Why Complacency Is Costing the African American Family

Thoughts on generational wealth for our families

black family


The African-American family is currently at one of the lowest points in recent history. Critics, media and community publicists all weigh-in trying to allocate blame to the cause of our societal and cultural demise. I agree that the liberated black woman movement has influenced a shift in how the family structure was traditionally built, but also recognize the desire for a woman to better herself should be seen as an asset and not a liability. After all it is not her fault that a number of black men have lost motivation to better themselves.

Despite the issues our black women possess today, you can often identify one of us (black men) as the source behind many of their troubles. Whether it’s abandonment by a father or mental/physical abuse in relationships…we are generally behind these unfortunate experiences, but I digress.

Let’s explore a couple questions that need to be asked regarding black men’s complacency and its associated financial impact.

1. Why are so many of us not finishing high school and opting to simply underachieve? It is not okay for this trend to continue, especially in a society that is demanding higher qualifications for some of the most basic employment opportunities. There is definitely a specific group of men that are better served pursuing alternative learning and skill development training (trade schools), but this should be the exception and not the norm. In health, we identify cancer as a disease that eats away at the various areas of a person’s body.

Similarly, underachievement is one of the cancerous practices that some black men are contributing to a society that is already dying a slow death.

When black men make conscious decisions to abide in complacency, it is a slap in the face to the pioneers who came before us. Not to mention many of the complacent underachievers miss out in about $1 million in lifetime earnings versus those with college degrees!

2. Why are so many of us looking for the quick-fix hustle and instant wealth gratification?

The media and entertainment industry glorifies the hip-hop movement, sports figures and often associate popularity with money. However, the harsh reality is 99% of men will NEVER make a hit album or play professional sports. I know that we should not try to deflate the dreams of our young people and it is not my intention to do so. However, it is the responsibility of mature black men to make sure the younger generation is prepared to be successful in ALL walks of life. It is okay to encourage our young people to excel in football, basketball, baseball, golf, etc. It is also necessary that we balance out their athletic appetites with a healthy dose of academic reality.

The pursuit of quick-fix hustles is causing some black men to shun their responsibilities, abandon committed relationships with women while potentially continuing the cycle through the children who are left behind without a father.

Parting Thought

The black family needs strong black men more than ever. Start thinking with your ‘intellectual’ head, start treating women with the same respect you would treat a beloved sister or mother with, start living up to the accountability that God delegated when He designed us.

We are not only basketball players or football players, but we can become influential members of society. There is nothing wrong with becoming a doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur (legal of course) or corporate executive(s). Start dreaming big, but remember that an entire generation will be lost if we continue at our current pace. The black man’s absence is causing the black family to miss out on generational wealth and legacy building. We CAN’T afford for this to continue!

Kenny Pugh is a Life & Relationship Strategist, Author of ‘Can You Do It Standing Up?’, Speaker, Host of the Chat Kafe Radio Show (http://www.chatkafeonline.com), singles leader and sought-after speaker on singleness, relationships, finances and life. You can find more information about Kenny at http://www.kennypugh.com. You can follow him on Facebook at Kenny Pugh or on Twitter @mrkennypugh.

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  • http://twitter.com/ReeAnders Renee Ferguson

    Black women have worked since we stepped on these shores. We must also recognize that we have more doctors, lawyers, etc. than in the past. But we must continue to encourage one another and be supportive. Finally, we need to recognize that there are a lot of fathers, fathers, Uncles who are involved with their children.

    • Clay Clyne

      Black women worked before they landed on the these shores.

  • http://twitter.com/THEAAAGENDA THE AA AGENDA

    So when Black are not raising there Boy’s to be Positive Productive Men & are Actively seeking to remove non abusive African American Fathers from the home so that she can be the focus of her childs love & affection that wouldn’t have ANYTHING to do with how African American Men? So you’re basically saying that AA Men are ask lazy and that why we’re behind why things go wrong in the AA COMMUNITY & not the Mothers that raise these Boys who raise these undisciplined men. You need to Fired for writing this Childish Unresearced Bullshit.I’m surprised Black Enterprise let you Publish this nonsense.

    • Kenny Pugh

      I’d love to entertain your statement but you haven’t provided any foundational statistics to support your assessment. If you look at the statistics, you do miss out in ~$1 million in lifetime earnings when you don’t finish college and are armed only with a high school diploma. The stats show that 70% of children are born to single mothers in the African-American community. I’m not attacking the black men who are handling their business. This is an article that shows we lose out on opportunities for generational wealth building when we remain complacent as black men.

    • Jay

      I am sorry that you are in so much pain. I hope you get to spend some quality time with your child(ren).

