I am overwhelmed by the news that has evolved around Black men. It seems that everything in our society is working against Black males -- in elementary and middle schools the disciplinary and suspension rates are higher, high school and college dropout rates are higher, the number of Black men in prison is higher, unemployment is higher, health is poorer, life expectancy is shorter. These conditions have produced a generation of men who are increasingly unable to function as husbands and heads of their families. In fact, one recent headline pointed to a Black man who fathered 30 children by 11 mothers, and now wants child support help from the State of Tennessee because he can't take care of all of his children. At the other end of the spectrum, former heavy weight boxing champion, Evander Holyfield, is over $340,000 behind in child support mayments.
All of this has spawned a new vocabulary developed around the condition of Black males -- especially those who are fathers. There are "deadbeat dads" who don't pay their child support, "baby daddies" who are faceless progenitors of 70% of Black children in schools, and those who are trying to be "good fathers". All of these roles occur outside the home of the children involved. Little mention is ever made of Black husbands and heads of households.
What has struck me is the growing number of activities and programs that have developed around Black men and their responsibilities to their children. It is as if these men landed on this planet from outer space, and now have to be taught how to live in our civilization. They reproduce in prolific numbers, but they don't seem to know anything about the responsibility of fatherhood.
I grew up in a two-parent household in the 50s and 60s when most Black families were two-parent families. My father was my male role model. He worked hard everyday, loved and respected our mother, went to church on Sunday, and spent time teaching his sons the responsibilities of being a husband and head of the family. I have been married for 45 years, and each of our two children have been married for more than 10 years. Our grandchildren are growing up in a two-parent family. At one time, these were family values that were passed down from generation to generation. Now, these values ae the exception and not the rule.
What we see nowadays is mostly baby daddies and fathers in various stages of "being present in the lives of their children." There are "take your children to school" programs fpor Black men; there are "take a Black man to church" programs; there are "parenting programs for Black males." The role models in our community -- star athletes and entertainment celebrities -- only consider marriage as an afterthought. The pattern seems to be -- father, man, husband. I remember when the pattern was -- man, husband, father.
The role of husband and head of household is rapidly becoming extinct. Among all the challenges facing African Americans, I fear that the destruction of the Black family -- a strong bond between husband and wife and children -- is the most devastating. What is most worrisome is that there are fewer and fewer Black males who are role models for stable families.
I am curious about the thoughts of others about the possibility for returning to the pattern that anchored us through the storm of slavery, Jim Crow, and the struggle for upward mobility. The current pattern seems to be leading to decline.
Please join this dialog and share your thoughts on the crisis we face as Black men.
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