"Black women need to do a better job of raising black children... that's why we have all these problems." -- a comment from a man under "70 Percent of Black Women Single," a wildly-popular 2010 YouTube post that has since been taken down by site administrators.
When I read the comment above I didn't get mad, I became disturbed.
Why? Because I had heard this said in so many words before and, at that moment, I sensed a tangible shift in how our community views the role of the black father.
Not only are some African-American males now saying they don't want to marry the women with whom they have children, a small but growing number also are saying —on social media blogs and talk radio—that they don't even believe men are an integral part of the black American family structure.
To add fuel to the emotional fire, they and some black women are upset with President Barack Obama for saying that all men, no matter their race, should do a better job of parenting and committing to their families.
The son of a single-mother, President Obama has always been outspoken about fatherhood. During his 2008 campaign, Obama told the congregation of Chicago's Apostolic Church of God on Father's Day that:
"The family is that most important foundation and we are called to recognized and honor what every father is to that foundation.... but if we are honest with ourselves we will admit that too many fathers are MIA (Missing in Action), too many fathers are AWOL (Absent Without Leave), missing from too many lives and too many homes. They've abandoned their responsibilities; they're acting like boys instead of men, and the foundations of our families have suffered because of it. You and I know this is true everywhere but nowhere it it more true than in the African-American community." (See Barack Obama's Speech on Father's Day on YouTube).
Since then and on Saturday, in his weekly address to country, President Obama has continued to speak out on the importance of the family and having a father in a home. The president has even established special programs to bring attention to the problem, including the creation of www.fatherhood.gov.
But, instead of rallying around these efforts—and the high profile, presidential role-model we have in this African-American father, Barack Obama—a surprising number of us have complained and have said, more or less, what the man on YouTube was saying.
You don't have to go far to hear these voices. When the topic turns to Obama's stance on black fatherhood, callers to the Lorraine Jacques-White and Derrick Boazman shows on WAOK-1380 AM radio, for instance, regularly express frustration–even outrage—over the president's views. Last Friday, on the www.mybrownbaby.com blog, talented writer Denene Millner suggested that Obama should not have come down on black men on Father's Day and others chimed in that they agree.
So, yes, I'm disturbed.
In 2011, we do not need to move towards more anger, more self-pity, more finger pointing.
We are too easy on ourselves. Yes, some white Americans "get in our business" too much but we really should not care about what they think (unless they are family members, of course). Yes, some black women don't want to marry the father of their children; some black women have more than one child by a man who, clearly, does not want to marry them; and, some black women are just not good mothers.
But that is no excuse for the black men who embrace an eternally-single lifestyle and, repeatedly, father children outside of marriage. We should "step up," as the president has said, and address our black family problem. We should support our president's use of Father's Day—the day we focus on the father—as a time to hit hard on our need to improve our family structure.
I cannot begin tell you in words what my hard-working, family-focused father, Booker T. Poe, a husband to my mom for 52 years, has done for me and our family. For one, he successfully raised and educated two children: me, a veteran journalist with a master's degree, and my brother, Brian, a successful attorney with an MBA on the side and a husband and father of two girls excelling at top Georgia private schools. I can tell you that a good father and mother, more often than not, lead to good outcomes for the children.
Happy Father's Day, Daddy. Happy Father's Day, President Obama. And Happy Father's Day to all the hard-working and committed providers, husbands and fathers in southwest Atlanta and the larger African-American community.