  • http://twitter.com/THEAAAGENDA THE AA AGENDA

    Kenny Pugh it’s obvious that you come from an All Female Background because your article was written without True Regard for the Millions of African American Men who are getting out everyday Busting There Asses making a living for their families and are getting screwed over by the very same Independent Black Women med who’ve aggressively aligned themselves with European American Males who you seek to praise. The last thing AAMEN need are half cocked writers with some Fictitious perspective on the lack of African American Productiviity

    • Rod Rags

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Kenny Pugh is pacified and afraid to express the point of view held by the MAJORITY of Black males. The last sentence of his first paragraph reads: ” it is not her fault that a number of black men have lost motivation to better themselves”. That emasculating statement scores points with legions of Black females, who are probably the majority of BE subscribers and readers; but in no way does it reflect the mindset of black males. On Dec. 7th, 2012, Kenny published an article within the “Love & Money” section of BE, entitled “Why Successful Black Women Can’t Keep a Man”. Black women grilled his ass and he folded like the “un-motivated” black men he tries to belittle. He has been wimpering since. But I digress because, like most pacified men, he will only respond to stats. As a former employee in the Workforce Development field I can attest to you that Black women who are on welfare are eligible for job -training / school voucher programs that will enable them to get certified and employed at rates far faster than black males who do not have such assistance. As a former employee of the Federal Civilian I can attest that black women make up over 65% of African American’s working for the Federal Government. I have worked for a couple of Fortune 500 companies and know for a fact that Anglo based management believes they can kill two EEO birds with one stone by employing a BLACK FEMALE (Double Minority). Additionally, these Black women will under-cut their black male counterparts in a heartbeat. They are promoted faster and farther than their male counterparts and it has nothing to do with their on-the-job performance. Kenny’s opinion might score him a book deal (Steve Harvey, Michael Baisden) and points with the women, but in NO WAY does it represent the truth.

      • http://twitter.com/rwjohn Randy Johnson

        Thank you! At least one brother has the courage to speak the truth!

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  • Clay Clyne

    Men chase what women want. Nobody is paying attention to point Dexter getting his MBA. Club promoters know if you tell women celebs and athletes are at the club they will come. Point Dexter living the life a a modest student living a modest life style is not attractive.

    • Clay Clyne

      I see so many positive brothers that don’t get a second look from females.

  • Pierre Herby

    Some of us black men look for excuses for low living. I agree with the article, we have lost in the step of our forefathers. All we need to do is look and look closely at our communities. We as Black men as sadly settle for less. I will give this advice to Mr.Pugh and Black-Enterprise, Inc. GET THE BROTHERS(and sisters) with the money Involve. Ask the rappers to make better music. Ask the athletes to open boys only schools, for example. In all, we, with the money should invest it for the betterment of our people..Its our time to leave some legacy as the others have done.

  • http://www.womenaregamechangers.com/ WomenAreGamechangers

    Very well put. The head of a family is a man. We do need them to step up. But let’s not forget all the ones who do on a daily basis. We should celebrate them so others will hopefully follow suit. But the hustle of our men is necessary. Maybe misguided but necessary to make it in this world.

  • Black Man Get On Your Job

    I think defining success for oneself is important in this conversation. I also agree that underachieving is an issue and I think its rooted in hopelessness. with the media constantly forming opinions and minds based on what you have or don’t have, with excess being pushed to new limits, it can be challenging to deal with. black men have to find a way to remain encouraged no matter what. simple steps lead to big leaps. i know there are a minority of brothers who are comfortable with underachieving, but i think the vast majority want to excel in life, provide for themselves and their family. understanding the how, the fortitude it takes, creating a support system that helps and not hurts, and being gentle with ourselves in the process is the key. I have to chime in on the Hip Hop line about 99% wont make a hit album though as I may have a different take. Hip Hop has created jobs. When you stop focusing on the person on the mic, and see all the hundreds if not thousands of jobs that are available, good paying, then the perception changes. So to pose it as if folks should not be looking as Hip Hop as an outlet may be a little misguided and based on the commercialism and negative aspects of “Rap culture,” over the power Hip Hop can make. With the amount of schools now offering degrees in Hip Hop that go beyond the performer, I think people should do a little more homework before they make a general statement about the culture I am a member of. Like Reggae, there are sub-genres and should be looked as such. Many black men I know who are doing well for themselves, helping the community, teachers and educators come from a Hip Hop school that is academic, that is empowering and does not promote sex, violence and laziness but wealth, strength, peace, love, unity, and building. My 2 cents

  • PMIzzle

    Before we get too deep into the woods…don’t forget that the majority of adult black men (25 to 45) were raised by single women. Ladies don’t have a baby (son) out of wedlock, raise him by yourself, and then not expect some kind of negative impact. Real men raise real men.

