The Black family is the primary institution in society and the foundation of human culture and civilization. It is unique because of the tremendous onslaught of destructive forces it has endured. And although there are many unfavorable statistics and negative statements from pundits and doomsayers, the Black family is alive and thriving.
The roots of the Black family stretch back to ancient Kemet (Egypt), the land of Kush and beyond and provided the love, the stability and the knowledge for human development. Llaila O Africa writes:
"The first technology (science) of Africa is the family. In traditional European terms technology means a scientific way to achieve a practical purpose. However, technology is a method (holistic) used to create a family, a community and a civilization. The Black family (body, mind, spirit) was used as the basis for all growth and development of ancient African science and technology."
The early African family had a spiritual dynamic that permeated every aspect of life. The African did not look at any area of existence without also reflecting on the beauty, the beneficence and the majesty of the Creator.
The relationship between men and women was based on mutual respect and cooperation. They performed their roles with balance and harmony, neither one imposing their will upon the sanctity or questioning the validity of the other.
Unlike European religious traditions, there was no mythology that blamed the woman for prompting man into original sin, and thus, forever marking her as a magnet for wicked and unsavory influences. And most African families tended to be equalitarian and gave men and women equal authority in the relationship.
Children were considered a blessing from God as well as a vibrant connection to beloved ancestors and great love and forbearance were lavished upon them. They were cultivated and allowed to develop without beatings, threats or malicious name calling which would damage their self-esteem and discourage assertiveness.
Many Black scholars have attributed the Euro-American custom of "whipping" Black children to a protective methodology used by fearful Black parents during slavery when it was well known that assertiveness in Blacks often prompted fatal consequences from White people. Sultan and Naimah Latif explain:
"This fear of Whites was deeply impressed in the minds of the Black slave.
Disobedience might mean torture or death. It was the duty of the parents to protect their children by instilling fear and obedience to the White man.
Unknowingly, to this day some African American parents teach their children fear of Whites. How often have you heard parents or others say,’This is the White man’s world–”you have to play the game by his rules’?
Many common disciplinary practices of African American parents can be traced back to the slavery time philosophy of instilling fear into the child.
The child’s spirit was broken early as a means of protection against later, possibly fatal punishment from Whites."
There was probably nothing as singularly devastating to Black families than forced separation through the selling of family members off to distant locations. In this infinitely destructive process, husbands were sold away from wives, parents from children and siblings were snatched from each other. Yet it is a testament to the love and devotion inherent in Black families that Black men who were separated from their families would walk for long distances braving slave patrols and risking harsh punishments from White masters to be with (if just for a few moments) their wives and children.
Those Blacks that were fortunate to escape the horror of slavery by running away, would traditionally save their money and solicit funds from abolitionist groups and sympathizers in an effort to buy their wives and children out of bondage and to re-unite them.
Enslaved Blacks that married did so with the knowledge that their union would never be respected by their White masters, nor would the children be adequately protected that were born from such a union. Black children were routinely punished, and worked mercilessly at the whim of their "owner." And Black women, whether married or not, were the targets of the sexual lusts of White masters and overseers, yet there are many recorded instances of Black men risking life and limb to protect their wives and children and the sanctity of their marriage.
Notes and References:. Llaila O. Africa, "Nutricide" Golden Seal Publishing, (1994) p. 33 . Sultan &Naimah Latif, "Slavery: The African American Psychic Trauma" Latif Communications Group, Inc. (1994) p. 162