By Barney Blakeney
I watched Whoopi Goldberg on the morning talk show ‘The View’ the other day which featured Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren. My mornings used to be Tom Joyner’s radio program from 6 a.m.-10 a.m. featuring news commentator Shaun King, local sister Tessa Spencer Adams on WCIV from 10 a.m.-11 a.m., The View with Meghan McCain from 11 a.m.-noon, then the local news at noon. I get a kick out of the ladies on The View – they can keep the shopping segment, but most of the other stuff is pretty informative.
I took interest in the Warren interview because I figure its time I get to know something about the presidential hopefuls. With 24 candidates announced for the Democratic primary that’s going to take some doing. I’m convinced primary elections are where the rubber meets the road in deciding who ultimately gets elected to public office. But 24 primary candidates – get real! The 2020 elections are too important for such foolishness. Just goes to show career politicians don’t have our best interest at heart. It’s all about re-election and movin’ on up. Someone recently described ours as a society out of whack. If the Democratic primary is any indication, that certainly is true!
However I found Warren’s interview thought-provoking, particularly her comments about childcare in America. Her focus was on the high cost of childcare and its impact on many families. Warren noted that as a teacher and mother of two young children, she soon found herself overwhelmed by all the responsibility. A frustrated conversation with an aunt resulted in that aunt soon arriving at her home with seven suitcases and a dog to provide live-in assistance for the next 16 years.
Warren’s story reminded me of my own experience. My childhood living in a downtown Charleston public housing project was among my most fabulous experiences. The projects offered playmates galore and the biggest playground any kid could imagine. Mom was a ‘stay-at-home’ mom. She had four babies and in those days there was no daycare outside of home. We didn’t have many relatives in Charleston so like many parents, mine made the necessary sacrifice – daddy went to work while mama stayed at home with the kids.
That was 60 years ago. A lot has changed – I think, not so much for the better. In those days most couples got married and raised children together. According to one statistic, in 2015 77 percent of Black babies were born to unwed mothers. Only about one-third of Black families with children are married couples and only about 40 percent of Black children live with their fathers.
This week two separate incidents highlighted those statistics. In one incident the mother of a 10-year-old was arrested after leaving her child in a car while she worked. In the other incident a father left his two children, ages two years and four years, in a car while he shopped. I think both adults made poor decisions. Some would argue they had few other options.
I looked up some stats – thank you, Google. One source said child care can cost up to $15,000 for one year in the United States. The average annual cost of full-time care for an infant in center-based care ranges from $4,863 in Mississippi to $16,430 in Massachusetts. That’s almost as much as some single parents earn in a year so, “informal childcare is seen in families who do not have enough funds to finance placing their children in a more expensive child care facility.
“A study done by Roberta Iversen and Annie Armstrong explains that due to long and irregular working hours of working parents, low-socioeconomic families are more likely to utilize informal childcare. Those low income families are also more apt to work longer hours on an irregular and inflexible schedule, which ultimately makes using a childcare facility, that has regular business hours, unlikely.”
I was born at a glorious time for Black kids in America. We were poor, racially segregated and discriminated against – but we didn’t know it! The lawn between the rows of apartments provided the biggest and most safe front yard a kid could have. And we were a screened door away from our parents’ watchful eyes. My older sister often was left in charge. An old lady down the row, Ms. Mary who was my younger brother’s godmother, sometimes kept an eye on us as well.
I Googled this about Kenyan society: “Many agricultural communities highly value sibling- and peer- caretaking. Accounts from the Idakho in Kenya portray infants being left to the care and guidance of other relatively young children in the community with adults and other tribe members merely within shouting distance should a problem arise. The same pattern of caregiving is seen in the Kikuyu people in Kenya, where mothers in the horticultural society are often away working, which relies on siblings, cousins, and neighbors to care for children as young as 4 months old.
“The children caregivers in many communities are deemed responsible to care for those younger than them and it is expected that they will do so. Adults are viewed as occasional supervisors of the caregiving while the caregivers are responsible for responding to the needs of each child. These young caregivers take pride in their responsibility and learn each child’s individual likes, dislikes, and habits.”
I know things change and we must change as well, but some of the things we’ve abandoned as we changed haven’t been progressive, in fact it’s been regressive. Grandmama, at 36, spends more time at the club than her daughter who at 19 can’t get into most adult clubs. “I want a baby” comes before “I want a husband.” And cops enforce the care of our children. I took a few moments to check out Elizabeth Warren, but I never got to think about her presidential candidacy. Instead I was left wondering what the heck we do now.