Morality and Black Americans, Morality and Black West Indians

A couple days ago I stumbled upon a television program which featured Black women discussing the latest styles and trends in fashion. Eventually the subject lead to the show’s host mentioning  trends like pole dance training (which is basically stripper training in a ‘fun’, ‘clean’ environment) and experimental sex (as in, ‘I kissed a girl and I liked it.’) Everyone on the show- including the host- made it seem perfectly okay for young women to engage in these activities. It’s the new and hottest trend going around so why not join in the fun? I had to ask myself, Am I a prude? Am I becoming uptight? Or is the world moving in an increasingly “anything goes” kind of direction? (I am thinking the latter).

It seems to me that the world is in moral peril. People nowadays are acting solely and completely off of their nafs (their base desires.) It doesn’t seem to matter if their behavior will negatively impact others in the long run. In fact, it seems as if people don’t even care about themselves. Human life no longer has any value. People kill one another over a step on a sneaker or even a glance. Women are disrespected left and right; trafficked, molested, prostituted and discarded like trash. People cuss out their parents and physically assault them. Babies and pregnant women are killed without a thought. My husband called me the other day to tell me about a man in Cincinnati who was arrested for having sex with the CORPSE of his 19-year old victim! 

Since I am a Black woman who is both Black American and West Indian, I have to say that I am all the more concerned about moral decline and how it is affecting both of my communities. I am also concerned about the way in which issues of morality impact Black Americans (BAs) and Black West Indians (BWIs) when they convert to Islam and enter the Muslim community. (And just so we’re clear, I am not suggesting that other groups in the Non-Muslim or Muslim community do not have issues when it comes to morality or that BAM or BWI converts are to blame for the moral decline in the Muslim community). I have to say that one of the areas I’m most concerned about when it comes to morality is marriage and relationships. We’re in trouble people and I hope I am not the only one who sees it! I am appalled by some the activities I see taking place in the BA and BWI community that have been completely normalized. Those activities include:  

1. Having multiple sexual partners (in many cases not using protection.)

2. Rampant infidelity (again, not using protection.)

3. Men fathering children and walking away without a care in the world.

4. Women having baby after baby with different men (none of whom are responsible or interested in marriage or creating a family unit.)

5. The increasing amount of young women and girls engaging in prostitution (this includes the ‘you-got-to-pay-to-play’ mentality.)

6. The normalization of stripping/exotic dancing (which in many cases leads to prostitution.)

7. The complete lack of shyness when it comes to dress or behavior. (Yesterday I actually saw a young girl- no older than 12 or 13- walking down a very busy Twin Cities street in nothing but a pair of ‘Daisy Dukes’ and a bikini top. Sadly, grown men were leaning out their cars and honking at her).

8. The increasing amount of people electing to “shack” or live together. (I actually remember when it was considered a bad thing)!

I could go on but I will stop here.

I have to tell you my concern continues to grow when I see people who were once okay with the aforementioned becoming Muslims and doing nothing to alter their mentality. Instead they find ways to legitimize their behaviors using the Quran and Sunnah.  If you think hard enough I am sure you know exactly what I am talking about. Think about all of the “halal cheating” that goes on under the guise of “looking for a second wife.” (If you’re sneaking to call another woman while your wife’s at work and carrying on relationship with another woman without your wife knowing about it then I dare say you are cheating! Don’t give me this crap about ‘I don’t have to tell her.’ Rubbish!) Some brothers are continuing to leave their babies behind as they righteously stand on the minbar or sit in lectures at the masjid looking pious in their brand new Thobe.  Some sisters, though they wear niqab, have been married and divorced from so many brothers, so many times that the niqab really serves no purpose since so many brothers have seen them anyway. (I dare call out the Salafi community on this one. Hpmh.)

I am not sitting on a moral high horse here. We all have issues and we all have things to work on. (As much as I could rail against immorality I sure forget about it when it comes to Caribbean carnival or some of the dancehall I so love!) I’m just concerned about the direction my people (non-Muslim and Muslim alike) are moving in. I am concerned about HIV/AIDS, broken families, fatherless and motherless children, drugs, senseless murders and so on and how they are affecting the BA and BWI community. And I am even more concerned about the fact that people seem comfortable in their immorality.

