By Claudette Sims
HOUSTON – Earlier this year, a group of concerned Black community leaders in Houston hosted a press conference denouncing violence against children. The recent deaths of four more precious little souls have ignited a fierce and passionate backlash against crime and violence in our streets. African-Americans are only 13% of the U.S. population, but commit over 50% of the homicides. We are bleeding to death while Black men kill each other, kill our women and children, and fill our jails and prisons while we tiptoe around in fear and silence.
Everyone is asking the same questions. Why is this happening? What can we do about it? Who is to blame? The truth is that there is enough blame to go around. So I would like to humbly add my voice to the blame game chorus. It’s the elephant in the room. Our dirty little secret that isn’t really a secret. The topic that no one wants to address. Not our Black politicians, Black organizations, Black churches, Black Frats or Sororities. Nobody!
I submit that one of the primary reasons our society (especially the Black community) has lost its moral compass and think it’s okay to murder the innocents, is because apparently we think it’s okay that 7 out of 10 Black children are being raised by single Black women. Apparently we think it’s okay that 7 out of 10 Black fathers can plant their seed all over these United States and then walk away as if they hadn’t been anywhere near the neighborhood where their baby was conceived ― like the invisible man or a ghost in the wind.
I think we owe God an apology for how long we have neglected to speak up and speak out on this critical issue in our community. There appears to be no concern or stigma attached to deserting thousands of Black babies but all of a sudden we have epic outrage at the collateral damage―dead Black children filling our morgues.
Where is the outrage that 7 out of 10 Black children are being born out of wedlock to Black fathers missing in action? Isn’t that too many? Shouldn’t we be alarmed? Am I the only one who thinks that there is something inherently wrong with that number? Isn’t there something wrong with the fact that our Black politicians, Black churches, Black civic, Greek and non-profit organizations conduct regularly scheduled meetings, workshops and conferences and NOWHERE on the agenda is a topic that addresses thousands of missing Black fathers? Just business as usual.
You don’t have to have a degree in social work to know that children from single parent households (mostly unwed mothers) are more likely to make more babies out of wedlock, live in poverty, drop out of school, receive public assistance, abuse drugs, commit crimes, go to prison, and the list goes on and on and on. I’m not saying that all children raised by single mothers end up poor or in trouble. But poor Black mothers often (not always) mean poor Black families and poor Black communities. 78% of children in families headed by single women have a lower standard of living because they live in poverty. Those numbers should be unacceptable! What happens to a society when the offspring of these broken families grow up? They often rob and maim and massacre the innocent among us and repeat the pattern of their broken families.
Before someone starts accusing me of blaming single mothers, forget about it! Black mothers are the heroes in all of this. Most of them are “Wonder” women. They do the best they can with what they’ve got without daddies. But the truth is that the absence of Black fathers puts our children at a greater risk of becoming a statistic. If you don’t believe me, Google it. The numbers will break your heart but tears and a broken heart will not fix the problem.
Of course we know growing up without a father is possible. It happens everyday. And missing Black fathers are not the only reason we have serious social and economic problems in the Black community. There’s racism, unemployment, drugs, crime, incarceration, etc. etc. etc.
But is a community of missing Black fathers the best situation if it contributes in any way to violence against women and children in our community? Broken families often mean broken children and more dead babies.
Multiple studies show that children often have more advantages and benefit greatly from having two parents. So how can we even think about addressing violence in our community and the death of our babies without addressing the issue of Black fathers gone AWOL? Where is the outrage that many of the young Black men who are committing these crimes don’t have strong, positive Black male role models to teach them how to become responsible human beings?
Someone who can teach them to respect women, protect our children and value life (including their own). Someone to teach them self-control and how to delay gratification. Someone to teach them how to resist the temptation of illegal drugs and fast money. Someone who will teach them how to fight peer pressure and insist that they pull up their pants. Someone who will teach them something as simple as how men stand up and pee. That’s one less job for Black mothers.
Black fathers matter! And how to save Black families with fathers playing a significant role must become an action item on every agenda until we get a breakthrough. It’s not enough to be angry and outraged that our babies are being slaughtered. We have to do something. Why? Because we have an epidemic ― an epidemic of fatherless children roaming the streets in gangs, creating havoc, killing our babies, abusing our women, mugging old ladies at the grocery store, robbing cell phone stores, breaking in ATM machines, stealing purses from cars at gas stations, etc. etc. etc. It’s a disgrace! Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all the brave men and women who marched and fought and died for our dignity as human beings must be turning over in their graves!
So how do we break the cycle of missing Black fathers and dead Black children in our community? There’s no magic bullet but we can do something. Here are a few suggestions:
– Black Fathers must be encouraged to maintain some kind of involvement in their children’s lives. They must be taught that fathers who live apart from their children are STILL fathers and that becoming a deadbeat dad should never be an option.
– Black Organizations and Politicians must be convinced that it’s a national crisis. They must create safe spaces for our children to be mentored by strong Black male role models who will teach them that dropping sperm all over the neighborhood doesn’t make them a man. Mentors who can discourage Black fathers from slipping into the shadows and walking away from the babies that they make. We need courageous Black leaders who are not afraid to ask wealthy Black athletes and entertainers to invest time and money in our children and convince them that they don’t need another 27-car garage or another ten pound, 200 karat, $400 thousand gold chain or another $90 million mansion with 11 bedrooms and 18 baths.
– Black Churches must be encouraged to get out of the pulpits and padded pews and do something! Start something! Build something! Anything! How is it possible that we have a Black mega-church or storefront on almost every corner and strip center in America and still have fatherless children running around killing our babies? Maybe we can convince a few pastors who haven’t been seduced by fame and wealth and $200,000 Lamborghinis to do something besides celebrate another pastor’s anniversary and create more comfortable Christians.
Here’s a final thought. This is not a hopeless situation. But everyday without action is a day that we may have to bury another one of our babies. We can do better! We have to do better! We owe our children something better!
Rest in peace, precious little lambs!