Los Angeles, CA–I recently discussed Barack Obama’s Father’s Day father-bashing speech with Joe Hicks on KFI AM 640 in Los Angeles. Hicks is an African-American conservative who is normally very critical of Obama. But nobody unites left and right like beating up on “deadbeat dads,” so Hicks (pictured) praised Obama for his Father’s Day speech.
To Hicks’ credit, he did have some understanding of the problems fathers face in family court, but he didn’t seem to draw much of a connection between that and black fatherlessness. I made a few points:
1) It is certainly true that some black fatherlessness has nothing to do with family law issues. For example, many young African-Americans have children without ever expecting that the parents will live together and raise the child together. Family breakdown breeds family breakdown, and when you never had an intact family, and your mom never had an intact family, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong or unnatural about creating a single mother household.
2) Nobody can force a man to be a good father if he doesn’t want to, but if we’re going to reduce fatherlessness, let’s start with the many black fathers who do want to be a part of their children’s lives but who face barriers to do so. Those barriers include recalcitrant mothers, an abusive child support system, and a family law system that places little importance on protecting a fathers’ bonds with his children. We can agree to disagree as to the extent that black fathers have voluntarily abdicated their responsibilities, but there is no question that many black fathers want to be more involved–let’s start by doing everything we can to facilitate that involvement.
3) When these black fathers want to father their kids and when they’re allowed to, they are effective. A recent study of low-income African-American and Hispanic families by Boston College found that when nonresident fathers are involved in their adolescent children”s lives, the incidence of substance abuse, violence, crime, and truancy decreases markedly. The study’s lead author, professor Rebekah Levine Coley, says the study found involved nonresident fathers to be “an important protective factor for adolescents.”
I pointed out that Obama specifically blamed all family breakdown and all fatherlessness on fathers and on fathers only. (If you don’t believe me, watch the video).
Hicks said that this was fair enough since Obama did give the speech on Father’s Day. Yet can anyone imagine Obama or any other politician or anybody anywhere using Mother’s Day as an occasion to blame mothers for anything? On Mother’s Day did Obama criticize mothers for minimizing noncustodial fathers’ role in their children’s lives? For alienating children from their fathers? For moving the children physically out of their fathers’ lives? For having children with no intention of having the father in their lives? For initiating unnecessary breakups and/or divorces?