Erin Harper: Why Better Parenting Isn’t a Catch-all Solution to Negative Images in Media

by Erin Harper.

I appreciate the discussion about the Letter to Shaunie O’Neal. While an overwhelming number of readers have found the letter to be enlightening and dialogue-provoking, other readers have questioned my position and method. While I will address these questions in more detail at a later time, I will briefly discuss the most frequently occurring themes in today’s written responses. Specifically, readers have stated that, “Shaunie is not the real problem, parenting is the problem”, “Raise your children properly and the problems go away”. Additionally, it has been mentioned that my NeNe Leakes satire can be interpreted as disrespectful to black women, and, in a way, “bullying the bully”. Well, let me take my shoes off (which aren’t “red bottoms”, because I certainly cannot afford those) and remount my soapbox to address these main concerns.

I agree that parenting plays one of the greatest roles in protecting American children from harm and promoting positive behaviors and social skills. However, as someone who has worked in the field for a decade (as a school psychologist and early head start staff member), primarily in low-income areas, we cannot simply point to parents. Why?

Allow me to borrow from Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory, the framework on which I base my research and practice. Ecological theory considers the influence of individual and social-cultural factors (systems) on a child’s life—the chronosystem (i.e., environmental events and transitions over the course of life), the macrosystem (e.g., attitudes and ideologies of the culture), the exosystem (e.g., mass media), the mesosystem (e.g., family, school, community), and the microsystem (e.g., a child’s cognitive skills). As a provider of mental health services to children in areas plagued with generational poverty, it is not uncommon to work with the children of incarcerated, deceased, abusive, or significantly ill parents or guardians. Such problems can make it very difficult or impossible for caretakers to monitor and analyze media messages. Furthermore, caretakers may possess mild to moderate cognitive delays, which often have a significant impact on their ability to understand and/or apply basic parenting skills. We cannot simply tell a parent to “get it together” or a child to “turn off the TV” when barriers like cognitive delay, chronic illness, and generational poverty are present in a child’s ecology. Moreover, despite economic or other barriers, most Americans are exposed mass media daily. However, many children and families do not have equal access to the protective factors that play key roles in counteracting negative media messages. Thus, prevention and intervention efforts must address each system in a child’s ecology from multiple angles (as early as possible); and, as I stated in the letter to Ms. O’Neal, address the supply and demand of potentially harmful media images. When American citizens can collectively grasp the concept of thinking ecologically, then solving some very complex social problems could become a lot more logical.

As for the satire, love it or hate it, it was fact-based. Here are the facts:

  • I AM very scared of NeNe Leakes.
  • NeNe’s imaginary assault on me was an evidence-based prediction of what could happen if she actually saw me in the streets of “the ATL” based on the erratic behavior she displays in public; thus, I do not consider my imagery disrespectful.
  • Trading a Chanel blouse for a SHE by Sheree tank could leave a person -$1,000.00. I doubt anyone can make much sense of that. Furthermore, I could have inserted almost any budding designer in the analogy, and it would not have changed the essence.

I look forward to more dialogue on this issue. Stepping down now. Barefoot.

Follow Erin Harper on twitter @E_Harp_

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1114148053 Alton Allen

    Erin, I’m gonna take issue with something you did not mention: the broken homes that exist within our community.  So many Black children are born out of wedlock into single parent households.  I’m all for discussing “systems” but not mentioning a trend in which nearly three quarters of Black folks are reared.  This has had dramatic effects on not only Black children but upon the Black peer group as well.  The Black peer group has become an institution that performs a substantial amount of socialization.  In many ways, our commumity and its culture has become rudderless and a great deal of that comes from the broken state of the Black family unit.

    • Eaharper98

      Thanks Allen. The single parent factor was implied. Most “low income” families are also single parent families. There was not enough space to discuss all of the factors in detail. Thanks again for taking the time to read.

  • Michael Shavaht Adams

    Listen Erin you hit the nail right on the head and hard. As the cause of our peoples maladies I would like to add That the problem is systemic: Its as if we are still on a giant plantation free to roam from one end to the other. The corporations (master’s offspring) wont allow the development of an intellect that will excel past theirs. So they finance distructive music, award derogatory behavior, promote coonery and pay handsomely for our excelling in those kind of arenas. I think our solution is external! Instead of building multi million dollar churches on everyother street corner we should be building communities in Africa that reflect our ideals! The Best of everything without replicating western ideological precepts! Check out: The Kingdom of Yah. Former African Americans 43 years outside of America and established in Africa! “Arise and Shine For Thy Light has Come” rings so true for those who have Eyes to See and Ears to Hear! Real Power is in Land, Language and Culture!

  • Michael Shavaht Adams

    Listen Erin you hit the nail right on the head and hard. As the cause of our peoples maladies I would like to add That the problem is systemic: Its as if we are still on a giant plantation free to roam from one end to the other. The corporations (master’s offspring) wont allow the development of an intellect that will excel past theirs. So they finance distructive music, award derogatory behavior, promote coonery and pay handsomely for our excelling in those kind of arenas. I think our solution is external! Instead of building multi million dollar churches on everyother street corner we should be building communities in Africa that reflect our ideals! The Best of everything without replicating western ideological precepts! Check out: The Kingdom of Yah. Former African Americans 43 years outside of America and established in Africa! “Arise and Shine For Thy Light has Come” rings so true for those who have Eyes to See and Ears to Hear! Real Power is in Land, Language and Culture!

