Thursday, December 14, 2006

A simple question can answer a lot

On a cabinet behind my desk in my classroom, I have a collage of photos of my family taped all over one of the cabinet doors. There are pictures of me with my wife, me with my wife and two kids, pictures of my two kids; both by themselves and together.

Today in class, a black female student took an extended gander at all the photos behind me and then asked in all seriousness, "Is that yo girlfriend?" I even had her point to who exactly she was talking about, and she pointed at my wife. Again, the student was dead serious with her question.

Think about that for a moment. It didn't even cross this student's mind that the woman in my photos - the woman sitting next to me and holding our children - could be my wife. This student just automatically assumed that Mrs. Chanman was my girlfriend. When you look at the statistics, I'm not surprised that my student would think this way. According to the Brookings Institution, 85% of black children can expect to spend all or some of their childhood in a single-parent family, and almost 70% of America's black children are born outside of marriage. Overall, 37% of all of America's children are born out of wedlock. This is not one our country's finer trends. I continue to find it interesting to think that my kids are practically a minority in that they live with both parents who are married to each other in their first and only marriage. This is light years away from what a huge number of students at my school experience.

This student of mine is not an easy one to deal with. I have given up calling her mother with the expectation that it will do any good; the mother always tells me that she doesn't know what else to do with her daughter. So now I just make the obligatory phone call when I suspend this student from my classroom for a day or two. The father? He's in prison.

My job can often be a perpetual bummer as I watch these underparented youths try to make their way in the world while I try my hardest to counter this deluge of social pathology by offering my knowledge of history and life experience that I have accrued during my 34 years in this world. Taking on all of this is like trying to empty the ocean with a shot glass. All I can do is keep on scooping.

Good Day to You, Sir


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Its not only black children that ask the questions its all races. I think you may have a problem with black people in general. What if it were a white child that asked you that would you still post this stating a "white girl". Just a thought!

T said...

First to anonymous...and I hope I'm not stepping on Chanman's toes here but...I think it was stated in this very blog that "85% of black children can expect to spend all or some of their childhood in a single-parent family. And knowing Chanman as well as I think I do, if it was a white, oriental or hispanic child that had made this comment to him, he would have stated this.

Now, Chanman...... The most unfortunate side effect to this situation is that most of these children's children will, most likely, end up in homes like the ones their parents were raised in. Why wouldn't they? Unless you are a strong individual who decides early on that you want something different, you will almost certainly raise your children the same way that you were raised.

Chanman, you and I were raised alike, stable families, two parents (that were married), and we are now raising our children the same. Although starting out with an unplanned child, my husband and I have been married for almost 12 years and I don't see any change in that. A lot of my daughter's friends come from single parent homes (mostly single moms) and it's strange to see them react to my husband when they come over. They are starved for a father's attentions.

Maybe our children, their children, and their children, will make a big enough difference one day and families like ours will be the majority, again.

Chanman said...


I'm sorry you feel that way about me. Your comments reflect a shallowness of thought that I find astounding.

If that were a white girl that had asked me that question, you bet I would have still blogged about it, I would have stated that it was a white girl, and I would have brought up the overall 37% statistic about out-of-wedlock births. If you noticed (it appears you didn't), I did bring up that statistic in my post and expressed my concern for the overall out-of-wedlock birthrate in this country for all races; not just that of blacks.

Before you can fix a problem, you must identify the problem. The
difficulty with addressing race-related problems in this country is that those who publicly state the problem are called racists or at least, it is implied that they are racists, just like you have done to me by saying that I "have a problem with black people".

If I told you that U.S. crime statistics show that blacks, who make up 12% of the population, commit 50% of our nation's murders (usually against other blacks), am I a racist for making that comment? Judging by your words, you would say I am. What you should be thinking is, "My goodness, what
can be done to fix this problem?" That is my mindset. Your mindset
seems to be that if you don't bring up the problem, then perhaps it will go away or that it doesn't exist in the first place.

Do you think I like it that the illegitimacy rate among blacks is around 70% of births? Do you think I like it that there are so many problems the black community faces? For you to say that I have "a problem" with black people is just a bunch of ad hominem, race-baiting crap.

What I have a problem with are the conditions - both internal and
external - that keep our black American citizens from fully realizing the American dream. I would like nothing more than for them to be on an even keel with everyone else, and I rejoice whenever I see any of my black students do well in my classes and become positive leaders at my school. I am looking forward to a time when I don't have to rejoice; when it becomes such a commonplace occurence, that there is nothing extraordinary about it.

And yes, I know: there are problems in the white community too, but the
harsh truth is that the black community is foundering more in just about every statistical category. Who would you be worried about first?

The more I read your comment, the more I think that you didn't
read a word I said.

bluejay said...

I came here to the comments section to say a few words to anonymous. Too late. Chanman, you already said them.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

I've been asked if I was married too-- and I've got a great big wedding ring on my third finger of my left hand. And I've got kids.

Once, when we were talking about the culture of the Tidewater region, the topic of pregnancy came up. One of my students asked, "Ms. C, how old should someone be before they get pregnant?"

My answer was, "Old enough to get married and be committed to staying married, and to be willing to put other people's needs ahead of their own."

The kid responded, "But some people never do that!"

And I said, "Precisely. And they shouldn't inflict their selfishness on a poor defenseless baby, either. Babies are responsibilities, not rights or goods."

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