In the first chapter of the book, sociologists Angela J. Hattery and Earl Smith frame their analysis of the African American family around individual and structural explanations for conditions that African Americans face every day such as discrimination. The purpose of this book is to examine 21st century African American families by tackling various issues that African Americans may face.
A very controversial topic in today’s time is mass incarceration. 25% and 33% of African American men spend some time in jail or prison. This statistic proves that incarceration is a big issue in African American families. People have the misconception that African American men don’t want to be in their children’s lives. Sometimes, this may be the case, but because of laws throughout the years that require high sentences for small-scale crimes, African American men in jails and prisons are steadily increasing, forcibly separating these men from their families. Personally, I am happy that incarceration is covered in this book because I think that it is important to acknowledge this increase. The authors cover incarceration because it is rarely discussed, but is a rising problem in African American communities. Another reason that I find it important to cover incarceration is because the increase in incarceration of African Americans also means the separation of African American families all over the United States.
Another controversial topic in today’s society is teen pregnancy. Scholars try to explain or justify the large amount of teen pregnancy in African American communities in a few different ways. The first is that teen childbearing illustrates the value that African Americans place on children. I have a problem with this justification because although it is great that African Americans value children and the family unit, this doesn’t make teen pregnancy okay. Another explanation that scholars *try* to make for high teen pregnancy in the African American community is because African American women have a shorter life expectancy than their White counterparts, teen childbearing is a reasonable response to this, guaranteeing a grandmother for future generations. In my opinion, both justifications are ridiculous. I think that these justifications are just a way for researchers to try to convince us that they are addressing the topic at hand, but the problem with that is, even though they may be addressing it, they aren’t performing research that could lessen the statistics. These explanations have no argumentative standing. The authors seem to agree with this. In response to these explanations, the authors say that teen pregnancy is a key factor in the poverty of half of African American families that children are born into. The authors also acknowledge that they don’t pass moral judgments on teen mothers and that the argument is about the evidence surrounding teen pregnancy rather than failure of sex education at school or teen sexuality.
Data that is mentioned throughout the book come from empirical sources such as the U.S. Census and other qualitative data generated through interviews with 40 African American men and women in the Southern and Midwestern United States. The authors believe that these narratives engage students of the African American family. Personally, I like the way that the authors retrieve data because I think that it is important to hear and utilize the experiences of people who are actually living through these everyday issues rather than just assuming or performing sometimes tedious research. The paradigm that the authors of this book rely on when discussing this data is the race, class, and gender paradigm. The authors use this paradigm to provide the framework for their data. This paradigm is rarely used when discussed in terms of the African American family, so this is what makes the textbook unique in some ways.
Near the end of the chapter, the authors mention racism and discrimination that African Americans in the middle and upper-class experience. Racism definitely hinders them in many ways. One example of this that is mentioned in the textbook is Tiger Woods. In 2003, Tiger Woods was prohibited from golfing at certain country clubs that did not allow African American members. I found this to be an interesting example because Tiger Woods is a multimillionaire that has beat many of his White counterparts, but was still not allowed to golf at certain country clubs. It is sad, but also not surprising that even rich African Americans deal with racism and discrimination, especially in a society where it seems that money rules everything.
Authors of the textbook claim that an issue with previous books that examine African American families is that previous books fail to include competing systems of the race, class, and gender paradigm that actually shape the lives of African American families. The authors aim to show in the textbook that African American families are a part of an interconnected web of relationships that shape the family unit.