01 Nov 2003 Thanks Dad, by Kimberley Jane Wilson
A New Visions Commentary paper published November 2003 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, E-Mail [email protected], Web http://www.nationalcenter.org. Reprints permitted provided source is credited.
I noticed him first. We were on our way to church when a boy of two, maybe three, appeared in front of us. Before I could wonder about his mother, he saw my husband. With a shriek of “Da!,” he ran up and clung to his legs.
While my husband tried to peel the child off, I looked for the mother. She showed up a few seconds later. She apologized, and told us the last time her son – now wailing – had seen his father he’d been wearing a blue suit like my husband’s.
This might have been funny, but the cries of the child, the unhappy look on the mother’s very young face and her shabby clothes eclipsed any humor. As she disappeared around the corner, we wondered how long the child’s father had been out of their lives.
Out of wedlock births in the black community have soared to over 70 percent. More than at any other time since Emancipation, black children are living in homes without a father present. Black men are accused of being the sole cause of this situation, but I think that’s unfair. A new report, “Charting Parenthood: A Statistical Portrait of Fathers and Mothers in America,” from the non-partisan Child Trends notes that 64 percent of the black women who were asked if one parent was as good as two responded “yes.”
It’s an unavoidable law of the universe that sex is not love. An American child born of loveless sex is legally entitled to a support check, but no court can make a reluctant father love or even remotely care for that child. The loss of a real dad is huge. I know.
My father died at age 42 when I was only 13. At his funeral, well-meaning people told me I’d get over my grief. They were wrong. I miss him just as bitterly now as I did then. He wasn’t rich, powerful or famous, but he was the kind of man you don’t forget. Cleveland Lindsay gave me an appreciation for literature when I was very young. His sense of humor and love of history, art, music and animals are still with me.
Probably without even thinking about it, he formed my first ideas of what a man was supposed to be: smart, funny and kind. Unlike many fathers at the time, he deliberately made himself known to both my teachers and friends. Both groups understood I had two strong-minded parents at home who were passionately concerned and who weren’t going to take any foolishness.
A child needs that.
Vicious and degrading images of black women – along with the constant praise of street thugs and pimps – are mainstays in rap, movies and, truthfully, the whole Hip Hop culture. Without a responsible father figure to counteract this filth, it’s easy for a child to absorb twisted ideas.
We usually don’t say enough positive things about black fathers. I want to say thank you to all the black fathers who take their roles seriously. This is for the men who never fail to attend their child’s sporting events, whether they have talent or not. It’s for those who lay down the law with their daughter’s boyfriend on the first date. And it’s for all the young fathers who aren’t ashamed to hug and kiss their kids in public.
I’ve met black men who work two, and even three, jobs to support their families without complaint or boasting. I’ve met men who faithfully pay child support knowing full well that most of the money goes to their ex-wives’ hair, nails and social lives. I also know countless black men who light up and can’t suppress a smile when asked about their children and who have lost everything fighting for the legal right to see them. And then there are those doing the best they can raising children from their spouses’ previous relationships.
Society gives the committed black father little attention and less credit, but all these men are heroes.
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.