by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Dr. Samori Swygert sent something to my email that got my attention. It was an audio clip of Malcolm X talking about the dangers of unwed mothers in the black community. In the clip, Malcolm talks about single mothers being as young as 12 years old and why this is probably not good for our children.
I didn’t put this clip out to re-start the Black Family Blame Game. The Blame Game goes something like this: Any call for accountability on the part of mothers leads to a slew of women who say, “What about the men?” or “Stop attacking single black mothers!”
When I call for men to stand up and be fathers, there are the men who call me an Uncle Tom and say, “I’ve never heard you say anything like that about black women Dr. Boyce. What about them?”
As we point fingers and believe that we are fixing a problem by shifting it over to somebody else, we end up looking as stupid as the politicians in Washington, who get nothing done because their only concern is that the other party gets blamed for the American economic disaster. The casualties of our dysfunction are our children, who grow up to become just as confused as the rest of us. It becomes part of a destructive cycle and no progress is made.
Perhaps the simple idea that we can carry away with us as part of our New Paradigm Movement is to realize that all of us have to take responsibility for what is happening to our children. I am not liberal enough to believe that a child shouldn’t at least have a chance to have a father. The fact is that when there is not a father directly involved in the life of a child, the child is far more likely to end up in poverty, uneducated, incarcerated or dead. It doesn’t happen all the time, but we can”t just ignore a problem because a few of our kids are able to overcome it.
Also, I am a believer, as Malcolm was, that the father is the ultimate protector of a child and family: He is the one who typically fights to obtain resources, and stands up to those seeking to harm his children. It is not biologically normal to consistently allow new men around children that don’t belong to them. That’s why so many of our children are abused and killed by their mother’s boyfriends.
I had an infant cousin who was beaten to death by her mother’s boyfriend. My friends on the police force have told me about textbook cases where a child is being abused by his/her mother’s boyfriend while she is at work. The R Kelly’s of the world are more easily able to do their dirty work when there is not a father in the household. I’ve seen too many children endure significant psychological damage from not having both parents around. So, no matter who is to blame, we must stand up for our children.
A simple solution to the problem might be this:
1) We should all agree right now that a child is better off with two involved parents, so this should at least be the objective from the beginning. If you can’t agree with that simple idea, then we don’t have much else to talk about. I don’t believe that a woman can be a dad and I don’t believe a dad can be a mother. At best, we can work with what we have and try to be inadequate substitutes. A consistent role model of the opposite gender should be the goal of any family that can’t have two parents for their children.
2) Men should do everything in their power to be in the lives of their children: That might mean going to court, or studying father’s rights if you feel that you’ve been alienated in some way. You have no excuse for not consistently trying, and those men who splatter babies all across the country and then run off to the next working v@gina are nothing short of terrorists to our community and should be dealt with by any means necessary.
3) Mothers should always respect their child’s father and create an open door policy for the father to be involved in the lives of his children. Don’t make his involvement conditional upon receiving financial payment or him doing everything according to your rules. If you don’t trust him to be a dad, you should never have allowed him to enter into your body. If he is trying to be a good man and a leader, elevate him and avoid the temptation to berate him even more than society is doing already. Allow him to be a proud hero to his child and that might make him into a better human being.
4) Men should be thoughtful about where they spread their seed: Your p*enis is not a water gun, to be sprayed in every direction. Every woman you sleep with may be the mother to your kids, and you should be thoughtful about where you plant your DNA. No one is going to feel sorry for you when you can’t afford to pay child support: If you were man enough to make those kids, then you should be man enough to provide for them.
5) Women shouldn’t choose to sleep with sloppy, irresponsible men who aren’t going to make good fathers: If you make that mistake once, so be it. But if you make it three or four times, that means you’re not being careful with your body. A woman who makes a bunch of kids with irresponsible, destructive men who abandon their children doesn’t love her kids as much as she loves her obsession with physical intimacy.
These are my thoughts and recommendations. Maybe we should consider a little more family planning if we want our families to prosper. We will always fall behind economically and otherwise if we don’t embrace the idea of personal responsibility. That’s not just a term for racist republicans; it’s also a term that we should apply toward one another. No more excuses.