reckless crimes that are plaguing the streets of Chicago, there is usually some type of gang affiliation. A lack of structure to the gang  culture is somewhat at work when discussing the gun violence and gang wars. When gangs were actually organized with leadership and clear turfs, there was not the influx of innocent bystanders victims and fluidity to the boundary lines of rival gang territory. What has happened now since so many of the gang leaders are getting locked up is that gang members don’t have a consistent leadership and are constantly shifting and adapting to what they can acquire and claim as their own. There is a by-any-means-necessary approach to the claiming of turf. I’m not advocating that gang leaders need to be released from prison, simply addressing the pattern of chaotic outcomes and its connection to lack of structure.

If a metamorphosis is going to happen in the black community, there need to be more organized structures across the families, churches, schools, and communal organizations. This is not to criticize or discount the work of the organized structures that exist. Blacks would not have many of the successes they have now without the sustainability of many wonderful organized structures. In order to continue and uplift the marginalized black brother and sister who’s lives resemble anarchy,  blacks (and those who care to advocate on marginalized blacks’ behalf) need to be creative about developing new systems of structures which will meet the needs of the ever shifting dynamics in black communities.

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