Of course, I cannot leave this post without at least offering some kind of solution. I am very tempted to place blame and leave it at that. I want to blame the parents, blame society, and I certainly  want to blame the Black Church and “the Black Masjid” for failing to reach out to the average, young BA or BWI when it comes to teaching morality and discipline. But that does not offer any kind of solution, does it?  To tell you the truth, I don’t think there is just one. Or even a one-size-fits-all solution.  There are many solutions.

I’m calling for a paradigm shift. A shift in mentality. A reinstitution of moral standards.  I think that religion can be an effective tool in creating said standards. (In fact, I believe that part of the reason we are in this mess is because we have left the religious values in their respective texts and respective places of worship). However, the religious values have to be taught in a practical and digestible manner. How else will people implement them into their lives? People need to be able to see how the values and morality that religion teaches can change their lives for the better.  We also need some education. As BAs and BWIs we have need to understand how racism, colonialism, inferiority complexes, and self-destructive behaviors go hand-in-hand with how many of us are living our lives and with how we see ourselves and the world around us.

When it comes to young people, I am inclined to speak about mentorship but I have to agree with Sister Seeking (who commented on Abdur Rahman’s Blog) when she said:

“Many BA’s who are educated professionals believe the solution lies in mentorship: it never will. The solution is “discipleship” or “stewardship”. I have seen up close and person how many of these “big brothers” and “big sisters” are not only insincere but hypocritical. Young people are people: they understand the conflicting, and competing messages. When I see BA’s who tell a young person to practice abstinence, and turn around and go swinging at a night club it makes me want to cry.”

EXACTLY! Be the change you wish to see in the world…or at least exert as much effort as possible towards that goal. That’s what I’m trying to do…Anyway, mi done talk.

19 responses to “Morality and Black Americans, Morality and Black West Indians

  1. I was talking to myself and to my wife about this very thing today in relation to blogging and interacting with people in general. My thought at the moment is, even if I spend all my time and energy solely focused on teaching my children solid morals, what secures a future for them wherein others around them will also practice good morality? How did we get so loose? I grew up around people who told Black men things like, “don’t get your ear pierced” and “don’t leave the house without a belt”, you know, real basic stuff that doesn’t even compare to “use a condom” and the majority of us can’t even follow basic, elementary moral etiquette. Instead of a lot of us trying to be “good” we’re trying to be as bad as we can because being bad somehow means being one’s own man.

  2. Samah, you know this problem affects so many age groups and ethnicities all over the globe. Here at uni, to be a truly practicing Muslim is to be in a minority. When I say ‘truly’ practicing I mean someone who doesn’t pray during the day and drunk at night, or feel it’s ok to get touchy-touchy with the opposite gender, or someone who feels it’s their right to lecture others about the way they dress/behave when they themselves don’t conform to that.

    And the sad thing is, some people try to justify what they do, by hey it’s ok, my intentions are clean, blah, blah. Whatever.

    Thing is, as a young person, I don’t know what to do about that. It’s bad enough that people view you as inferior or ‘extreme’ because you wear hijab and don’t go clubbing, reaching out to them seems impossible?

  3. thank you thank you sis…
    and speaking of the whole “halal cheating” thing i love how so many BAMs insist on taking multiple wives against the 1st wife’s wishes under the guise of “following the sunnah.” they treat it as if it is a requirement and a right at the wife’s expense! i once knew a brother who used to complain to us about his overjealous wife, when he spent all his time away from her looking at women because he “had to follow the sunnah!” brothers, stop using islam as a way to perpetuate your whorish desires!

  4. SisterSeeking

    My thought at the moment is, even if I spend all my time and energy solely focused on teaching my children solid morals, what secures a future for them wherein others around them will also practice good morality?-Charles

    Salaam Alaikum Charles,

    Brother, ALLAH, secures their future—not us. Allah is the sustainer and maintainer of the Universe. All of us have no choice but to trust, and rely on the mercy of Allah. I’m not suggesting that we become fatalistic in our behavior, and thinking. This is one of humanisms traps right here—trust me I know, I’ve been in this exact place spiritually many, many times. Our faith requires us to accept the Qadr the good and bad of it. When we took a covenant with Allah, we agreed to submit our entire being including our hearts, and minds. It’s extremely difficult to do; I probably am failing a good 80% percent of the time (that’s a low estimate for personal PR purposes).

