So, I myself have had some reservations about how honest to be around issues of race. I've also had my disagreements with Bill Cosby and his approach to the problems of black America. I think folks should read Eric Easter's piece on Jesse Jackson and his criticism of Obama. I like Eric, and have a lot of respect for what he's doing over at EbonyJet.com. But I can't get with this perspective from some black progressives that seems to be more concerned with how we show up for white people, than with how we show up in our own communities.
This goes double for the black fatherhood piece. I've been pretty clear about my policy preferences. I want us to take another look at our drug laws. I want the EITC extended to noncustodial parents. I want us to take a hard look at our shocking rates of incarceration, particularly for young black males. But I don't want those policy positions--even for a second--to confuse folks about where I stand on the issue of black fathers. If there isn't a single policy change in the next fifty years, there will never ever be any excuse for a father to walk out on a child.
You must understand that this is incredibly personal for me. Though I had a father, most of my friends coming up in Baltimore did not and most of them paid a price for that. My mother didn't have a father, and hooked up with my father, almost entirely because she thought he'd be true to his paternal duties. Dating back to high school, I've loved three different women in my lifetime. Every one of those women was scarred by a father who'd fallen down on the job. Every one of those women were black. When you spend time cleaning up the crap left by men twice your age, when you walk the streets of Harlem and see kids who clearly need a man to yoke thier asses, when you read about black millionaires like Dr. J and Karl Malone refusing to perform the most basic of human duties, you just get tired.
I'm at a point where I really don't care if Obama was playing politics or whether he was sincere. My instincts say it was a mixture of both. Barack Obama's black father left him when he was a baby to do God know's what nearly a world away. I don't know what in the world could be more important than making sure that your off-spring grows into a healthy, well-adjusted young man. Maybe I should be more understanding, but I'm just not there right now. Some say Barack should have taken that occasion to salute the majority of black men who are doing right by their kids. I guess. Let me be arrogant and say we don't need any salute. What we need is for our brothers in struggle to start acting the part. I don't want any credit. What I want is some fucking help. What I want is for my son to not have to spend half of his time in relationships with women doing the work that half-ass fathers were too lazy to do themselves.
If Barack Obama can help create an environment in which fathers on the lam can be seen for what they are--quitters, cowards, and filth--than I am all for that. If that takes embarrassing these fools in front of white folks, I'm fine with that too. You embarrassed yourself the day you walked out on your kid. Once you abdicated your basic biological duties, you lost all claims to coddling and to respect. As I said, I'll always advocate and work for better policy, mostly because it makes sense, but not because I have an iota of sympathy for men who quit on children.
UPDATE: For the record, Jesse's "talking down to black people" remark only holds true if Jesse sees his opinion as somehow representative of over 30 million black people. But Jesse isn't "black people." I knew exactly who Barack was talking down too. Those folks certainly don't deserve to be talked up to.
I also want to highlight the generation piece of this. I grew up in the midst of the crack era, reeling from the spate of deadbeat Dads--many of them right in Jesse's generation--and while these "black leaders" were busy boycotting Denny's and trying to get some backward-ass state to remove its treasonous flag, we were bleeding in the streets. The sad fact is that Jesse, Al, and the many at the NAACP have been much more interested in ambulance-chasing and spectacle, than they have been in the very real issues right in their backyard. I wasn't afraid of the Klan in West Baltimore. I was afraid of Murphey Homes, North and Pulaski and Walkbrook Junction. The point isn't that racism had dissappeared as a factor, as much as its that these guys have long been out of touch with the day-to-day issues afflicting black folks. I can't wait for this "Is it the white man or Is it black pathology" dichotomy to end. It's been crippling.
UPDATE #2: Why was Jesse even on Fox News to begin with? I mean seriously. That's where you go to make your case? He knows those dudes hate him. Is he that hungry for publicity?