When I was a child, my parents set the rules and my mother was the daily enforcer. When Daddy stepped in, it was serious. The problems that mothers have to watch out for today are really not that different. The problem today is that (1) the rules are more lax, (2) it's not clear who is setting the rules, and (3) who is enforcing the rules?
In the old days with more nuclear families, with one father and one mother, parents set the rules together, and they didn't care about outside forces like television and the movies. The only outside forces that had any influence was the church that taught us about The Ten Commandments, as well as the rules about honoring your father and mother and your elders. School taught us about manners and etiquette as well as how to treat others like opening the door for the girls and ladies, if you were a boy and saying "sir" or "ma'am" and not using profanity.
Today many mothers let the television promote anything and allow children to see and adopt a completely different set of rules. In those days the enforcer was the parents and the communities. Today the main enforcers are the police, and that's not good because they enforce, in many cases in our community, with discrimination and no love. Mothers temper enforcement, discipline and punishment. The Police don't.
In my business I see the results of failure to provide strict rules and punishment in the families. An example is one that I observed last week. I spent three days in a Los Angeles courtroom defending one of three 18 year olds fighting for their lives in court. They are charged with carrying out a couple of robberies they are alleged to have committed. The maximum sentence for each of them is life in prison because, (1) they are alleged to have used a gun (one gun between the three of them). (2) they are alleged to belong to a gang and to have committed the crime for the benefit of the gang (they have gang tattoos all over their arms), and (3) because there were approximately ten people in the store they are alleged to have robbed, they could add up five more years for each person in the store for either kidnapping (life) or false imprisonment.
On the other hand, each night I enjoy reading positive stories of African American achievers and their achievements in various newspapers, magazines and books which I regularly read. In the Arizona Informant the Black newspaper out of Phoenix, Arizona, there was a story about that ship that rescued a captain Rear Admiral from the Somali Pirates who is an African American woman named Michelle Howard. I also read that an African American woman named Lynn Nottage won a Pulitzer Prize for writing a play called "Ruined." The play is about the horrors of wartime rape and brutality. Nottage is a Professor at Yale University and she gets a $10,000 check to go along with her Pulitzer Prize. If you think about it, she gets to write about the horrors of crime without the possibility of going to prison for committing crimes. Choices, choices. This seems to give new meaning to the phrase that, "The pen is mightier than the sword," and it pays better in the long run.
I read about Annette Gordon Reed, a Lawyer and professor of law at New York Law School who also teaches History at Rutgers University, who won a Pulitzer Prize complete with the $10,000 check for writing a book about the affair between Thomas Jefferson and his slave "mistress" Sally Hemmings and what has happened to the Hemmings family since. (Yes, I know that 'slave mistress' is an oxymoron).
Then there is the Annual feature in a Memphis' African American Newspaper, the Tri State Defender newspaper called "Women Of Excellence." This is an honor accompanied by a luncheon which honors fifty women in Memphis for their achievements. They are fifty women whose careers range from a TV news anchor to a Memphis Battalion Chief in the Memphis Fire Department. In between, you have women who are educators, entertainers, a material buyers for aircraft that services Federal Express, a vice president of a Black College - LeMoyne Owen College in Memphis, a Black Woman CEO and President of Stax Records, Insurance Executives, Dentists, and so on.
At The Journal we have adopted the tradition of picking role models and writing positive stories of their success with our "Women of Achievement" and our "Mother's Day" and "Father's Day" issues.
With all of this achievement around, I can't help but wonder what makes young men choose robbing and stealing and identifying themselves as gang members, or what makes Americans popularize a culture for young people that labels them losers when they are born. Why not popularize number other choices such as working a little harder, earning an honest living, and becoming a winner? Sometimes the difference is just a few years of concentrated study and a positive role model to follow. They can make history. Can you say Barack Obama?
To Mothers on this Mother's Day, I suggest that the choice at the end of the day is to look around and pick a role model. If your role model is headed to prison, then you should choose another role model. If you can't find, one pick a newspaper or book to find one.