(ThyBlackMan.com) Some say chivalry died long ago while others stay it still exists. There is a third group, particularly within the African-American community, that has another opinion causing an interesting discourse. The idea of chivalry being dead is not disputed but the reason behind its death is. Are black women and their independent attitudes to blame for the death of chivalry? This is where the heated debate begins.
What exactly is chivalry? Well, chivalry or the chivalry code was a code of conduct followed by medieval knights throughout Europe. This moral system was enacted by protecting others who could not protect themselves showing honor, courtesy, gallantry, generosity and loyalty. What many people seem to forget today is that chivalry included all peoples. Knights who were exclusively male did have to respect women, widows and children but other men were included in that category as well.
Traits such as honor, loyalty and courtesy have always been maintained in the black community. A good example of this code is Southern hospitality. It promotes the same moral code and the migration of blacks during the Great Migration helped to promote these ethics North and South.
There are similar codes in place and practiced even when looking at those who are not considered “garden variety” in the black community such as top rappers, successful black business people and criminals. Many violent crimes begin with the idea of someone being a “snitch” or disloyal to gang affiliations.
So while chivalry amongst black men can still be seen today where do black women fit in?
The heart of the debate stems from black women’s independence. It would seem that the feminist era of the 60’s and 70’s is a good starting point but there are cultural distinctions that put black women in a category of their own. While it was commonplace to have black families separated through slavery all the way through early 20th century lynchings, black women have had to hold together what remains long before the 1960’s; this premise is discussed in my book: Not All Teachers Are Parents, But All Parents Are Teachers! However, there has been a very notable change. On the surface it is easy to see the media influences like Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Independent Women” not helping the matter. Past the surface though there are solid statistics to show the dissolution of the black family possibly having a very real effect on the lack of morals being passed down.
There has been recent controversy over the Republican Party citing a Fogel and Engerman study which states that about two-thirds of enslaved black families consisted of two parent homes or conversely, one-third single parent homes. The comparison is startling since the 2010 census shows that over one-half of the black family households in the U.S. are single parent only households.
While the usage of these statistics by Republicans was seen as insensitive, there is truth in the numbers for a much larger point of discussion. There has been a consistent and drastic decline in the black family from the 1970’s until today. Its dissolution cannot be blamed on hardships alone as numbers stayed strong throughout the country. After the emancipation in 1870’s Florida, 57% of black children lived with both parents and that number increased to 89% in 1885. Even during the depression less than one in seven black children were born to single mothers. That number was higher pre-depression not lower according to a study done by Black Metropolis.
Many cite the more lax attitude and policies towards welfare in the 1960’s. These new policies made it possible for mothers without job training to remain on welfare. The stigma of abandoning your wife and children to virtually die in a male breadwinner society was gone.
What leads black men to abandon their family’s easier than white men? Do not jump the gun too quickly. While black divorce rates and couples never becoming married outpace whites, whites are not that far off. According to the General Social Survey, 36% of blacks divorced compared to 34% of whites.
In the end, there is no one damning statistic or moment when black men as a whole stopped respecting the moral code once seen as the only way of life. This is because there are still black men who do respect all women no matter what color. However, the idea of self accountability is what should be taken away from reading this.
For every black man who feels a black woman drove him to disrespect women, there is another black man who loves black women simply because he came from one. For every black male who blames an unstable home for his relationship issues there is one from a similar situation who cites how it made him stronger. At the end of the day statistics cannot change who you have decided to become. For those black men who have decided to be proper, upstanding men, there is no blame game to be played.
Staff Writer; Stanley G. Buford