- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 1, 2006

Tantalize single moms with an array of juicy economic incentives, cripple the black family, and blame the whole mess on those stingy conservatives.

Going back to Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society, that’s been the essence of the left’s social welfare program. The end result has been to disenfranchise the male and marginalize fatherhood.

Now we’re paying the price for four decades of the Nanny State.

When a girl is raised without the guiding hand of a father, she is at greater risk of engaging in sexual experimentation — with its all-too-predictable consequence of unwanted pregnancy. One analysis found that young women with divorced parents were three times more likely to have an out-of-wedlock birth.

Researchers Lorraine Blackman and colleagues recently combed through 125 social science studies and concluded that when fathers are absent, the harmful effects on boys are also traumatic (www.americanvalues.org/html/consequences.htm). According to one study, black teenage boys from broken homes were more likely to be suspended from school and get into trouble with the police. And they were 6 times more likely to run away from home.

But when fathers are allowed to stick around, good things begin to happen.

According to Lorraine Blackman’s review, boys from father-present homes benefit from 3 times higher parental involvement. As a result the boys have a much higher self-concept. They are more likely to be prepared for school. And to no great surprise, they are more likely to aspire to a college education.

Overall, father absence harms boys more than girls. The Blackman study concludes, “The marriage benefit appears to be much stronger among African American boys, who receive considerably more attention when their father is married and in the home.”

Of course no parent is surprised by these commonsense findings, but now we have scientific proof.

Some pessimists look at the pattern of intergenerational poverty, crime and broken families. They wonder whether we will ever find the formula to lift black men from the bowels of hopelessness and despair.

The simple answer is “yes.”

Yes, we need strong educational development and job training programs to help break the cycles of social pathology. And certainly we must do away with misguided welfare policies and lock-‘em-up child support enforcement. But book-learning, jobs and policy reform will only be a start.

The real answer will be found, I believe, in the hearts of black men. It is there that an indomitable spirit and an unquenchable thirst for dignity still resides.

It was that spirit that in 1968 compelled 1,300 men in Memphis to go on strike. Weary sanitation workers picked up placards on which they had etched the phrase, “I AM A MAN.” Think about those four words for a minute. It was that march for dignity that brought Martin Luther King to Memphis, only to be felled by a sniper’s bullet.

That same spirit animated a group of brothers to come together to establish an organization known as 100 Black Men. Forty-odd years later, the group has grown to over 10,000 members working to improve the social and economical opportunities for all African-Americans.

That animus drove the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity a few years ago to organize its ambitious Prostate Cancer Global Awareness Campaign. That campaign inspired Anheuser-Busch to pledge $250,000 in support of the effort. Prostate cancer, of course, is far more lethal in black men than in whites.

It’s that ineffable character that drove the survivors of a tragic syphilis study to establish the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center. Chipping in their worn-down dimes and quarters, they hoped that future research projects would never repeat the same mistake.

That spirit is evinced every week in small town churches that dot the countryside, where all-male gospel groups give their distinctive rendition of soul-sound. It’s the same spirit that guides a group of Baha’i black men to come together once a year to chant prayers and recommit themselves to a life of service. I chanced across these men a few years ago while grieving the loss of a family member.

Relieved of artificial impediments, the physical body has a remarkable ability to heal itself and regenerate its functions. So too the souls of black men.


A Washington-area writer.

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