Fathers & Families’ Bill Stephney: ‘The ‘Daddy-as-ATM’ theory still drives public policy’

“In the 1992 best-selling book, ‘Two Nations: Black, Separate, Hostile and Unequal,’ author Andrew Hacker quoted the now-infamous observation of Johns Hopkins sociologist Andrew Cherlin, stating that the problem with so many black single mother families was ‘not the lack of a male presence, but the lack of a male income.’

“In essence, in Cherlin”s view (and that of many others of that generation), fathers served no particular purpose to families other than to monetarily fund single mothers and their children.  It was the ‘Daddy-as-ATM’ theory.

“This ‘theory’ served as the engine that still drives public policy to focus on aggressive child support collection from fathers, rather than encouraging strong, comprehensive relationship (moral, spiritual, ethical and financial) connections between fathers, mothers and children.”

Fathers & Families’ national board member Bill Stephney, a former prominent music executive who produced artists Public Enemy, Vanessa Williams and others, has a new article out for NewsOne called Black Fatherhood In The Age Of Obama (2/11/09). Some highlights:

Stepsun Entertainment's Bill Stephney and Tanya Cepeda Stephney

[Black] fathers have been rebuffed by the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, harmful government family policies, a faulty family law process, too many mothers conditioned to be indifferent and sometimes hostile to father relevance, and a popular culture that often parodies fatherhood literally into cartoonishness…

For all the lip service paid to encouraging responsible fatherhood, actually facilitating it has been another story…In the tragic case last year of Long Island mother Leatrice Brewer, who stabbed and drowned her three young children to death, the fathers of her children had petitioned local family courts to award custody to them, citing Ms. Brewer”s obvious mental illness and instability.  The courts rebuffed the fathers, cementing a horrific fate for their children.

[Michelle] Obama currently commands a respect that has been generally reserved for cherished figures such as Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz.  Not only did she evidence unflagging support for her husband, she was critical to his success during primaries…

Their daughters, Malia and Sasha conduct themselves with a grace that seems sampled from their parents.  Michelle and her brother Craig were raised to exemplary success on Chicago”s South Side by her mother and late, cherished father.  According to a 2008 New York Times piece, Mrs. Obama loved her father so much “that she would curl up in his lap even as an adult.’

By engaging her own personal story, her advocacy on family issues could be incredibly crucial in stressing the ways in which connected fathers can positively impact the lives of their daughters,  especially for communities where the majority of girls are raised fatherless – leaving them highly vulnerable in so many ways.

Read Bill’s full article here. To comment on the piece, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *