A controversy over Jay-Z’s new song “Glory” has him suddenly playing role model to America’s 13.8 million black men. And it casts New York Post columnist Joanna Molloy in the role of mindless cheerleader for holding him up as God’s gift to black dads everywhere.
Yes, yes. All very interesting. But the bluster over Molloy’s most recent column does not tell us anything meaningful about America’s black fatherhood crisis. And it doesn’t address why a black father in the White House — the ultimate role model, if you will — hasn’t made things better for black children.
After the birth of his daughter Blue Ivy this month, the artist formerly known as Sean Carter penned a spoken-word piece called “Glory.”
“Everything that I prayed for,” he wrote. “God’s gift, I wish I would’ve prayed more.”
The world oohed and aahed. Parents everywhere who feared the influence of Jay Z’s other lyrics — like “Guess you was kissin my dick when you was kissin that bitch” and “Faggots wanna talk to Po-Po’s, smoke em like cocoa; Fuck rap, coke by the boatload” — thought they could breathe sighs of relief.
The rapper even reportedly said he would ban the word “bitch” from his repertoire since he now had a daughter. But a few days later he told the New York Daily News that the report was “fake.” So the b-word — to say nothing of the n-word — is once again safe from rap’s more polite censors.
Then Molloy pointed out what she thought was a less debatable positive. “Jay-Z’s ecstatic reaction to being a dad,” she wrote, “will be the strongest boost yet to a growing movement in the black community encouraging responsible fatherhood.”
Really? Set aside for a moment the naïveté of believing that “Jay-Z’s joy could encourage a whole generation.” Who asked rappers to be anyone’s example?
I wrote a few verses when each of my two daughters was born. Nothing as poetic as “Life is a gift love, open it up; You’re a child of destiny.” But I still sing them to my girls.
And I made a few decisions, eventually, about becoming a better person for my children’s benefit. Nothing as petty as swearing off a single speck of my vocabulary. But I’ve kept my promises.
The tale’s third act began shortly after Molloy’s column hit the Internet. Music critic D.L. Chandler vented online Friday that “for Molloy to say that Black men will all of sudden get off their collective deadbeat behinds because of a saccharine rap song is irresponsible and incorrect.”
What black men need, Chandler wrote, “are tangible examples of fatherhood.”
He’s right. A whopping 72 percent of black babies in America are born to unmarried mothers. And the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan reports that 38 percent of black children in the United States live in poverty.
That’s a tragedy of proportions that no song can comprehend, and that no black president can fix.
Not that Barack Obama is actually trying. His National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse personifies the kind of race gutlessness that Eric Holder probably didn’t think of when he called America “essentially a nation of cowards” about racial issues.
Try to search the initiative’s website for an action plan to reverse the cultural genocide of black fathers abandoning their children. Good luck.
How serious is the black illegitimacy crisis? Compare that 72 percent figure with the 29 percent number for non-Hispanic white American children. Nothing north of zero is a good number, but if we’re going to be non-cowards we have to acknowledge that the fatherhood problem in America affects black families more than others.
No one wants it to be so, but pretending otherwise doesn’t make it any less true.
Will it always be this way? I sure hope not. U.S. teen mothers now account for just 20 percent of fatherless babies. That’s lower than ever, and down from 50 percent in 1970. So it’s actually possible to make a dent in a problem like this. The question is how.
I’m hopeful. Here’s why.