I interviewed Ophelia Dumars, mother of Joe Dumars, the famous basketball player and athletic manager for the Detroit Pistons, about parenting in the African American community. She is somewhat of an authority, based upon positive outcomes for her children. She has seven children, four of whom completed college and the fifth in process of doing so. None of her children have been in prison, nor have any of her grandchildren. She has a total of 30 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all of whom respect her, she reports. And well they might, because the people of Natchitoches, Louisiana respect her as well for the raising of her children.
Dumars declares that “after integration discipline broke down.” New ways of parenting from the white community were introduced that conflicted with the strict parenting set down by black parents. She said in her day there weren’t the high percentages of African Americans in jail because parents and community members made sure they were disciplined strictly and understood consequences of bad behavior. That was passed on down to the next generation until new ideas were introduced that seemed to bring consequences that didn’t end up with positive results. Corporal punishment was the means of disciplining that seemed to make children behave. These days Dumars believes parents don’t do that anymore and so many of them don’t know their limits.
Randy Stelly, native Louisianan who grew up with strict parents who had successful businesses in Opelousas in South Louisiana, believes also that integration interfered with the raising of black children. His concern was that discipline in school wasn’t even-handed and was fraught with suspicion and distrust. Black parents resented white teachers disciplining their children. Conversely white parents didn’t want black teachers disciplining theirs. The lack of understanding and preparation for adults prior to integration meant that children had unequal treatment in discipline and those for whom expectations were less, often black, ended up with discipline problems. What black folks wanted, he said, was decentralization, equal opportunity. He too is concerned that too many black children end up in prison for lack of effective, consistent discipline.
The dialogue about this has been part of African American conversation on the Internet as well as locally in Natchitoches. Attorney Roy Miller
on a blog post writes that integration has been cruel to black children. He works in the legal field in Macon, Georgia and says he has challenged black leaders with his claims about how integration has failed black children. He said before integration black teachers had very little problem with discipline of students, a point verified by Dumars as well, who was often at school involved with her children. She too believes that black teachers had stern control and were trusted by the children at the time. Miller reinforces this concept in his posting as well.
Miller goes on to discuss how integration broke down black values. He said that after integration black teachers were disciplining black students and white teachers were as well, and then “all hell broke loose.” He continues by saying that after integration blacks got new learning materials and books, however black moral and religious values were broken down, which brought an increase in black crime. These are some of the issues he relates:
“In majority Black school districts, White kids left and went to private schools. Public schools were segregated all over again. The reality is that Blacks are now right back in what amounts to segregated public schools. What was lost in the journey can perhaps never be recovered. How cruel, when you look at the peace, love, lives and respect that were lost, all for text books and educational equality. We need to admit it. White parents are not ever going to let Black teachers paddle White children, Black parents are not ever going to let White teachers paddle Black children and Black parents are distrustful of their children being disciplined in the public school system. “
“We've got to have discipline.” Wilson further declared, reaffirming what Dumars and Stelly maintain. Back to basics in “spare the rod and spoil the child” is Dumars recommendation. How all of that will develop is likely to be controversial given the issues of child abuse raised by physical discipline, but some say that may need to be the road back for the crisis of discipline and increase in crime in the black community.