Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Unmarried fathers and the "mama drama." An interesting article in the South Bend Tribune, an African-American community newspaper, describes the rising rate of fatherlessness in black families. The rate of out-of-wedlock births in the black community has historically been high, but has actually risen in recent years, with 70% of babies born to unmarried mothers. And what were the young men thinking when they had sex with their child's mother? Did it ever cross their mind to get married or to share in the child's upbrining? Here are some quotes from the article:
At least some men don't see themselves as totally to blame. They talk of the "mama drama." "I really liked my baby's mama and I used to go over to see my son every week," said Marcus Taylor, 20, of Mishawaka. "But if I was late or didn't show up one week when I said or didn't bring any money, she would start tripping." Some men may lack the skills to handle conflict constructively."I don't hate my baby's mama," he said. "But it's no use in everybody being miserable." "There are just so many women, I don't have to deal with the drama," said Otis Lenny, 25, of South Bend. "But I take care of my kids; my mother makes sure of that."
The newspaper also offers some background into the issue as a "legacy of slavery."
"I think it's important when we are speaking about how poorly African-American men are doing that we understand some things," said Ray Turner, a school counselor for the South Bend Community School Corp. "Black and white men have never been on an equal basis, and slavery and 'Jim Crow' are proof of that," he said. "Another thing is President Bush's fiscal and economic policies have resulted in the loss of millions of jobs during his years in office. His slash-and-burn of job training programs and dearth of tax incentives for the working poor have certainly helped fuel the crisis black men are facing." Turner offered the theory that slavery caused African-American men to suffer in ways that no other people in this country have suffered. "Fathers could be and often were uprooted from their family, even being bred to produce desired offspring for the owner," Turner said. "Slavery deprived African-American men of the leadership of fatherhood, to provide and plan for or even protect his family. Thus, his role was often ... unclear and confused.
As a middle-aged white guy, I find this argument compelling. It is important to note, however, that Sweden, a virtually all-white country (with lots of job training programs), has an out-of-wedlock birth rate topping 50%. I applaud the newspaper and leaders in the African-American community for taking on this issue. Whatever the cause of black fatherlessness, it is not going to go away without strong leadership. There is no commercial interest or bold new government program that is going to kick in and solve it for us. David Blankenhorn, author of "Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem," has written
"Fatherlessness is our most dangerous social trend. It weakens the family, harms children, causes or aggravates many of the worst social problems, and makes individual success more difficult to achieve."


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