Backlash Against Denzel Washington

December 4, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The truth has a way of taking a beating these days. In my last post I listed just a few of the recent newly-public figures who’ve dared to speak the truth and been excoriated by the press and, in more than one instance, fired from their job for their troubles.

Now, no one is going to fire Denzel Washington from his job. He’s boffo at the box office, and everyone knows it, but even he isn’t immune to the type of outrage that seems to invariably meet often obviously true statements. Recall that Washington was quoted thus by a New York Daily News article:

[W]hen asked about the prison-industrial complex, the “Malcolm X” star offered a surprising take.

“It starts at the home,” he told reporters at the film’s downtown New York premiere. “It starts at home.”

When prodded to expand on his answer, the 62-year-old Mount Vernon native replied: “It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure.

 “So you know I can’t blame the system,” he continued. “It’s unfortunate that we make such easy work for them.”

In a sensible world, that would be so uncontroversial as to merit little or no comment, but sadly, we live in this world. That means it took Earl Ofari Hutichinson just six days to write and get published his rejoinder that’s long on outrage and short on reasoned analysis (Huffington Post, 11/29/17).

For starters, Hutchinson didn’t manage to actually read the very few words Washington spoke. He’s convinced the actor was blaming black fathers, but of course he nowhere did so. True, his words can be taken in several ways, only one of which Hutchinson chose. Another way is that black mothers shouldn’t be so quick to marginalize black fathers in the lives of their children. Another is that black mothers should “put a ring on it” before they have children. Still another is that family courts should be more adept at keeping both parents actively involved in their children’s lives post-divorce or separation. And yet another is that mothers should do a little arithmetic before kicking Dad out of the house just because he lost his job. (It takes very little for a man to pay his own way plus a little for the others in the household, and, if he does, the family – particularly the children – is better off with him than without him.

Which did Washington mean? I can’t guess. He seems to me to be a bright fellow, so maybe he meant all or many of the above. But to Hutchinson, he only meant one – that black fathers are good-for-nothing deadbeats. Washington of course said no such thing.

No one should be surprised to learn that Hutchinson’s faux blaming of fathers shtick looks more like a diversion than an argument intended to have merit. After all, the real reasons stated above that combine to push black fathers out of the lives of their children could obscure the point Hutchinson really wants to make – that, whatever’s going wrong with black society in the United States can be put down to poverty.

This points to the single greatest reason for the higher number of Black children who live in one parent households. That reason is poverty. Every study ever done on the American family has found that a father’s ability to financially contribute the major support in the home is the major determinant of whether he remains in the home.

The second sentence of course is true. The loss of a job is the single greatest predictor of divorce for all men in the U.S. Make of that what you will, but Hutchinson’s notion that poverty causes single-parent households, gets it exactly backwards. In fact, single-parent households cause poverty. As before, the factors underlying that are many and varied as are the ramifications. But the simple fact is that, if Hutchinson were correct, single black fathers would be as likely as single black mothers to live in poverty. For that matter, single white fathers would be as likely as single white mothers to live in poverty. But that’s not true in either case. Single women with children are about twice as likely as single fathers to live in poverty and yet 82% of custodial parents are women.

In other words, the system of divorce and child custody contributes mightily to child poverty by (a) insisting on sole/primary parenting and (b) placing children with the lower earner.

But far more important is the fact that, destructive as poverty is, it’s not nearly as much so as fatherlessness. When we compare intact families living in poverty with single parents living in poverty (white or black in both cases), children do better in intact families. Indeed, we’ve known that fact for decades. Back in 1996, David Blankenhorn pointed it out in his book Fatherless America as Barbara Dafoe Whitehead had in her 1993 article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled Dan Quayle Was Right.

Hutchinson of course isn’t interested in facts that impede his narrative. For him it’s a system of racial oppression that keeps blacks in poverty and black children from their fathers. That makes it highly ironic that he opposes the one thing that black men and women can do for themselves to improve their lot in life – marry before having kids. Marriage tends to encourage both sexes to be more responsible, both to each other, and to their children. Everyone benefits when children grow up in intact families.

Hutchinson, like so many others on the Left these days, is far more interested in convincing blacks of their own helpless and hopeless situation than in encouraging them to help themselves. Face it, if employers discriminate against blacks, that’s a huge problem to tackle. Ditto the justice and penal systems. No single person can have much of an impact on such huge problems.

But every individual can decide for him/herself whether and when to have children and under what circumstances. But almost nowhere in the black community are those simple truths articulated. Many people have pointed out the conspicuous silence in black churches on the subject of non-marital childbearing, and it’s certainly little discussed elsewhere. Occasionally, someone like Hutchinson goes so far as to deny there’s a problem and to excoriate anyone, like Denzel Washington, who dares to speak the truth – that, at least about the black family, blacks have it in their power to make needed change.




National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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