    Does {mankind} have the solutions for every problem we afflict on each other or are afflicted with? What exactly is our track record in resolving issues?

    Let’s see:

    At one time man’s solution to building an economy in North America was chattel slavery; at another time, man’s solution to feeling good about themselves was exterminating Jews; and at another time, mans’ solution to securing hegemony was bombing innocent civilians with an atomic bomb. Conversely man has also accomplished great things: the abolition of slavery; the creation of United Nations; and numerous medical advancements. The great deception in my opinion is the belief that a religious tradition had no role what so ever in the inspiration, motivation, and organization of these achievements. This is one reason I’m homeschooling: our greatest scientist were God fearing men who believed in God, they did divorce religion from science—everything was interdependent.

    Its hard for me to do, because I’m a bit of control freak, and don’t like to feel uncomfortable, but I’m going to trust that Allah our creator has the ability to inspire greatness, and sustain that greatness through all of humanity. I’m going to trust the Torah; the Injil, and the Qur’an offer timeless wisdom and values( that are tools) because Allah is unchanging, and tells us his attributes in all three scriptures.

    If we as parents don’t seek help through prayer and patience, we will be consumed with fear, frustration, and risk becoming depressed. God knows I’ve been there many times.

    Mary Ann

  5. SisterSeeking

    “However, the religious values have to be taught in a practical and digestible manner. How else will people implement them into their lives? People need to be able to see how the values and morality that religion teaches can change their lives for the better. We also need some education. As BAs and BWIs we have need to understand how racism, colonialism, inferiority complexes, and self-destructive behaviors go hand-in-hand with how many of us are living our lives and with how we see ourselves and the world around us.” Jamerican


    You hit the nail right on the head.

    Brother Charles, here is your answer concerning the people your children will interact with.

    This is exactly is why I offered to homeschool that sisters daughter.

    We’ve all herd that cliché “it takes a village to raise a child”

    So what’s the problem?

    I think the dam problem was that like many things it was interpreted and taken completely out of context (Americans take allot statements out of context because we have not mastered our own language, another story)

    That cliché was never meant to endorse rampant promiscuity that results in un-wanted and abandoned/neglected children. It wasn’t a pass to say “ I’ll just have x amount of children with x amount of men because magical people will step up and help us out” or “ I’ll just be with x amount of women and who cares if human life results, the state will pick up the tab because we are all in the village.”

    Never mind that everybody in the village ain’t right in the head or heart, this magical village is just going to make it all go away.

    The village functions at its best when both parents are functioning to the best of their abilities.

    Do you know nearly a million black grandparents are raising their children? I see up close and personal through my job as a public servant the devastation daily: angry, bitter, tired, and broke elderly people who have no business caring for children, especially infants and toddlers. How’s the village working now?

    Lol : )

  6. I was riding the bus yesterday, here in NJ and a BAM male was having a conversation with an elder BAM about trying to get his life together and taking a second wife. The elder BAM asked why a second wife? The BAM responded that his first wife is putting to much pressure on him to support her even though she makes more money than he does and he did not want to go back to a huslter’s life.
    Elder BAM responds how do you intend to take another wife if you cannot support this one? DEAD SILENCE. Elder BAM continues to lecture BAM…..DEAD SILENCE. BAM leaves the bus without giving the Salaam. Elder BAM yells the salaam out to him and says I will see you this evening at Maghrib prayer. DEAD SILENCE. If looks could kill the Elder BAM would be dead. There were a lot of “ain’t that something”, “fiesty boy” and “rude” commentaries about the BAM’s behavior ( he acted like a child who could not get his way).
    Elder BAM said all he could do is make dua for him and continue to lecture him about his ways. He said one wife in this country is to much for most men especially a BAM. He (elder) has 8 children and 1 wife. Real Old School BAM since 1961. I believe he is right you can’t make people change, people have to change themselves and accept wisdom when it is given. I had the feeling he was not through with the youngen.
    I must be getting old ………..because the youth do not listen to anything that anyone has to say about life especially if one has gray hair. It is as if they get their solutions from the fools around them or rap music. Ok I am officially old…. last part of prior sentence proves it.

