Project 21 New Visions

 

Dutch Martin

Why Father's Day Saddens Me


by Darryn "Dutch" Martin (bio)

As the product of a single-parent home, I always have mixed feelings when Father's Day rolls around.

What could I understand about the importance of fathers when my own formative years were shaped by the absence of one? Much has been written about the negative effects of fatherlessness on black children, and I definitely have some insights to share on how important fathers are and how misguided government policies undermined black families - including my own.

Historically, the black family was strong and intact. Even in the worst of times, when racism dominated our society, our community was still dedicated to keeping families together. Not only did we survive in the face of adversity - we excelled.

What happened?

Ironically, it was LBJ's "War on Poverty," which began shortly after the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1963 and marked the turning point for many black families. It created a welfare state that engulfed black America and proved to be devastating to pre-existing black economic and social progress.

A government bureaucracy was created that basically subsidized irresponsibility and social dysfunction. Unmarried black women were financially rewarded for having children out of wedlock and weak-willed black men were excused for being lazy, irresponsible losers - siring as many illegitimate kids with as many women as they pleased. Why not? The government would take care of their progeny.

Having survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, the black family began a rapid moral disintegration under a program that was sold as an emergency rescue but was transformed into a way of life. No wonder so many blacks just sat on their hands and did nothing after the civil-rights movement.

For three generations - until welfare reform was adopted in 1996 - young black girls were raised and culturally conditioned to be "baby mamas" instead of loving and nurturing wives and mothers and to prefer "baby daddies" over responsible, loving and supportive husbands and fathers. The mere idea of marriage as a sacred institution for the proper rearing of children became a joke. Too many black men saw no reason whatsoever to be committed husbands and fathers. Why should they? Welfare rendered their role in the family unnecessary.

In her book The Burden of Bad Ideas, Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald shows an example of this irrelevance when she recounts a woman receiving welfare benefits being asked what she would do without them, the woman replied, "I'd get me a husband."

I grew up in a welfare family. I was the youngest of six children with an absentee father. My family life was dysfunctional to say the least, and not having my father in my life left a void in my soul that, at times, was emotionally crippling.

I had no one to teach me how to drive a car, tie a necktie, balance a checkbook and relate to women. In short, there was no one to teach me how to be a man. I had to learn many of life's lessons of manhood the hard way - on my own, for the most part.

Reflecting on the spiritual and moral decay of being raised in a fatherless welfare family and of other families in our neighborhood, makes me both angry and sad. Worst of all, today's black "leaders" don't have the guts to admit that the welfare state - which was a political meal ticket for many - has failed black America.

Don't let anyone kid you, folks. Fatherlessness hurts like hell! You never get over it; you just deal with it. I've been dealing with it for 33 years.

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Darryn "Dutch" Martin is a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network.  Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.


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