  • Bigmacinpittsburg

    I have come in on the tail-end of this important discussion and agree 100% with your above essay.
    I addressed some of the same issues this morning in my  own blog space today,thanks for the insightful writing.

  • Meanchick

    Sister, why do you feel the need to explain/defend your ‘Letter to Shaunie?” Opinions are and will always be subjective.
    You parenting article hit on some key issues, but let me add that there is no such thing as a ‘catch all solution’ to anything. You parent your children as best as you can, reinforcing what you taught them as life lessons occur and when they are old enough, you pray for them and trust that you taught them well.
    Income is not a real factor in how media may or may not affect your children. It’s the relationship you build with your children. Those bonds are stronger than the media and their peers. I am a parent and the relationship I have with my daughter is strong. I taught her and I reinforced those teachings over the years. She has not disrespected me or herself by allowing negative images of black people/black women to shape her thinking and we live in ‘Aryanzona’ where it’s REALLY bad!
    Are you a parent? In doing your research, did you study a cross-section of children from all levels of income and all types of backgrounds? I’m not doubting that you didn’t, I’m interested in knowing what you found if you did. So again, there is no ‘catch all solution.’ We give our children the tools they need for life and hope they recognize WHEN they need to use them and remember HOW to use them. Good article sister.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nosugarcoatn Nosugarcoatn Ever

    Another rhetorical article.

    These are the problems within the black community..blah..blah..blah.
    Someone Cry Me a River. WE ALL KNOW what the problem is. It has been
    diagnosed, pimped and prodded for years.You new comers are not saying
    anything “new” expect for “Parenting isn’t a main solution to fix media
    images.” That is a new strategy so lets see how implementing it will
    make the conditions in our community better…smh

    When some of you so called intellectual women WHO NEVER BIRTHED ANY
    CHILDREN, but seem to know how NOT PARENTING is more effective, stop
    talking and start listening things will change. Until then, I guess our
    long list of problems and contributing factors can be fixed by calling
    out Shaunie. I mean after all the black
    women is the mule (Zora Neal Hurston) and is always the easiest to blame
    and target, even among other black
    women.

    So lets talk about Ecological Theory and see if parents
    directly or indirectly influence any of these areas. (Even though a
    Russian white man is the last person who I would base my work on, but if
    its good for you, oh well.) If I were you I would look into the work of
    Dr. Amos Wilson.

    Chronosystem (environmental events and transitions over the
    course of life) This for the most part is anyone guess.Mother Nature can
    destroy any physical environment at anytime and all people will just
    have to make due. Other environmental factors over the course of a
    child’s life is also anyones guess because LIFE is NOT SCRIPTED. So I
    may give you this one.

    Macrosystem. Do not parents teach culture? Of courseeeeee they do.
    Exosystem  Parents pay the cable bills last I checked. I am
    reminded of a time when I wanted to listen to EZe and my father and
    mother who use to check my room (now a days parents believe in child
    privacy which is laughable) took my tape and trashed it. i was upset for
    weeks BUT HIS PARENTING interviewed and no matter how much I wanted to
    listen to gangsta rap, in my dads house, I DID NOT.
    Mesosystem  Remind me to tell the parents at my child’s
    next Pto meeting that none of them really effect change. I will also be
    sure to look at my family and see how they DO NOT add or take away from
    my parenting skills. Every Aunt or Uncle who babysits, picks your child
    up from school or participates in their soccer games i guess are
    disposable compared to the “system” that has farrrrrrr more power to
    influence your child than his or her direct family.

    Microsystem  So tell me again how PARENTING does not have a major
    influence on a child cognitive skills. Especially since studies have
    proven otherwise.

    The author reallyyyyyy needs to think about
    WHAT SHE IS SAYING. All of
    the conditions you mentioned in this article, PARENTS HAVE the DIRECT
    RESPONSIBILITY of FIXING because they are victims of it themselves.  The
    SYSTEM we all love to blame is not a
    robot, it’s made up of PEOPLE. So guess what? PEOPLE will have to change
    it.
    The 1st person the system indirectly and directly targets are the
    parents,not the children. The main target is the WOMEN  because she is
    the 1st teacher,
    even in a 2 parent house. I know some of you believe the black male is
    the aim but he is a means to an end. The WOMEN IS GOD of the home and
    that is why
    it is SHE who has been targeted (not black men) for mental and emotional
    annihilation.

    The overt attack on the Black Man is really a covert attack on the Black Woman.

    Now I do understand it will take more than just parenting. The
    problem is complex, yet as I stated PARENTING IS FIRST AND FOREMOST.

    As for your so called “facts.” Ones you
    believe give you cause to bash two black women (nene and sheree) while
    you are trying to “help” the cause of black women….come on Get Real.

    • Eaharper98

      Please hold. Too busy spending grant money and providing services to suicidal kids to respond to tangential poppycock. Go sit down.

      • http://www.facebook.com/nosugarcoatn Nosugarcoatn Ever

         Of courseeeeeeee you are. Bow out gracefully, its easier than actually admitting your wrong. Mind you, you took the time to post this in “response” to your previous article…smh

        I know you are trying to build your brand, but some of us are not buying it.

  • Anonymous

    Erin:  I hear you.  I appreciate you putting into perspective some of what is wrong in our community and how we refuse to take responsibility.  I know how hard is is to have a battle of wits with “unarmed people”!!

  • Anonymous

    Erin:  I hear you.  I appreciate you putting into perspective some of what is wrong in our community and how we refuse to take responsibility.  I know how hard is is to have a battle of wits with “unarmed people”!!