My father’s birthday was April 30, and while I think of him often, milestone dates and holidays always bring him to the forefront of my mind. A blog post on State Department and Harvard documents on President Obama’s father reinforced this year’s reverie. The blog used the President’s release of his birth certificate as a jumping off point to explore other documents a journalist discovered using the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA).
I will avoid discussing the whole birth certificate issue so as not to dignify the inherent dishonesty of that debate. Suffice it to say, wake me up when you’re ready to discuss the racist implications of the birther movement.
Much discussion about black fathers is a spinoff of the entire “issue” of black males in America. A recent discussion with one of my advisory board members centered on college graduation rates for black men and black women, which showed black women far more likely to get a college degree than black men. That led to a discussion of incarceration rates for black men and the implication of those two issues on marriage prospects for our daughters.
As Father’s Day approaches, I’m sure we’ll see further recitation of disturbing statistics, gloomy extrapolation of those numbers, much hand-wringing and a general call for yet another call for black males to become “more involved” with their children, especially their sons, in order to break this cycle.
Really? That’s your best shot? Black men need to be more involved with their children? When I think of my own adventures in parenthood (and single-parenthood), “involved” is not an adjective that comes to mind. Not because I think parents shouldn’t be “involved” with their children, I think if you’re loving them and providing for them and preparing them for a future a productive members of society, “involvement” is going to be a natural byproduct, so let’s give “involved” a much needed rest.
Let’s replace “involved,” with “goal oriented.” Establishing “goals” (as opposed to “wishes” and “dreams”) forces us to think things through and work out plans of action. If I want my children to be a part of society and contribute to the world in the best way they can, there must be tangible steps to reach that goal. What would that look like? What kinds of tools will they need to do that? How can I provide those tools?
Already I can hear people saying, “Cal, if we love them and provide for them, won’t they become productive members of society?” The short answer is, “No.” In our current society, the definitions of “love” and “providing for” are diluted, if not swapped. Catering to every whim, financing continual occupation through electronics and wall-to-wall organized activities replace purposeful interaction and preparation. Parents are more akin to personal assistants as they shepherd children from one event to another, while the children interact with their world through cybernetic networks that at best tolerates parents.
Next: Absent Fathers
Thanks for checking out the blog. For my Advisory Board members, yes, this is a little off topic, but reading a friend's blog prompted me to start this thread. I had planned to bust out the whole thing on Father's Day, but reading Jeff's blog put me in the mood to get something out. Enjoy and see you next time.