Friday, October 19, 2007

A Self-fulfilling prophecy



" The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behaviour which makes the original false conception come 'true'. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning."

Robert K. Merton from his book Social Theory and Social Structure


I have for a very long time believed that most of what is said publicly about Black people has been an effort to lead Black people to follow the dire words and predictions until they become true. Example, there are more Black men in prison than in college. We all have heard that time and time again, and yet it is false. We have been bombarded by these sort of statistics. And sadly most of us believe them on spec, because we have been conditioned to do so.

A recent study concluded that 70% of Black women were single. I wonder what age group they looked at? Also, amongst White women of the same age group, what percentage are single? And who conducted the study, might they have an agenda? Did anyone think to ask those questions before shouting the sky was falling? Of course not, it was a negative study result about us, so most of us simply believed it.

Is there a week that goes by that some new study does not pop up concluding that African Americans are more likely to do a negative thing or suffer from something more so than other groups?

Wednesday on The Oprah Winfrey Show Dr. Bill Cosby appeared and talked about the sad state of affairs in African America. He and Oprah along with Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint discussed how badly we African Americans are doing. The discussion ranged from poor parenting, absent Black fathers, poor academic performance, out of wedlock births and so on Ad nauseam.

This type of discussion is nothing new. It's been going on for 500 years. First among whites, who said the same things that Cosby is saying (until it became politically incorrect to do so in public). Then of late, in the last 15 or 20 years by Blacks. It's the same sort of rhetoric over and over, saying Black people are a remedial people. Now if you were to ask Dr. Cosby if he thought Black people were inferior I'm sure he would say no, but his words say something else.

And before I go on I have to qualify my thoughts. I understand that among a certain group of African Americans there is a huge problem in terms of attaining success. This problem extends to many area's, including; education, employment and family, etc. I am not saying that problems don't exist.

I wonder though what would happen if we African Americans ignored publicly for the most part the "problems" in the so-called Black community. What if we, like whites, did not allow the poor to be put front and center as our public face. What if instead, we like Whites, only allowed middle class and affluent Blacks to be the public face of African America.

No other group allows themselves to be judged by the least among them except African Americans.

What if the discussion in the African American community was of how wonderful we are doing. That no other group of people have come so far in such a short amount of time. After all, the enslavement of African Americans only ended 142 years ago. That's barely 3 lifetimes.

What if there was a totally new paradigm in African America. What if we actually acknowledged and lauded Black students who excelled, instead of only talking about how badly Black students are doing. What if we talked about Black men as being great fathers and Black women as being amazing mothers and allowed Black women to be idealized as the women of other communities are. What if we highlighted all that was right with African America.

What if we shunned those who presented a bad public image of African Americans, like rappers and others who perpetuate stereotypes.

My point is that we know that a prophecy works to fulfill itself in the negative. So shouldn't it be assumed that a prophecy can be fulfilled in the positive?

Since the first African was dragged on shore here in America the public discourse has always been negative. And the result is we, African Americans are constantly thinking of ourselves as being problematic. Why then don't we change the public conversation.

Why don't we prophetize our success.

As I said previously, I'm not saying that we ignore those of us who are struggling. I think though that they who are struggling would be better served by thinking of themselves as apart of a group that is achieving and successful, rather than a group that is not.

Let's not be victims and the subject of statistics that tout our failures. Let us all be a shining example of how far a group of people can come even after having so many roadblocks placed in our way day after day for hundreds of years.

Then instead of conversations on Oprah about our dire situation, we can see a conversation about those incredible African Americans. What an amazing group of people they are.

Which, is the real truth, we are amazing. But there is not going to be a study that tells us that.



Photo Attribution: (Bottom-everyculture.com), (middle-Missouri State Archive), (top-The University Of South Florida)


9 comments:

Lisa said...

My Daddy used to tell us all the time that "you have what you say!" Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I have so many thoughts on all of this rushing through my head right now about all of this . . . Don't be surprised if I link this post to my blog later today (at work right now :)

Mes Deux Cents said...

Hi Lisa,

What your dad said is true, and that's the scary thing because WE African Americans are saying that we are failures.

The first step to success is thinking of yourself as being successful. That's what we need to do as a people, think the we are as a group successful.

And I would be honored to have you link to a post of mine, thanks! I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Thanks

Miriam said...

that is such a key observation.

In the Jewish world, they have this rule called "guarding your tongue". This rule means not talking badly about your fellow Jew. I think it had some weight and bears learning.

Ehav Ever said...

Thank you thank you thank you for saying what I was always taught. What you wrote needs to published in articles and in books. I am with 100%, because it was what I grew up with. I grew up with the idea that I could be successfully if I applied myself and learned how the system works. I didn't have to take on the faults of others, but could take on the positives of my family and others who lived moral lives.

Thanks again for saying what I grew up with and what I have always felt.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Miriam,

That is a great rule. I wish it was in effect here. This constant talk of crisis is causing a crisis itself.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Ehav,

I think we are turning kids into failures by constantly saying how bad they are at everything. Kids need positive reinforcement otherwise they shrival like dead flowers.And adults can use some encouragement too!

Ehav Ever said...

Maybe a start would be a day or a week of blogging about positive things. Similar to when there was a day of blogging for Darfur, the environment, etc. Maybe a day of blogging about positive things happening or done by people of African, African American, Afro-Israeli, descent.

Any takers on this idea?

Mes Deux Cents said...

Ehav,

That is a great idea! I hope you will pass that around. Let me know if you gain traction. I will certainly participate!

Mes Deux Cents said...

Lisa,

I rcvd your message. Sure no problem at all.

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About Me

West Coast, United States
African American, Poet?, Vegetarian, Music lover, Agoraphobic, Social Phobic

My Favorite Poet

My Favorite Poet
Staceyann Chin

My Favorite Track Athlete

My Favorite Track Athlete
Christine Arron