Success in America: A narrative of a black man hungry for a better community
Twenty percent. According to the 2010 Census, that’s the percentage of young men in the U.S. without a father in the home, and the majority of these young men are African-American or “black.”
I am a part of this statistic. I grew up without a father, like many on the west side of Charlotte.
Growing up without a father at home meant growing up without a parental perspective other than your mother’s. Being sheltered from storms by only my mother was something I appreciated until I encountered one that she couldn’t cover. “Prepare me!” I screamed relentlessly inside of my mind, hoping that one day my mother would understand that she could not always protect me.
To be clear, my mom has prepared me – to avoid any obstacle obstructing my path to success even if it’s right outside my door. Also, my father was in my life, just not in the capacity in which I hoped.
When you grow up on the west side of Charlotte, surrounded by the daily reminder of the media’s loud protest of what it is not, all a parent can do is protect you from the drugs, the violence, the negative statistics. Very seldom are the successes of my community praised or even given regard.
But the irony is that the issue was never getting enough protection from these things. The issue was the lack of preparation and support, outside of her and my school.
“It takes a village…” we protest as a people.
The first step to creating this village is forgetting what we think we know about someone. It starts with understanding. And if we take the time to stop and listen, we will acquire just that.
When was the last time that you said your best friend died from a gun wound? When was the last time you were oblivious to an opportunity in your own city that could propel you? When was the last time you were told that you were nothing? I repeat, nothing.
These are the issues that we deal with on the west side of Charlotte in our daily lives. It is in part due to decisions our families have made, but also in part due to the systematic treatment of our families that has contributed to a revolving door of failure. It takes something much deeper than common circumstance for one to understand this mental state. But if you can answer “recently” to any of the questions I posed above, then you will begin to understand.
The battle that west Charlotte communities face is, in part, due to a lack of understanding of their predicaments by counterparts in the southern and northern parts of town. This is not necessarily the fault of those other communities, but when someone does not inquire about another’s wellbeing, it makes another feel worthless – another reinforcement of societal stereotypes and their own thoughts.
Do not tell me I cannot be more.
Simply to listen is all I ask for, today and forever. We are not just the products of our decisions. No one is. It is by life’s circumstances, happenings and decisions, which have dictated where we are, who we are, and what we have been allowed to be.
Afford the opportunity. Then enhance the accessibility. And we will progress from there.
“It takes a village to raise a child… so let’s act like as one for once.”
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