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_