Monday, October 19, 2009

Obama and The Black Urban Family

You might remember my post from a few days ago called "Emotional Adoption." Basically saying that if we don't step in and fill the void of fathers in the inner city, we will continue to see the drugs, violence, and crime we see now.

The WaPo has an excellent article up by a high school teacher who finally asked the children why they didn't try. They answered honestly:

Why don't you guys study like the kids from Africa?"

In a moment of exasperation last spring, I asked that question to a virtually all-black class of 12th-graders who had done horribly on a test I had just given. A kid who seldom came to class -- and was constantly distracting other students when he did -- shot back: "It's because they have fathers who kick their butts and make them study."

Another student angrily challenged me: "You ask the class, just ask how many of us have our fathers living with us." When I did, not one hand went up.

This is one issue that Obama and myself agree. And Obama has said the right things (even to the point where he riled up Jesse Jackson, always a sign you are doing something right)

Here are a few excerpts from his speech to the NAACP:

"...more than half a century after Brown v. Board, the dream of a world-class education is still being deferred all across the country. African American students are lagging behind white classmates in reading and math -- an achievement gap that is growing in states that once led the way in the civil rights movement. Over half of all African American students are dropping out of school in some places."

Unfortunately Obama starts out citing a dozen different way of throwing more money at the problem, which we know doesn't work. I think Obama knows that too, but has to tow the liberal line, but he goes on to say:

"Government programs alone won't get our children to the Promised Land."

Then he gets to the crux of it that he and I agree:

We've got to say to our children, yes, if you're African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. But that's not a reason to get bad grades. That's not a reason to cut class. That's not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands -- you cannot forget that. That's what we have to teach all of our children. No excuses. No excuses.


To parents -- to parents, we can't tell our kids to do well in school and then fail to support them when they get home. You can't just contract out parenting. For our kids to excel, we have to accept our responsibility to help them learn. That means putting away the Xbox, putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences and reading to our children and helping them with their homework.

But where Obama really came down hard on the absent dads was in a speech in a large black Chicago Church in June of 2008:

Too many fathers are M.I.A, too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes,” Mr. Obama said, to a chorus of approving murmurs from the audience. “They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”

Obama doesn't mince words or specifics here either: In Texas in February '08, Mr. Obama told the mostly black audience to take responsibility for the education and nutrition of their children, and lectured them for feeding their children “cold Popeyes” for breakfast.


Just an aside, but can someone tell me why Obama can say that with no problem, but when Michael Steele says he's going to bring "Fried chicken and potato salad" to woo African Americans, the left side of the blogosphere goes nuts?

I suggest to anyone who has a problem with people referring to blacks liking fried chicken, to go get a room at The Reality Hotel (although I honestly think it's more a southern thing, than a black thing).

Also in Obama's speech:

“But we also need families to raise our children,” he said. “We need fathers to realize that responsibility doesn’t just end at conception. That doesn’t just make you a father. What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child. Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.”

Mr. Obama spoke of the burden that single parenthood was on his mother, who raised him with the help of his maternal grandparents.

“I know the toll it took on me, not having a father in the house,” he continued. “The hole in your heart when you don’t have a male figure in the home who can guide you and lead you. So I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my children.”

Obama may be the only one who can say the things that need to be said. If he would like a truly remarkable legacy for his Presidency, then this should be his focus. Changing a generation of inner city African Americans into successful and happy human beings that don't leave their babies, that don't turn to drugs, and don't end up in prison.

Talk about bi partisan support.

All of us, white or black, Democrat, or Republican feel sadness for what our inner cities have become. We desperately want someone to address it, to fix it, to show those living with limited means that you can make a good life for yourself.

I believe this is possible. But we have to stop wringing our hands and do something. We have to demand out leaders do something. No one has the ear of those mired in poverty and drugs more than our President right now. He can really make a difference here.

I hope he does.