Black Parenthood Must Not Be Wired for Failure

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Last night, I hosted the premiere for the film “Father’s Day?” in New York City.  The film is an incredible project created by Squeaky Moore and Ashley Shante.  The movie explores the impact of fatherless homes in the black community and how it affects our thinking as adults. The house was packed and the film was extraordinary, I was honored to be involved.

The film made me think back on my own life, and my first meeting with the sperm donor who created me.  His name is Boyce just like my own, and from all indicators I’ve received, I was lucky he wasn’t around.  I met the two children he raised and both of them seemed to feel that their interactions with him led to serious psychological damage.  In other words, I have almost no respect for my biological  father, and there isn’t much he can do to change that.

The film also led me to reflect on the good side of fatherhood.  When my sperm donor left the scene of his “sexual crime,” another man stepped in and raised me from the age of three.  Throughout my life, I’ve rarely given him proper credit for the tremendous sacrifices he made to get me to adulthood in one piece.   I owe this man my life, for he made me everything that I am today.

The film also made me think about “us.”  I thought about a community that has been devastated by the removal of so many black men via the prison industrial complex.  I thought about educational systems that barely teach black boys how to read, and an economy that even denies employment to black men who are well-educated.  I thought about  media, which teaches black boys that their path to success involves a basketball, a gun, a microphone, some liquor and perhaps a pound of weed to go with it.  I thought about how many of these men have their psyches polluted with so many negative messages that some have almost no ability to become adequate husbands and fathers.

The film also made me think about how our girls are affected by the missing daddy.  I reflected on how many of these young women enable the deviant behavior of black men by somehow confusing thugs with real men and passing up good marital opportunities by chasing after the most “swagged out,” handsome Lil Wayne clone with a few dollars in his pocket.   Many of these girls never learned what a decent man looks like, they never learned what it means to be a woman, and they certainly never learned what it means to manage a successful relationship.  In other words, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that our women are as much astray as our men.

The bottom line is that we are all confused.  While many of us are aware of the fatherless problem in our community, most of us are firmly convinced that someone else is the cause of it.   The fact, however, is that fixing the parenting problem in black America is going to require at least two things from all of us:  Demanding accountability and accepting responsibility.

We must demand accountability from those who think that the power of sex does not come with subsequent responsibility that goes beyond buying a pack of diapers every other week.  We must accept responsibility for our broken relationships, get help on analyzing counter-productive patterns in our lives, and stop repeating cycles that exist in our own families.   If you are hopping from relationship-to-relationship or your children aren’t getting access to both parents, the truth is that your choices played a direct role in this outcome.

We must demand accountability from the men and women in our families who are refusing to be responsible parents and sometimes, we must take responsibility for their children.   We must demand accountability from legislators who choose to ignore the prison industrial complex and racially-biased education and employment systems.  We must take responsibility for what we are and are not doing to help solve the problem.

The film “Father’s Day?” is one of the most powerful theatrical pieces to address the impact of fatherless homes in our community and I recommend taking a look.  It must also be demanded that we work together to deal with these matters in our own families and break away from the habits that are wired to destroy us.  We are all black leaders in our families, our social circles and in our communities, and each of us has an obligation to reject this nonsense.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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