Discussing The African-American Experience
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We wanted to talk more about this new poll, so we decided to gather a roundtable of people who thought about or talked about or written about many of these issues. With us now, Ivory Toldson, he's a Howard University professor of counseling psychology. He's editor-in-chief of The Journal of Negro Education. You might also catch his articles in TheRoot.com. Also with us, Dani Tucker. She's a fitness instructor and entrepreneur, and a regular contributor to our weekly parenting roundtables. Welcome to you both. Thank you both so much for joining us.
IVORY TOLDSON: Thank you.
DANI TUCKER: Thank you.
MARTIN: So you heard what jumped out at Matt Thompson. What jumped out at you, Dani? You both had a chance to read the poll.
TUCKER: What jumped out at me wasn't the entertainment - I agree with that - but it was the men wanting to be more in a committed relationship than the women. And I do think that's true and I think it's sad.
MARTIN: Why do you think that is?
TUCKER: Well, because...
MARTIN: What's your opinion about why that is?
TUCKER: The black community is known for its faith and its family, you know. And taking it back to some of the times when we talk about our parenting issues, you know how I feel about the big mamas and the big poppas in the house to help gear the family, and we're losing that. And I think it is a lot because of the women are now so independent in the black community 'cause they've had to do so much on their own that, you know, it's that "I don't need a man" type mentality. And I just - I don't like that.
MARTIN: Professor Toldson, I know you had some - you took some issue with the methodology. You felt, for example, there ought to have been more African-Americans involved in actually gathering the data. So with that being said, what jumped out at you?
TOLDSON: Yeah, well, the same finding - and I looked at the word "looking for a long-term relationship." I don't believe that a lot of young black women and middle-aged black women would be inclined to say that they are looking, even if they would be open to the idea. Some people think that looking actually jinxes your chances. Some people think that looking makes you sound desperate, or some people think that looking makes you sound like your priorities are out of whack. So I don't think we should overanalyze that finding. I think a lot of them may be open to long-term relationships.
MARTIN: Could they be discouraged, though? Then the way we talk about the people who are discouraged - the long-term unemployed are discouraged and they're no longer looking. Could it be that, that they're discouraged, that they don't feel or have absorbed the message, that there's so much hype around African-American dating, relationships and long-term relationships? They might have said, well, I don't think that this is likely, so I'm not going to invest a lot of emotional energy in it.
TOLDSON: Yeah, we can't discount that either. A lot of the media has been aimed at black women and it has shown their possibility of being in a relationship in such a negative light, a lot of them have become discouraged.
MARTIN: But you've done some work in this area yourself, and I'm just interested in your own take, both as a researcher and as a man - and as a married African-American man - about whether you think that's true among your - in your skill set, in your peer set. Do you find that actually, men are more interested in a long-term relationship?
TOLDSON: Yes. I think men are a lot more willing to be in a long-term relationship than the media gives us credit. Yes, absolutely.
MARTIN: What other findings jumped out at you? I know that this is - it's interesting because among the - kind of the people who talk in public, let's just say, like the professional people who talk in public - and I'm thinking about my colleague, Tavis Smiley, he's talked a lot about how he feels with the effects of the recession on African Americans, in particular, have not been well documented, not been discussed enough.
MARTIN: And you do see kind of a real split in this poll between people who...
MARTIN: ...feel that they're okay and people who feel that they're not okay. Are any of these findings interesting to you?
TOLDSON: Yeah. Well, one thing that was interesting to me is that the black people who were surveyed showed an enormous amount of faith, even though you can tell that their lives right now are very fragile because of the recession. Black people are usually the last to be hired and the first to be fired. And so these economic recessions, they hit us a lot more harshly than other people. But still at the end, they believed in the so-called American dream, they believed that things would get better, and I think it's because of our faith and our religious convictions.
MARTIN: Dani, what about you? What do you think? Did that jump out at you?
TUCKER: Oh, I agree. That jumped out at me but not that we believe in the American dream, we believe in God. We always have. I mean, we have just been always a strong race of faith. We've had no choice. We've needed it, you know. I mean, I'm with you, Smiley, always talking about the recession. Many black people, we've been in a recession all our lives, you know. So it's - that part is not much different from us because, to me, we don't change the way we deal with life no matter what happens. It doesn't matter who's in the White House or who's in Congress, we are going to, you know, handle things the way we handle things, no matter what.
MARTIN: But speaking of who's in the White House, I do wonder if there might be an Obama effect...
TUCKER: Oh, most definitely.
MARTIN: ...on the optimism of African Americans. They feel that whatever the policies are, whatever's going on in Congress, that having President Obama in the White House conveys a sense of optimism and hope or that there's somebody who's got the communities back, as it were, even if others don't agree. We need to take a short break, but we can talk about that when we come back from our break. With us now, Dani Tucker, Ivory Toldson. We're talking - we'll hear more from more voices about issues raised by the African-American Lives Today poll. Please, stay with us. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.