  7. Pingback: Blog Updates, Good Reading, & Reminders « Aaminah Hernández

  8. I was thinking the same thing myself recently as those words ‘I kissed a girl and I liked it’ blurted out from a radio over and over again. Chancing upon a station aimed at the under-30s from Britain’s “Public Service Broadcaster” it seemed to be the intention of the DJ to promote/glorify some of the very activities you mention here. What you mention here is by no means confined to the Black community – it seems to be a universal trend, and it disturbs me greatly. And yet we are the ones who will be considered abnormal, even extreme. Expect the Hour.

  9. Fantastic post. The root of the problem is the decline of the family and a sense of wrong and right. The church needs to speak about these issues, where is the moral authority?

    Taking your shahada is also not going to transform your life unless you are honest with yourself and genuily seek change through Islam. There is an African American Muslim guy here in the UK who is married to a British woman, one day she left him and took the kids. Instead of going to look for his children, he married his friend’s ex wife within two weeks of her divorce without waiting for the idda period. He wears a thobe and has a long beard, she wears a niqab. The women also have to take responsibility and not expose their children to different step fathers who might harm them.

  10. asa
    i know of that which you write. i was at a family gathering with a combo of afr-am, carib-amer and latina non-muslim sisters and they were giving themselves kudos for “holding out” for however long before they engaged in pre-marital sex. and bragging about flashing their breasts to men on the road (yes, bragging). like you, i could go on and on. i really wanted to be somewhere else because just listening to what they considered “high morals” made my head spin. not to mention that this was an intergenerational gathering…so there were real grown folks there in our parents age group. who should have chastised them but laughed albeit embarrasingly with the group.
    much of what i see when i venture out has caused me to retreat inward and guard my inner circle and family life very carefully.

  11. “much of what i see when i venture out has caused me to retreat inward and guard my inner circle and family life very carefully.”

    I can understand these sentiments especially when you talk about a sense of retreat. It is really disturbing to see a lot of the trends in our communities.

    It seems as if any talk about sexual restraint appears to be too antiquated or unrealistic. For me this is where I have a serious falling out with non-Islamic feminism. And no I am not a feminist basher-I call myself one quite often-and I think I am a sex positive person- but I do not buy into sexual liberation for women and young girls through showing skin and having lots of unattached sex. My personal Muslim sensibilities cannot reconcile this type of behavior.

    I have seen a lot of things and been around a lot of different people and I have never felt more empowered than where I am now- a married woman who sleeps with someone who promises me love and respect because of love of God. And I must do the same for him.

    Unfortunately this type of experience is so often silenced or not seen as the most superb, extraordinary thing. I am sorry but this is where it is at! It needs to be hyped up.

    Yes, I know that our marriages are often flawed (and fail) but beyond marriage what we are must trying to get to is that sense of worth that comes out of love and humility before Allah. So I am with you Jamerican that we have to come up with the strategies to get people beyond those base desires. Seeing the new statistics on AIDS among our people astounds me! I’ve been advocating Islamic Sexual Education 101: The Real Deal for years now.

    I was talking to my MIL,SIL and husband the other night and started listing the problems in our community of Muslims that are not being addressed adequately. Top on the list was Muslim teens having babies. Are you all seeing this too?

  12. Salaam alaikum,
    Yes, this age is going through a moral crisis. In a age when it is okay to liquidate 800,000 people, use rape as a tool of war, employ child soldiers, annihilate local industries and economies in the name of efficient business, kill mutilate and maim innocent women and children, traffic people, all while deriding ethical, upright individuals.

    The effects of social decline and break down of social mores in the Black community is reflective of the problems that the broader society faces. It is just that marginalized minorities feel the effects more. The stakes are higher and we are losing.

    Samira, you are so right when you say, “We have to come up with strategies to get people beyond those base desires.”
    The issue of morality, which in itself is an ambiguous term, is deep and multi-faceted. I see a number of issues raised in this article. We have deep nihilism undermining the hope and faith of our youth. We have a socio-pathic behaviors celebrated in mainstream media and reproduced on the street. We have a complete break down of institutions that give people a sense of pride in themselves, a sense of accountability to others. I find it hard to instill a message about iman and taqwa, when we haven’t taught people how to face themselves, to deal with their emotional and pyschological issues, to lift the internal veils from being able to even come to terms with their relationship with Allah and the broader world. I’m talking about healing, people need to be re-built from the ground up.

