He ran up to us and asked, “are you Jackson’s daddy?”
I hesitantly responded, “yes son, I’m Jackson’s daddy.” I then looked at my wife as the excited child ran back toward the middle of the street yelling, “see, I told you Jackson had a father!”
Turning away from my wife to look at the group of little boys who were then looking at Jackson as if he were a shiny novelty item, I said, “’we have to move.” To my surprise, she agreed without hesitation.
Not long after that, we moved into a neighborhood in which Jackson’s parental arrangement was the norm. There were lots of fathers. Some families even had two daddies!
Now, don’t get me wrong: no one has more respect for moms than I. No one has more admiration for those single moms out there who are sacrificing to make sure their kids can thrive.
But I am talking about dads. So was Orlando Patterson when he wrote in the New York Times on May 9, 2015 about all of the things that President Obama and the federal government could and must do in the wake of the Baltimore riots. After talking about the “chemical detoxification of ghetto neighborhoods” and the value of Head Start, he then concluded:
“And finally, there is one long-term fundamental change that can only come from within the black community: a reduction in the number of kids born to single, usually poor, women, which now stands at 72 percent. Its consequences are grim: greatly increased risk of prolonged poverty, child abuse, educational failure and youth delinquency and violence, especially among boys, whose main reason for joining gangs is to find a family and male roles models.”
So wait a gosh darn minute! When I talk about dads, I am an Uncle Tom, I am self-loathing n-word to some. Orlando has been accused of being conservative – as if that is a crime. He is not of course a conservative or a criminal. The marginalization by hyperbolic accusation keeps too many Americans of African descent silent.
Aside from not being silenced, what do liberal Harvard Professor Orlando Patterson and the Beautiful Man (me) have in common? The color of our skin and, more importantly: common damn sense!
Common sense is not a color-based characteristic. It is in relying on our common sense that we – the left and the right – can find common ground. In a 2015 interview, Patterson pointed to a Bush administration program for strengthening inner-city black families that was a failure. “I’d rather leave it to the wisdom of the African American crowd if you like, ah, as to what solution is going to emerge,” he said.
Patterson admitted, “I don’t know what the solution is. In the same way that one didn’t know what the Civil Rights solution was going to be until Martin Luther King and the southern Christian group and other groups developed it.”
And they did – in their infinite wisdom – develop it. Are we black men incapable of doing the same? No. Will we allow those who do not want solutions… those who make money and achieve fame on the dysfunction… keep us silent?
Recently I posted a rant on Facebook that went viral. It went viral because people; both black and white, desperately want to discuss the apparent break down of our collective culture. Americans – both black and white and brown – solve problems. We don’t sweep them under the rug. That is not our style.
Orlando recognized that “African Americans in the inner cities and out are among the most law abiding group of people in America. They’re also the most God fearing and church going group of people in America.” He goes on to say that 80 percent of African Americans “are the ones calling for police protection.”
When the Dallas police were massacred by a crazed militant Black Panther, the black police chief invited youth from the inner-city to sign-up to be cops. Hmmm… isn’t that is a solution from within?
The snippets of solutions are swirling around the ether almost as fast as young men are being murdered by each other on our inner-city streets. Dr. Patterson says, “Kids need a bedrock of stability of at least a couple of adults whoever they may be.” Until a time when we can put our ideologies aside and meet on the common ground of common sense, daddies and the bedrock of stability they provide will a rarity.
I for one do not want my sons to be approached one day by a young child like the one who approached me those many years ago. I want for them to be standing with other parents of color in that same wonderful place; Milwaukee. I want their kids to play on those same streets that were on fire in Sherman Park last week, knowing that they are safe because daddies – lots of them – are there.
James T. Harris is a conservative radio show host and social media sensei. You can find him on KQTH, 104.1 FM on your radio dial or live streaming.