Mixed Feelings on Father’s Day, by Darryn “Dutch” Martin

martin_smAnother Father’s Day is here. It’s only the second one in which I’ve truly felt a part of the celebration.

I take great pride in being a father to my two-year-old son, Luther. But, coming from a single-parent home, I always had mixed feelings when Father’s Day rolled around.

Before Luther was born, I would wonder about the importance of fathers. I would analyze and assess how my own formative years were shaped by my own father’s absence.

Although much has been written about the negative effects of fatherlessness on black children from a scholarly perspective, I have my personal feelings and experiences. I have seen how misguided welfare policies undermined the black family — especially my own.

Historically, black families remained intact and strong during even the worst of times. When racism was institutional, blacks worked hard to keep families together. We sought to educate ourselves and our children at great peril. As a race, we not only survived these incredible obstacles — we excelled.

What happened?

The “War on Poverty” — the liberal social welfare explosion that was ushered in by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in the 1960s — happened.

Economic and social progress in the black community was utterly ruined by the expansion of the welfare state. A new bureaucracy basically subsidized irresponsibility and social dysfunction. Unmarried black women were essentially encouraged by government subsidy to have children out of wedlock. Weak-willed black men got an excuse to be lazy and irresponsible, siring as many illegitimate kids with as many women as they pleased.

Why shouldn’t someone live a hedonistic lifestyle? The government pays for it!

Having survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, the black family began a rapid moral disintegration. What was sold as a safety net became a way of life for millions of poverty-stricken blacks. In a way, it ended the civil rights movement with a whimper, with too many sitting on their hands despite new and wonderful opportunities.

This generational welfare sub-culture is unfortunately evident today.

Too many young black boys now grow up to become functionally illiterate, trouser-sagging thugs pointed toward prison or an early grave. Young black girls become irresponsible “queens” who look to Uncle Sam to provide for them and their out-of-wedlock children rather than the boys they “hooked up” with.

Instead of acknowledging this dirty laundry and the need to clean it, the civil rights lobby seems to care more about protecting the image of blacks rather than their future by blaming things on the legacy of slavery and institutional racism.

In a 2004 essay, noted black economist Thomas Sowell described the problem in this way:

The War on Poverty represented the crowning triumph of the liberal vision of society — and of government programs as the solutions to social problems. The disastrous consequences that followed have made the word “liberal” so much of a political liability that today even candidates with long left-wing track records have evaded or denied that designation.

I grew up in a welfare household — the youngest of six children with an absentee father.

My family life was dysfunctional to say the least. Not having a father left a void in my soul that was emotionally crippling. Throughout my young life, I was agonized by questions with no clear answer: Who would teach me how to drive, tie a necktie, balance a checkbook and relate to the opposite sex?

Most importantly, who would teach me how to be a man?

I don’t care what feminists say; a woman cannot give a boy the tools to be a man. I learned life’s lessons of manhood the hard way — virtually on my own.

Looking back on my fatherless, welfare-dependent childhood leaves me both angry and sad. In an unusual way, it has also motivated me to undo all of that psychological and emotional baggage so I may reprogram my mind and heart.

I want to be the loving, responsible father and role model to my son that I never had. Luther deserves better than what I had, and I’m making sure he gets it.

Fatherlessness hurts like hell! You never get over it — you just deal with it. Some get through it better than others. I’ve been dealing with it for 39 years, but Luther will never have to. Thank God.

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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, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.

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