    Well, I have a lot of thoughts. LIke the issue I wrote about for self esteem, I’m down for open dialog and coming up with real solutions to help heal my sisters and brothers. We need a new way of dealing with the issue of morality. Well, I’m going to reflect on this. I hope you don’t mind as I use this as a thought piece for my own blog.

    Peace, love, and light,

  13. Pingback: Resetting the Moral Compass « Just Another Angry Black Muslim Woman?

  14. Assalaamualaikum:

    Margari it is good to hear-well read your voice here. I appreciate you reminding us that the “morality problem” does not exist solely in the private parts-although that is often where we leap because- as your list notes- the global sense of a crisis in ethics is quite overwhelming.

    This is indeed about love and self-worth. This takes me way back to Cornell West’s-somewhat maligned “Nihilism in Black America” in Race Matters.

    In my own community I see a great disconnect between my parent’s generation and the third & fourth generation of BAMs. Actually my husband and I are the only younger couple that regularly frequent masjid events, classes,etc. There are plenty of grandchildren around but pretty much the parents of the children do not seem to have the time, energy or interest in Muslim community life. The reasons for this are multiple.

  15. Salaam alaikum Samira,
    Thanks for the reminder about Cornell West. I’m going to try to access that while in Egypt.
    I think this Nihilism is far more influential amongst Black American Muslims than we previously had thought. It is something to think about, and I agree with Cornel West. We need to move away from charismatic national leaders and look for more local leaders, leaders who can address the needs of his flock, as opposed to trying to gather followers. We need a new leadership paradigm, like Samah mentioned, stewardship, discipleship. I know guidance is what I need. Often when I have some question or fee lost, there is not a single elder or person with wisdom that I can find to talk to. And I’m a grown woman, imagine what our youth must go through.

  16. Wa alaikum salaam sister,

    I’m willing to do what ever I am able to do to reach out and touch the hearts and minds of people. I don’t mind being a contributing writer, but I don’t have the time to maintain my own blog. I actually had a homeschooling blog going for a minute but my workload is increasing these days!

    I also wanted to share something else personal, and I’m planning on posting this response on AR’s and JM’s blog as well:

    I’ve been an open book on the Muslim blogsphere sharing intimate details of my past both good and bad as well some of my deepest feelings. I think now would be the appropriate time to share a bit more in hopes of touching the mind and heart of any Muslim (practicing or not) who is sincere in their efforts to serve mankind. I want you all to know why I’m so passionate about this issue.

    I am one of those “bastard” children Cosby speaks of. In fact, I’m the third generation of those “bastard” children Cosby speaks of. I know what it feels like to grow up with out a farther, and I know what it feels like to belong to a mother who had children by different men. Although in my mothers case she didn’t have an even playing field because she was mentally ill and taken advantage of by perverts. I grew up in the foster care system in the Midwest. I lived in 17 foster homes many bad but some good. I lived with Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish families. I lived with whites, blacks, and a few Asians. Some foster homes were affluent and some were not. I witnessed sexual and physical abuse in some foster homes on a daily basis. I watched my mother give birth to a still born baby; I watched our family being torn apart as my siblings and I were placed in separated foster homes, and I’ve had my education interrupted several times.
    When I speak about this issue, I’m not speaking from some “self righteous” or “highly educated” position: I’m speaking as an adult child of a broken childhood.
    I’m speaking from real pain, grief, and loss. Many of you educated professionals, especially: social workers, physicians, educators, and clergy members never consult people like me; instead you rely on controlled studies, and text books. I stopped reading parenting books written by Black Professionals such as physicians, social workers, and educators because they have accommodated the sin of conception outside of marriage, and gleefully teach parents that men are not needed to parent, protect, and provide for their own children. Many of the black professionals have been trained in socialist colleges who have manipulated their minds by teaching that collectivism is always the solution for every problem instead of getting to root. This is why I said earlier that having a college degree is completely worthless when an individual has low maturity and life skills quotient, and as a result makes a decision that negates many of the benefits associated with being credentialed. (sorry for the compound sentence)

