From Juba, but low in the thread:

Id also like to add what I once heard from the late great Ossie Davis--a refocus on how economic issues can sustain fracture a Black family; frankly, many men shy away from any commitment if they dont think their pockets are right and they're struggling to support their own selves. To me personally thats no excuse, but I understand how frustrating and demoralizing it can be and I do sympathize.

One of the best things Obama can do, and what I hope he does at some point, is use his campaign discussions of "incentivizing" positive social and economic behavior among Americans via tax breaks--specifically offering some form of tax break for child support, if not support + regular visitation as well.

At the very least, the long-term effects of a documented pattern of consistent financial support from father to child will ensure that fathers with "skin in the game" so to speak get some direct economic benefit, and that both having "skin in the game" and a benefit will promote visitation and custody as well.

As it stands now, a non-custodial parent cannot claim their child if the custodial parent does; they get no credit either for any of the expenses they might incur that fall outside of child support but fall within being a good parent (traveling to see the child or with the child, buying educational tools like books or a computer, school clothes, etc.). The family laws are archaic and often constraining even when you have good faith all across the board---mom, dad, judge, lawyers, etc. and its time to take another look at them.

I am hopeful given Obama's work with Evan Bayh on this front, and given that its a bipartisan win-win (plenty of single dads in the D, R and I camps) votewise, that this could get a look in the next four years. I really hope it does, it would improve lives across the nation.

This is a good point. Also, I'd like to see some sort of dialogue in which fathers come to understand that time is as important as money--in fact, in my humble experience, as a Dad and as son, it's actually more important.

There needs to be some understanding of how men process the inability to provide for their families. I spent a solid eight years like that. I can't imagine how I would have felt had we been truly broke down and unable to provide for Samori.

When I was working on the book, I talked to my Dad about his own father, who he last saw alive when he was nine. Now, my Dad has seven kids by four women. I've said that many times. (To people who are new here, can read about that here and here.) Anyway, when I was interviewing him for my memoir, we talked a lot about the moment when he decided to leave the Panthers. He had five kids, by three women at the time. The oldest was five, and the youngest wasn't even one. I wasn't born yet, and had my Mom not urged my Dad on (it's all in the book) neither me or my younger brother Menelik would be here.

He talked about leaving the Party, basically, to go fulfill his obligations as a father. And how, at that moment, he gained some insight into my grandfather, and how a man could be so overwhelmed by the prospect of providing, that he just walks away. There is deep-seated depression, a kind of emasculation in not being able to do, what feels like, your most elemental job--protect your family. My Dad didn't walk obviously, but always helps to understand the other side--even as you offer a rebuke. Condemnation has its place. Condemnation, with no deep sense of what its condemning, is vanity.

I think men take the financial troubles of a family differently than women--rather men have the luxury to take them differently. But some understanding, followed by some redefinition, would help. If we're going to do away with the notion of man as the hunter, as the dude's whose job it is to go out and kill things, (and I'm fine with that) then there has to be some emphasis on man and woman as protectors of the home, and some expansion of what, precisely, protection entails.

Perhaps this is not for me to say, but evolving definitions of "man" and "father" seem, to my mind, deeply consistent with the goals of feminism. My own relationship with Kenyatta has been an ongoing study in learning to understand the value of "women's work" and why it's a bad idea to, even subconsciously, process it that way. I'm talking about basic things--like picking up your socks. On our kitchen cabinets, right now, there's a sign that says "CLOSE THE DOOR!!!" which I put there because my male-privileged ass (and Samori's male-privileged ass) always leave them open. We take it for granted that someone will close them. Guess who that would be?

What I'm trying to get at isĀ  some sort of cultural shift in our discussion of men, and their family duties, which mirrors the shift we're pushing for in the roles of women. One can hew to the very traditional view that fathers, and in their absence male role-models, and mothers, and in their absence female role-models, are essential to the business of making young men and young women. But at the same time take the more radical step of interrogating what we mean when we say "father." And all of that can be done with the understanding the young men and women are being made in all sorts of circumstances these days. An effort to reduce absentee fatherhood, isn't the same as an effort to condemn families which, for whatever reason, lack fathers.

It's likely that people are already doing this. I guess I should read about something else besides Reconstruction and the Civil War.

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