Take Two

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

What is the state of the black family in Southern California?

by Austin Cross and A Martínez | Take Two

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Demonstrators march during a peaceful protest November 17, 2014 streets in Clayton, Missouri. The governor of the US state of Missouri declared a state of emergency Monday and activated the National Guard ahead of a grand jury decision in the case of a black teenager shot and killed by a white police officer. Many fear an outbreak of violence if the St Louis County grand jury fails to indict Ferguson city police officer Darren Wilson in the August 9 death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. MICHAEL B. THOMAS/AFP/Getty Images

Four out of 10 African-Americans are doubtful the United States will ever achieve racial equality. That's one of the key findings in a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

Both black and white people were questioned for the project. The study revealed profound differences in opinion between the groups on subjects like Black Lives Matter and economic disparity. When asked why blacks have a harder time getting ahead, however, both parties pointed to two factors: family instability and the lack of good role models. 

Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to point to discrimination as a major reason that some blacks have a harder time getting ahead

What is the state of the black family here in Southern California? And what can be done to overcome the hurdles that black youth face? 

Take Two put that question to two guests:

  • Tyree Boyd-Pates, professor of African-American studies at Cal State Dominguez Hills
  • Jorja Leap, professor specializing in gangs and community violence at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs 

When you look at the income disparity and high rate of incarceration in places like Watts, Compton, Inglewood, how did things get to where they are today?

Tyree Boyd-Pates: I've looked at the war on drugs that was enacted by the Reagan administration in the 1980s, and how it completely plundered the black community and was able to ensnare African-American men at disproportionate rates, leaving them to be completely out of the lives of their wives, their children and their communities for the next 20 years. That plunder is relevant and evident every single day as you walk through those neighborhoods, because the over-policing is dominant, and those communities are lacking in that particular area.

How would you describe the state of the black family today? 

Jorja Leap: I think it's in flux. I think they are beginning to take a hold of the idea that there are strengths there that they need to recognize, that they need to reinforce, that they really need to own and be proud of.

On the other hand, when we see the kind of economic and health inequities that we are still witnessing in black and brown communities, I also think there is deep concern about the future, uncertainty and a real lack of social and economic support. 

A clip from a Nike commercial that aired back in 1993, featuring Charles Barkley, called "I Am Not a Role Model":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gqk4WPnrpM

Why do you feel Nike thought it was important to remind parents, "Hey, sports stars can't take your place?"

Jorja Leap: I think this is a brilliant ad in retrospect. I work with a lot of folks who bemoan the fact that children look at basketball stars and hip-hop and rap musicians as their role models. And I know parents who have been raised in these areas who say, "We need to have mainstream role models." I think there is such a core of truth to that advertisement. I think our role models have to be broader. They have to be approachable. They have to be accessible for any child, particularly children of color. 

In the last eight years, seeing a black man in the White House with his wife and two daughters — do you think that has laid any groundwork down for the future? 

Tyree Boyd-Pates: I would say yes, but for black and brown people, we tend to get caught up in the symbolism of President Obama's election, as well as the role that he plays with his family, and we, kind of, project ourselves onto him and him onto us. 

We have to understand historically that black families have never been treated as a family should be treated in any circumstance — I'm talking about chattel slavery all the way to 2016. Every time an attempt for a black mother and a black father to kind of come together to coalesce their resources ... they were always dismantled... The irony is that the stereotypes are still attached when African-American mothers still can serve both roles, even when a leg is kicked from under them.

Press the blue play button above to hear the full conversation.

This story has been updated.

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