Why "Strong Families" Are Not the Answer

January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


The following short polemic originally appeared as part of the Revolution special issue "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System, and the Revolution We Need".


People say: "The basic reason for the problems of Black people has been the breakdown of the Black family. That's why these kids get into the gang life. We have to bring back the traditional family as the first step to solving these problems."

While there has been a tremendous breakdown of Black families in the last several decades, that too has stemmed from the workings of this system, which has cast many Black men to the margins of society, with nearly a million of them in prison as you read this. The economic basis for "stable, two-parent" families has been undercut. You could have every Black father actively involved in the care of every Black child, and the fact would still remain: this system has no future for millions and millions of these youth, with or without fathers present.

If you really think that the "stable, two-parent" family will solve the problem, take a look back to the years of KKK terror, lynchings and Jim Crow segregation in the South. Back then the great majority of Black families were traditional two-parent families. But that did not and could not prevent the devastating effects of white supremacy and capitalist exploitation and oppression.

But there is an even deeper problem with this non-explanation: it directs oppressed people towards an outlook that will strengthen the chains of oppression and lead away from liberation. The traditional family has its origins in the original division of society into oppressor and oppressed. You can get a clue to this by looking at the root word of "family," which is from the Latin "familia"—which actually means the number of slaves owned by one master! "Restoring the man to the head of the family" covers over the reality of what that means for the woman—which is exactly being treated like a slave, whether a "favored" one or one who is beaten, abused, betrayed, molested, and raped within the "holy confines" of the family (which is all too often how it really goes down). When you get right down to it, this "rightful role of the man" bullshit is just the talk and mentality of a wannabe slave master. And all this other talk from the street of "ho's and bitches"...all this hatred of gay people, with the talk of "faggots," the persecution, and the actual beat-downs and even killings of anyone whose sexual feelings differ from "the norm"...all that stuff, too, is the same messed-up, destructive mentality.

We don't need this—and it will never lead to liberation and a better world!! While the communist revolution will immediately remove the obstacles that society has placed in the way of forming Black families, it will NOT do this on the basis of the traditional relations and ideas that dominate families in capitalist society, but on the basis of equality and mutual love and respect—and of looking outward toward transforming all of society, including unleashing the full participation of women in every sphere. Black men, and other men, don't need to "get in" on their "right" to assert domination in the family over women and children—they need to rise up together with women in equality as part of emancipating all of humanity.

And Black children don't need "male role models"—they need an end to the crippling conditions that hem them in at every point. They need revolution, and they need revolutionary role models, women no less than men.They need to see men and women who model the mutual respect and equality that reflects the world we are fighting for: a whole new liberated world where girls grow up strong and without fear of being raped, degraded or abused, where no child is ever deemed "illegitimate," and where men—like everyone else—find their worth in contributing to the betterment of all of humanity through the revolutionary transformation of all society rather than by getting in on even a little of the oppression of this nightmare world.

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