Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Daddy's Gone to Knoxville

There's a great column by Roland S. Martin over on I don't think he's necessarily breaking any new ground with his statement that dads matter, but I think it's important that he's actually saying it aloud to a national audience because I think too many people are afraid of offending others to be honest about things like this.

Martin's piece focuses solely on the role of fathers in the African-American community. He addresses the fact that 10.4 percent of black men between 25 and 29 were incarcerated in 2002. And while he does acknowledge the role of poverty, he points out that (duh) when there are two parents providing financial support as well as love and guidance, you alleviate the effects of poverty. I mean, this should be obvious, but our nation and culture seems to have such an aversion to holding people accountable and calling individuals to accept personal responsibility for their actions.

Why are we so afraid to call people out when they're acting a fool, as Martin says.

I've made no bones about the fact that I grew up without a dad and in poverty, but somehow, through the grace of God, I got it together, relatively speaking. I focused on school and getting into college. I got lucky.

Anyway, Martin got me thinking (shocking, I know!). It's just not enough for a dad to simply sleep in the same home (when he's not traveling on business), hand out indulgent allowances, and never establish or enforce any kind of discipline or show any real affection or interest in their children.

In Alpharetta, one of Atlanta's countless affluent northern suburbs, six young men, ages 16 to 18, were arrested for breaking into and stealing cars and other items. These brats broke into at least 100 cars since Thanksgiving and police believe they are actually responsible for many more thefts. These aren't kids living in poverty. But I could almost guarantee that they have parents who are so consumed with their own lives and interests that they never take the time to show any meaningful interest in their kids. The homes in North Fulton probably average $400,000. I would wager that almost all of these kids have dads who are so caught up in earning their $250K a year salaries and moms so consumed with their ALTA schedules and Botox regimens that they never even see their kids. Kids, mind you, who probably never wanted for a single material possession in their lives. These are kids who get brand new cars when they turn 16, never hit a lick at a snake, and expect the world to be handed to them on a silver platter.

The thing is, now that they've fucked up, Daddy – and his expensive attorney – will be there. Just in time to keep poor baby from going to jail. Too bad they weren't around to teach their children about showing a little respect to their fellow human beings when it mattered.

So, it's not just African-American kids who need their fathers, although clearly the differences are crucial, the paths the lives of poor urban kids will follow vastly different than those followed by a bunch of poor little rich kids.

At least Roland Martin is courageous enough and willing to call for accountability among African-American men; I just wish someone would do the same with their rich white counterparts.


Suz said...

What's wrong with expensive attorneys?

Seriously, doing insurance defense litigation for a school district causes me to agree with you. People will sue for anything, which is why I could never go back to plaintiff's work. One of my cases: a teenage girl who snuck off with her boyfriend to have sex at school, got pregnant, and is suing the school district. Her claim is that we should have supervised her more closely, therefore we should pay to raise her child. Her attorney's last settlement offer was $400K. People say, "oh, well, a crazy suit like that will just get kicked out." But, it's not that simple and it costs the district a hell of a lot of money (because of their expensive attorneys, smile) to get to that point.

Dawn said...

I could have phrased that better. My point was that these kids and their families can afford expensive, smart attorneys who can and will keep them out of jail as opposed to poor black kids who absolutely would end up in jail and I hoped tying back into Martin's point that most poor black kids who do end up in jail don't have dads around to guide them.

I love expensive attorneys. Especially you!

Suz said...

I was just kidding! I realize that 99% of attorneys give the rest of us a bad name! I deal with them everyday, I am well aware! :)

Jen aka Evilynmo said...

I remember going to high school in East Cobb County and being friends with the rich kids that did stupid crap like this. Man O Man, I am so glad to be out of that area! And out of high school, yuck!

Jeremy said...

You know I love you, right?

Those kids could be your kids,

They could be mine, too.

Regardless of where we live or what we do.