The 10 Biggest Myths about the Black Family

By Bennett, Lerone, Jr. | Ebony, November 1992 | Go to article overview

The 10 Biggest Myths about the Black Family


Bennett, Lerone, Jr., Ebony


IN PROPAGANDA against the Negro since emancipation in this land," W.E.B. Du Bois said, "we face one of the most stupendous efforts the world ever saw to discredit human beings, an effort involving universities, history, science, social life and religion."

Nowhere is this more dearly visible than in the pervasive and continuing effort to discredit Black fathers, mothers, and children. And it is scarcely possible to understand the problems and enduring strengths of the Black family if we do not at the least make an effort to understand and dispel the misconceptions, myths and outright lies men and women have invented to hide themselves from Black reality and American racism. There are, of course, scores of misconceptions about Black sexuality and Black kinship networks, but the vast propaganda campaign against the Black family is generally organized around ten major myths.

1. Raw and uncontrolled sex, according to the biggest and most pervasive myth, is at the root of the Black family problem.

THIS is the most enduring of all lies about Blacks, and sociologists and historians froth at the mouth and strain at the leash of synonymity ("riotous debauchery," "unbridled passions," "wild and primitive emotions") in passionate attempts to express this academic and political voyeurism. For most, if not almost all, critics of the Black family, there is always at the back of the mind this myth, this image of Black America as Babylon, where the Studs and Sapphires are always making babies, where--in the words of the myth-- "They do it, honey, right out in the middle of the streets." And one of the most challenging problems we face is confronting scholars, journalists and politicians, who have repeatedly used the Black family to exorcise the demons of their own sexuality and the guilt of their complicity in oppression. What makes this so difficult is that we are dealing here with a magical idea that is impervious to "facts." There are, in fact, no facts in this area, for there has never been a systematic analysis of the sexual differences between American Blacks and American Whites. And the few facts we have (see Robert Staples, "Black Male Sexuality," EBONY, August 1983) contradict the supersex theory of Black history and suggest that the differences between racial groups are relatively small, especially when you correct for economic and historical differences. More to the point, Blacks, according to the statistics, are not even in the running in the areas of wifeswapping and other experiments of the Sexual Revolutions.

2. The root cause of the problem, according to the second most widely disseminated myth, is loose morals.

THIS myth has a thousand lives and has surfaced repeatedly in the last 300 years. It has even seduced some Black writers, male and female, who have created a new and curiously popular literature based on the idea that Black America is a vast emotional wasteland popnlated by hustlin' men and maimed women,

In this instance, as in the preceding one, we are dealing with explosive emotions that exist in areas of the psyche that cannot be reached by the light of evidence, Some Blacks, for example, have children out of wedlock, but so do millions of Whites, including stars who are celebrated by the same media which browbeat and humiliate poor Blacks, The mythmakers know this, but they cannot be convinced by "facts," for their knowledge precedes the facts and makes the facts. And when they say that Blacks are immoral, 'they mean that there is a Black way and a White way of making babies and a Black way and a White way of being immoral,

A case in point is the controversy over illegitimacy, For a common impression to the contrary notwithstanding, Black America has always condemned unrestrained sexual expression and has insisted--with a singular lack of support from the Amer ican government and White insitutions--on stable and responsible mating patterns between knowledgeable and economically qualified parents. …

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