The Urban Plantation: Racism & Colonialism in the Post Civil Rights Era

By Robert Staples | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
Colonialism and the Crisis of the Black Family

The decade of the eighties finds the black family a fluid and complex institution. Our understanding of this group has been impeded by the obtrusion of alien values and political motivations in research on the subject. Hence, we have to sift through an array of literature which is in conflict in its findings and interpretations on the nature and significance of Afro-American family life.

While some of the discrepancy between the black family reality and its depiction in the social science literature may be altruistically attributed to adherence to the conventional wisdom of the times, much of the discrepancy is a function of what Nobles labels "conceptual incarceration."1 As a result, the black family's well-being is measured in terms of its statistical approximation to the white middle-class.

It helps us little to recapitulate the history of that research. Perhaps we have already labored too long in refuting the research which generally indicts the black family as pathological or sees it only as the darker skinned counterparts of the white family and the black family's concentration in the underclass of the American social structure. The alternative framework suggested by young black scholars may be characterized as the Pan-African conceptual model.2 This model views the black family in the context of Afro-American or African values and largely confines itself to presenting the strengths of the black family that are responsible for its survival. While the elaboration of black family strengths is a necessary task, it still limits our understanding of black family life in a dynamic society. In fact, it threatens to reimpose a conceptual incarceration upon black scholars because, as applied, the model is often static.

The Pan-African approach is most germane when we look at lower income Afro-American families in the rural South. With

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