    I tried to explain earlier on AR’s blog that our community has never experienced healing as a whole, and that we have fallen completely apart through generational decay. I said that because, this is exactly what happened in my biological family (I am adopted). Racism has had a direct impact in our ethnic community particularly those of us who have origins in the south. My great-grandmother was an Indian from the Choctaw tribe. The oppression was so horrendous that she married a black man to escape the poverty-particularly the starvation. To hold her new family together she became a Jehovah Witness but lost her children when her husband died. My grandmother was a single mother, and my mother and her siblings were molested, and beaten by the so called “village” we preach about returning to. My mother and her siblings ended up being adopted out by distant relatives who used them to work their farm: I’m talking about growing up in a shot gun house, eating dandelion soup, and having no shoes to walk to school in. No plumbing, no electricity, having to use an old outhouse. This is why I nearly cursed that republican blogger out for suggesting that merit is the standard when that isn’t the reality.

    I am the first child of my mother to be married, a home owner, and soon a college graduate. My other sibling did not make it out so well and rejects any type of help.

    To conclude this ramble, and to reach out to touch your hearts, I want to share how I came to realize ONE of many solutions to the problems in our ethnic community.

    You all know my mother passed away from breast cancer-but that wasn’t the first time I’d lost her, and I was just beginning to get to know her as a person with out the confines of the dam (pardon me) state interfering. Watching this woman who hid behind trees to watch us get on the school bus, ate banana peels so we could eat the banana when we were homeless, and spent her ever dime on us only to see some sick foster parents give it to their children instead of us, watching my mother die, and take her last breath, brought a tremendous degree of grief, loss, and pain BUT what came out of that experience was this:

    I made the decision that I was not ONLY going to live for this world
    I made the decision that I was not ONLY going to live for myself
    I made the decision that I was not ONLY going to strive to be comfortable if meant displeasing God, harming others, and was not beneficial

    I encourage others in what ever way you can to see what you can do. None of us can expect to serve others if our goal at the end of the say to is to always serve our own ego and our own flesh. We half to help each other get beyond living for ourselves and this world ONLY at the expense of truth, peace, and justice.

    As a Muslim, Christian, Jews, if we find that: experiencing the daily presence of the Almighty; seeing the face of the almighty in the hereafter; and having the hope for being reunited with loved ones in the hereafter does not make us happy, does not inspire us to be Great and do Great than the problem is not the Master or his Will, the problem is that we have not yet reach a level in our spiritual growth and development where we have made the decision fully aware of the CONSQUENCES that accompany it: that is to live for God instead of our own desires, and mortal comforts.

    Mary Ann

  17. Just yesterday I had a conservation with older BA muslim who accepted in Islam in Brooklyn,Ny inthe 60’sunder leadership Yahya Abdul Kareem Former leader of Dar Islam Movement.Brother explain to me how many of children got swallow up in the urban environments they were being raised in.There has been attemts to move to country and establish land jammats or can say muslim environments were most interaction done daily is done amomg muslims.Unfortunely even many succumb to the outerforces or counterculture which deem being good person something adnormal.Can you imagine how muslim fathers and mothers have childremn in state penitaries with the names Muhammad,AbuBakr,Umar ,Uthman and other names that we name our children.Any jammats or organzations amongst must take a valiant effort in ensuring that we do our best in raising healthy wholesome muslim children who want to be good muslims and educauted.Yes we must put belief in the Qadr cause this one of basic principles of the deen.But we also must work to better our famlies and communties in which we reside in.While engaged in this struggle we must put Allah first and pray and make du’a for sucess.

  18. Once Again, brillient. I am in so much pain about the condition of Black America I can’t even explain it. What we are witnessing is complete social disintigration and moral chaos. It is very disquieting. Good post Jamerican.

  19. We have so many problems that even during Ramadan I was forced to flee my local Masjid and go elsewhere.We had some brothers causing disturbances over nothing that it became immpossible to even enjoy yourself.Can you imagine a muslim pulling up his criminal record and telling people he committed murder.Now if this person once to marry a sister do people really believe we should conceal it.This is the type of mentality you have to deal with no wonder BAM can’t get knowhere.We actually got muslims talking about they belong to the bloods and crips.Mutiple marriages you hit right on the spot I know one sister who beem married 8 timesand brother 5 or 6 times and he is know older than 32.Crazy isn’t it.

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