Whose Family Values?

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If a healthy family is one that stays together to support its children, why are parents seeking a better life being deported and forced to leave their citizen children behind? Why are today’s immigrant families any different from those of generations past? If families were valued then, they must be valued now.

[Witness For Justice]


I am privileged to be part of a large extended family. 

Living so far away means that I intentionally set aside time to visit them regularly. I am writing this during a two-week visit with my 90-year-old mother, siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins. This trip included the usual visit to Oregon, but with the added treat of traveling to New Mexico and Colorado to see my great aunt and many, many cousins.

Yesterday, while attending a family wedding in Colorado, I was awed as I looked across the church to see relatives ranging in age from recently born babies to the elders who have guided our traditions for nearly 100 years. 

In many cultures, assimilation has affected us and some traditional values have been lost from one generation to the next. Thankfully, the one value that has not been lost is the significance of elders and children in family life. In yesterday’s wedding circle, the elders were cared for and the children were guided. 

Yesterday, as I watched adults interact with the children, I knew that we had something in common. We share a common family value: we want the best for our children.     

My family is not so different from others across this country. While there are exceptions, most parents and parent figures want the best for their children. We want to provide shelter, good nutrition, education, and health care for our children. We want our children to be safe. 

A basic family value is giving our children all they need to survive. But, we want even more than that. We want them to thrive. The dream has been the same for generations of parents who have immigrated to this country for hundreds of years.  

In today’s religious and political culture, we often hear that family values are the cornerstone of a healthy society. However, in these descriptions, families are portrayed in a picture that leaves little room for diversity. While I do not agree with the narrow scope that defines families in only certain ways, I do concur that keeping families together is important for children. 

If this is our cultural value, we must ask a question. Whose children are important and whose families are valued? Is it limited to only certain societies of former immigrants?

Most of us are members of immigrant families who came from countries all over the world in search of freedom and a better life for the children. I am grateful for the trials that my ancestors faced some 400 years ago as they crossed the seas in search of a better life not only for themselves, but for the generations that would follow. 

Yesterday’s wedding was an example of how a family valuing their elders and children is crucial to a healthy society. If we hold family values as the cornerstone of a healthy society, how can we oppose fair immigration policies that will keep families together? 

If a healthy family is one that stays together to support its children, why are parents seeking a better life being deported and forced to leave their citizen children behind? Why are today’s immigrant families any different from those of generations past? If families were valued then, they must be valued now.


 


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