Whenever I have taught children, there has been an obsession with safety.
This was a statement I made four years ago when I wrote an essay about people and their insane, irrational fear of being around children.
Men need children. Children need men.
While all men shouldn't or have no desire to be around children, it is wise to look at the reasons why and be honest in our assessment regarding men's interaction with children.
What must change (in relation to men's influence with children) if we are attempting to create a saner, more loving and thinking world?
For several years, I heard from friends and family that I would make a wonderful father and teacher.
Having switched my major in college to English with an eye on instructing eager, hungry minds, I began making preparations to move into the world of erudite instruction that would serve the young people that I would be fortunate enough to teach.
During the early 90's, homophobia was in full swing and nowhere was it more pronounced and encouraged than in education with almost a witch hunt focus on gays and lesbians.
With dreams of changing the world (which I believe is one of the many purposes of education), I was left sitting on my hands.
I could either jump in with the sharks wearing blood soaked swim trunks and hope for the best or I could save myself a buttload of misery and stay out of the water.
I stayed away from young people and teaching for as long as I could.
I watched in shear horror as my partner dealt with very vocal homophobic students, coworkers and faculty.
I watched with incredulity as people dismissed the powerful offerings of teachers and adults. My heart broke when people chose fear and ignorance over the possibility of change that a male presence could offer.
There was no blueprint for being talented in a given area and knowing that you would not be accepted in this arena or worse yet be run out of it and soon as there was any whiff of being "different".
While homophobia was partly to blame, there was also the belief that men around children was a bad idea simply because of our gender.
Men and their (perceived) devious, predatory ways was the real issue.
Many educational colleagues love to rail on about pedophilia which is not the same as homosexuality.
I have yet to hear an accurate or fact-based account of any teacher ever experiencing this dramatic scene(confrontation with and defeat of pure stupidity) at work with a colleague.
So where does all of this irrational fear and straight up stupidity come from and how do we challenge and defeat it?
We start by recognizing men's goodness.
When good men have skills that are necessary for the maturation and psychological well being of young people, we can work together (with allies that love, respect and admire men) to assign men roles with children that highlight skills our young people need.
We are no longer in need of men who are assigned the role of silent, emotionless ATMs whose response to anything emotional or deep consists of pointing out the failings of those asking questions and or then referring them to women who "know more about those things".
It is not ok to assume that beyond donating sperm and financial assistance men are useless and have little value.
Children are not better off without men.
Men and those that love them must offer assistance in reestablishing male input and the particular ways men approach the world and navigate their existence in it.
We all have much to learn from how the world is seen by men.
Anyone who has met a powerful man whose power stems from his commitment to mental health, self evaluation and improving children's lives recognizes and understands the goodness of men.
Men are psychologically harmed when they are assigned social roles that only benefit patriarchal.
Men are harmed when we get assigned the role of non-thinking monsters.
While I have never subscribed to the ridiculous notion that only men can raise boys, I understand that male energy is different, needed and should be invited in on a consistent and well thought out basis.
So the next time you are considering a baby sitter or someone to care for your young ones, consider a male colleague or family friend to take up the challenging, eye opening and heart expanding task that is influencing and loving children well.
Start small and build.
There is much to be learned and nothing to lose.
Most black folks who love, respect and need the approval and validation of their families don’t spend much time challenging the wisdom and insight of their elders.
When we are depressed, Big Momaisms tell us to get something on our stomachs (let big momma make you a cake); pray to Jesus (turn over all rational thought and decision making to an outside source who will fix it for you) and attend church more often.
I have heard black folks quote bible verses and spout the always popular: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. I have seen folks suffer for years because they refuse to step outside church and family rhetoric and realize that (1) Nobody’s coming and (2) They better switch up the way they handle their affairs.
For many years, I honestly believed Jesus would fix it all.
And if that didn’t work, I could always go for the big guns, Jesus’ daddy, God.
While I have nothing against Christianity, I have seen it used to justify all sorts of foolishness and mistreatment of humans.
When something bad happens, I often see black folks say Satan never sleeps or we’re being tested.
When something wonderful occurs, we often trot out the immensely popular:blessed and highly favored.
What Christianity and several religions fail to point out is the common denominator in all situations both good and bad: the man in the mirror.
While I have experienced all kinds of life challenges, I’ve only learned and made better choices when I’ve owned my part of the situation.
Once I stopped waiting for Jesus to fix me, things began to change.
At 14, I began attending a very prestigious all boys high school. I knew nothing about studying, social codes and rigorous academic achievement.
My fist year’s grades were abysmal.
After failing History and being ordered to attend Summer School, I had a choice to make. I could continue to think the instructors would change what they were doing or I could change what I was doing.
Miraculously, I figured out how to study History and my grades began moving into High B status. Within weeks, I was heading towards A status.
I have watched family members and friends suffer needlessly.
I have watched people endure awful relationships and then pray that the other person gets their mind right.
What if God and Prayer aren’t enough?
This world is full of wonderful emotional and mental resources.
What if we prayed to find a great mental health expert, then started looking for and then found one ?
Mental Health must be as important to our community as church, tithing and making sure our pastor has what he needs.
It is time we stand up in our faith and demand more from those who say it is there “calling” to alleviate suffering and uplift the community.
You cannot be black in this culture and not have been psychologically, emotionally and spiritually attacked, violated and diminished at some point.
The very existence of this culture depends on it.
As a result, it is imperative that all black folks seek some type of ongoing spiritual and emotional uplift.
If we are lucky, we will unearth an individual who encourages a blend of spiritual undergirdings with emotional and psychological tools for well being.
Hopefully, we will find a therapist who believes in prayer and action. Community and solitude.
We must remember that the black church has been extremely pivotal in our survival.
We must refuse to use it as a crutch and instead tap into the strength it can and should provide which will allow us to take on personal and communal challenges.
During the Civil Rights era, people prayed then marched.
We are not in a position to choose one over the other.
We must have both: a strong spiritual base and an ability to take powerful, determined well thought out action when needed.
When depression hits, a warm batch of cookies and bowl of ice cream won’t eliminate it. I know; I’ve tried.
What you will need is an ally whose purpose is to remind you of dormant skills and any source of unused personal power.
Religion and therapy should encourage everyone to become self reliant.
It is time we stopped hiding behind Jesus and the pulpit and instead used these entities along with a great therapist to face our personal and collective crap.
Social Networking, although assumed by many to be a waste of time, is an effective tool in creating and maintaining social change. These days so many wonderful people are doing so many wonderful things. It is my curiosity and desire to learn how people are not only getting their personal messages into the world but how information gets shared.
When you spend a great deal of time on the net, it is fascinating and somewhat sobering to realize that there is another individual at another computer reading your diatribes and spouting their own brand of brilliance. Recently, I spoke with someone about how immigration reform continues to affect them. I was unaware of the intersection of fear and anxiety among "undocumented " persons and how similar it is to being in the closet. I had the opportunity to interview and make a very short video of one brave person's story.
As the unwitting poster child for both racism and social change with the possibilty of what human beings are capable of, Alabama has an interesting history regarding race issues and social change.
In our world, there is much concern with reality.
Reality, in so many situations is concerned with being negative. We can often times accept negativity, the belief that something awful will happen. For many of us, the awful, the dreadful, seems highly more likely.
What if we have it completely wrong?
I write this essay as a direct response to all of the drama surrounding the belief, statistically factually proven or not, that the black folks in our great state of California overwhelmingly voted for Prop 8.