Elliot Millner, J.D.
Attorney General Eric Holder recently spoke at a Black church in Queens, NY, and during his speech he gave Black fathers another talking to, stating that:
"It should simply be unacceptable for a man to have a child and then not play an integral part in the raising and nurturing of the child."
Sounds good on face value. Who doesn't think that any man who has a child should play a vital role in that child's growth and development? A.G. Holder is 100% right on that point, and I have no disagreement with him whatsoever.
However lets look beyond the truthfulness of the words. When communicating, there are many other factors to consider other than what is being said. So, let's consider the question: If a person is truly concerned about promoting the increased participation of Black father's in their children's lives, what would that person do? Seemingly, a person sincere about achieving that goal would go speak to the people most in need of that talk, in this case Black fathers who were not being responsible for the children they had helped bring into the world. Although I'm sure it may have been some people in Memorial Presbyterian Church who were being negligent in their parental duties, I doubt that A.G. Holder's message applied to the majority of them.
In fact, the people that Attorney General Holder was talking to in the church were his intended audience, but not for any noble intent of helping to increase Black father's participation in their children's lives. A.G. Holder, like President Obama and Bill Cosby before him, was gaining brownie points with mostly middle-class Black folks by disparaging a group of people that is admittedly easy to talk bad about: absentee Black fathers.
As stated before, I am not arguing the truth that there are large numbers of Black men who are not fulfilling their fatherly responsibilities. However, it is outrageous for A.G. Holder and President Obama, two pretty intelligent Black men, to make the sometimes complicated issue of absent Black fathers into a simplistic attack aimed not at improving the situation, but at increasing their political standing amongst the Black middle-class. It they truly cared about doing something about this important issue, they would first talk to the people in question. This may require some effort, because a lot of absentee fathers are absent for various reasons that neither President Obama or A.G. Holder have chosen to address, and they may not blindly come to a church to hear either Obama or Holder speak.
Beyond the lip service, both President Obama and A.G. Holder are in positions to exert influence in areas that play a significant role in why many Black fathers are absent. It is absolutely disingenuous of both of them to repeatedly pile on absent Black fathers, without addressing:
-The role of poverty and underemployment in many of these situations(specific to the Black community, because the unemployment rate for Blacks is significantly higher, and influenced by a variety of unequal factors).
-The role of mass incarceration of Black men on the cyclical absence of many Black fathers.
-The role that Black women play in this situation.
-The role that sub par public schools plays in limiting employment opportunities for many Black fathers.
-The role that persistent racially discriminatory policies play on all of the items listed above.
This would demonstrate a genuine effort to address this issue that is of great importance to many Black people. Isn't it interesting that President Obama avoids the discussion of race like H1N1, yet when he does discuss race, it is to show support for Henry Louis Gates, a fellow Ivy grad(without knowing all of the facts, and after ignoring far more blatant examples of police brutality and profiling), and to repeatedly talk about absent Black fathers? And I know the Obama followers (different from rational supporters) will say that it's personal, because his father was not around, yet that does not provide a full explanation of this pattern. Having lived in the situation, President Obama knows that the issue is far more complicated than he and A.G. Holder have made it out to be.
If Pres. Obama and A.G. Holder are not willing to explain all of the variables at play regarding absentee Black fathers, and not only the ones that play well to Black middle-class supporters(and of course potential white voters as well), then maybe they need to stick to their usual pattern concerning racial issues, and remain silent.