- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2008


The statistics are staggering. In 2001, 66 percent of black children were living in a home absent a father (more recent figures now put the number closer to 70 percent). That’s double what it was in 1960. Compare that to 27 percent of white children living without a father.

Aside from apparent Obama-envy, this was the point missed by the mainstream media in the post-analysis of Jesse Jackson‘s “off-camera” quip heard around the world last week. The irony can’t be lost on the fact that Mr. Jackson, who himself has fathered an illegitimate child, wanted to emasculate the senator and married father of two. The reverend’s character and lack of credibility on the matter were further called into question when his own adult son, Jesse Jackson Jr., issued a terse statement condemning his father for the vulgar remarks (more irony.) Suffice it to say, Mr. Jackson won’t be winning any Father’s Day awards anytime soon.

But kudos to Barack Obama for addressing this very important and substantive issue in the black community. He, along with Bill Cosby, actor Joseph C. Phillips and others who speak out about the importance of fatherhood and raising children in a two-parent household are rightly focused on a moral mandate. “Too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes,” Mr. Obama said to a church audience on Father’s Day. This was to the chagrin of Mr. Jackson, who suggested Mr. Obama’s remarks were “talking down to black people.” How absurdly one-sighted. Silence is more detrimental than scolding.

Following the TV gaffe and apology, there were suggestions by black pundits that the point Mr. Jackson was making was whether Mr. Obama should be airing the black community’s dirty laundry. And concern that the terms he used (“Any fool can have a child, that doesn’t make you a father”) were only with black, not white, audiences. Why would the senator address a white audience about a problem plaguing blacks by monumental proportions? And until we start to talk openly and frankly about such issues, we will never get to the crux of the matter. Blasting Mr. Cosby or Mr. Obama for “speaking truth to power” is blatantly hypocritical. Furthermore, there is nothing untrue about Mr. Obama’s statement. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s still the truth. Self-responsibility begins with self-inspection.

While “fatherhood” may be an issue that Mr. Obama has “long championed,” he can’t claim sole ownership of it. In fact, up until his recent remarks embracing it, the fatherhood movement was routinely castigated by many of his liberal supporters, such as the National Organization for Women.

Perhaps what frustrated Mr. Jackson and his supporters most is that Mr. Obama is championing what is seen as a “Republican program” or conservative ideals. But the issue is one that should be embraced regardless of one’s political persuasion.

The statistics Mr. Obama cited in his speech (and those above) were undoubtedly in some part pulled from the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), which in 1994 “set out to start a social movement … that would rebuild the institution of fatherhood in America.” The study highlighted the long-term, devastating consequences fatherlessness can have on children. This includes a life of crime, delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, school violence and absenteeism.

In 2001, President Bush delivered the keynote address at the National Summit on Fatherhood and dedicated funding to help combat fatherlessness in hopes of improving the lives of children and families. The program has found much success since, but you won’t find Mr. Obama giving Mr. Bush or Republicans any credit for it.

Republicans should take notice, however. Mr. Obama, it seems, is beating them at their own game, doing a better job of articulating a message they’ve been afraid to touch, in spite of a successful track record. Topics such as fatherhood have traditionally been taboo to tout on the campaign trail for Republican candidates like John McCain, for fear of being criticized or worse yet, called racist for caring about family stability in the black community.

The challenge for Mr. McCain is to embrace those hallmark Republican social policies that have worked throughout the course of this administration, beginning with his address to the NAACP on Wednesday. Mr. McCain may also want to consider that these core conservative social issues are not Mr. Obama’s strong suit. His stance on fatherhood, while admirable, still doesn’t square with his extreme position on abortion. The fact is that most blacks, along with the majority of Americans, are pro-life and lean moderate to conservative.

Certainly, these aren’t the only issues of concern this election, but simply “closing the wealth gap” between black and white Americans, isn’t the only issue either. All the money in the world can’t buy integrity - just ask Mr. Jackson.

Tara Wall is deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Times. E-mail: twall@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide