I was having a conversation with my mother the other day about some material I was writing in the food section of the survival guide. The topic was grocery shopping, and I was explaining about the articles I had written related to saving money on groceries and how to feed your family on a budget. As I was busy telling my mother about the things I had just recently learned about online coupons, the Sunday paper, and how to buy the cheapest items she was right there expanding on those things that she already knew as well as introducing me to a dozen things I still did not know. After the conversation I found myself thinking the same thing I often think after I speak to my mother – this is the smartest woman I know.

Now of course I may be a little biased, but my mother is a very well read woman, not only in novels, but also in current events in magazines and newspapers. To top it off, she has those good old fashioned street smarts to go along with the knowledge that you can only acquire from years of experience.

So why am I going on about my mother? It is because I realized after that conversation (and many others that preceded it) that I have learned the majority of lessons in life from my parents. Not only that, but I have been fortunate enough in my life to have positive older role models who have educated me. As a teen I was in internship programs and as an adult business owner I was in a business incubator. From my first college roommates (who were sophomores who showed me the ropes) to my first boss after I graduated (a black professional engineer) I have been blessed with people older and more experienced than me to serve as guides. Role models and mentors have always been there.

I know that I have been blessed in this regard and I am not surprised that I developed a philosophy in life to always respect my elders and listen to them. This was an easy rule to live by because I knew that it produced positive results. I shudder to think where I would be without these influences in my life.

So what of our black youth today who have no role models and mentors? Too many young black men have no one to look up to and guide them through adolescence and adulthood. We all know that the black father in the home is the primary key to the successful maturation of the black man. Without him we are at a significant disadvantage. With only 2% of our teachers as black males, the primary role model outside of the home to teach you about being a black man is also not present. With no black father and no black teacher, too many black men have to teach themselves about how to be a man. Well, this is only partly true.

We all know that we are socialized human beings. We come into this world knowing basic instincts to survive, but outside of that we have to learn EVERYTHING. You can learn from family and other adults, but if they are not present you will learn from your peers. Everyone aspires to be SOMETHING, and if there are no professional, educated and successful people around you to emulate chances are you WILL emulate the people you see that you deem to be successful.

It is no accident that so many black men aspire to be LeBron or Kobe. This is who they see on TV as successful. It is no accident that so many youth go into the drug game. These are the people in the neighborhood that they see who have money, power and women. Entertainers and rap stars are today’s heroes. “Little Wayne’s got money, I want to be like him” (tattoos, jail sentence, drug abuse and all).

A TRULY DISTURBING TREND IN OUR SOCIETY IS A WORSHIP OF PEOPLE WHO DO NOTHING. Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan are role models to millions of girls. Jersey Shore cast members are emulated by teenagers at a frightening rate. Many reality TV stars have no talent and behave badly and yet these are the role models of today for too many kids. If someone dropped an alien on this planet from outer space today and asked him to figure out who runs the United States he would be hard pressed to decide between Snooki, Kobe, or Barack Obama. Okay, maybe this is a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point.

You can only respect your elders if you have them, they are available, they are willing to teach you, and you are willing to listen. Without positive role models, young people will have negative role models. Either way, someone is raising the leaders of tomorrow. For the sake of the free world I hope it’s not Snooki.

Author's Bio: 

Team Afro writes for The Black Man Survival Guide, one of the leading resource websites for black men and African Americans to learn and share tools to survive and prosper in America. To see more articles like this, please visit http://afrodaddy.com.