  • AWilliams

    To answer the question: yes! complacency is costing African American families–clearly. EACH one of us has to take responsibility in that statement. Man or woman–are you doing what you need to do as a member of our larger Black family? Working, saving money, educating ourselves, making healthy choices…and so on. Additionally, if you are a parent, married or single—are you doing the best for your child—giving the best education you can, limiting television/gaming, being a parent (supervising), setting sleep schedules, feeding them healthy foods (little or no sodas/junk), giving additional educational exposure (libraries, museums, camping, reading). If you can answer YES to the questions I pose above, that means you are doing the best for yourself and your child(ren). The rest will take care of itself. Then we will move forward–but too many of us CHOOSE not to do anything.

  • Uncontainable Spirit

    Please pay drivel such as this no attention what so ever. It will only serve to frustrate you by blaming all of the ills of the Black community on you. Understand that America does not have your best interest at heart and that you are, for all intents and purposes, utterly alone in a land that has for centuries sought your demise. You are going to have to go your own way Black Man. Educate yourself, eat properly, exercise and excel. Have faith in yourself for you are the only one who will.

  • http://www.facebook.com/haustin.hall H Austin Hall

    It is obvious that several commenters have not read this article and are responding with reactionary tissue paper feelings. Any mature African-American MAN would see and agree with the truth of this article. For those African-American men living up to their responsibilities, do not expect praise for doing what you are SUPPOSED to be doing.

  • Walk Our Talk

    I read your thoughts on “complacency” and each of the thoughts of those that responded . Now I will give you my thoughts. This article or blog is good to open the dialogue, but it doesn’t actually answer or address any of the critical questions that you raised. I think we need to take a real look (not finger pointing) at how we can motivate our youth into finishing school, and to help them make better decisions that lead to better options and ultimately to greater opportunities. I mention the youth because they are the ones who are caught in the” eye of the storm” of OUR African American family crisis. I think it is safe to say, that historically we know how the majority of us landed here . Having said that, we should also know that systematically, we are the first to get locked up and will do more time than any other “race”. Not to mention, the fall out from the displacement of broken families and relationships that we endure due to divorce, abandonment or early teen/young adult pregnancies. It is also no mystery that we have to work harder than those who have come into society under a different set of circumstances just to survive or to THRIVE. All the while, as you mention in your article we have “critics,media, and community publicists” ( I would also add to your list law enforcement,educational advisers, elected officials and the government)weighing in on our stats.
    So all this being said now what? I think we have to decide if we think enough of our future to courageously deal with our presence. Every single person who is reading this has the potential to reach out to one or in some cases hundreds of young minds who need to hear from us.Our young African American men need to hear from our AA men. You made it! Has your education made a difference in your life ?Great, than take a moment off the rat race treadmill and teach someone else the steps it takes to get that degree, give back!! Share your failures and successes with these young men who are one poor choice away from falling through the cracks. AA men who are still trying to make it, share your failures and successes as well, wisdom is valuable . AA women reach out to the young ladies that are about to make a choice that may lead to a lifetime of hardship. Help encourage the ones who need support in making a smarter decisions. TIME is so important! if you really think about it ,one or two hours a week could spark the difference in the life of someone else. Our kids are NOT stupid they are the children of the masters of the Arts, Innovation,Sports,Humanitarianism, and Higher Spiritual Thinking, Don’t get it twisted! They need to know that someone is interested in their success. Reach out to those young and old AA family and community members that need our support,daughters; sons nieces,nephews,cousins,single parents, neighbors,students,patients,inmates ..whoever you feel called to help, just help .

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  • Kenny Pugh

    I am excited about everyone who has commented on this post both good and bad. I don’t discriminate in generating conversation about the things plaguing our society. As mentioned before, I respect people’s perspectives, but can’t really respond if you fail to provide tangible points or statistics to support your views. Feel free to read part two of this article which offers some solutions. http://www.blackenterprise.com/money/eliminating-complacency-in-african-american-family/

  • mstoogood4yall

    Black men do need to step up.Black women need to step up as well.If the man isn’t right don’t have kids with him.The boys do suffer when he comes from a single mom either he becomes a sonsband or thinks its up to the woman to do everything.A few of them turn out great.Being black and having obstacles in our way why would someone want to put more obstacles in their kids way by not having a father in their life.kids need both parents and need encouragement to reach their full potential.Women of all races are going to college at a higher rate than the males.When its a woman raising kids by herself the girl learns from her mother to be strong and not depend on a man.THe boy learns to be dependent and expects women to take care of things.So basically the mother teaches her daughter to be independent and her son to be dependent wheather that’s intentional or unintentional.THe mother raises her son to be a sonsband,which is a son who’s mom has made him to be what she wants in a man but didn’t find and has trouble letting him go.THese moms tend to be possesive of their sons and act like no woman is good enough for them.