My Sunday DMN Column, Available Today

Here’s the link to my column in Sunday’s Dallas Morning News. (The long version is a few paragraphs down on this page below the dotted line.)

And here’s a link to Shawn Williams’ column on much the same topic, from a different angle but not as dissimilar as I expected. In fact, they’re going  to the same point from two approaches. (We talked as we submitted them but didn’t go into detail.) Here’s a link to Shawn’s blog. Shawn’s column is really pointed, and mentions a book I just finished a few months back as well — Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Both Shawn’s column and the book are must-reads.

Regarding my column; I’m a long writer, and good editors keep me trimmed down. Sharon Grigsby did a great job cutting my column down to newspaper size. So, hat tip to Sharon and Mike Hashimoto.

However, if you’re interested in reading the long version that includes some points that didn’t make the final cut — and no, I never said “you people” — anyway, here she is.

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Growing up with my dad was like being Daniel Larusso to Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid. There were all these rules that made no sense. Paint the fence. Wax on, wax off. Study. Control yourself. Clean up your mess. Focus, Daniel-san.

I didn’t get it at the time, but I’ve come to learn it wasn’t to make me miserable. It was to try to make me into a man.

No easy task. A man is honest, fair and just. He has an honest — and not posturing — sense of self-respect. He’s self-reliant and he’s responsible for his family. He has humility, grace and respect for others. He practices chivalry even when it’s considered out of fashion. Above all, he has a sense of humor — especially about himself — and a sense of perspective. The software install is rough; often takes two decades before they’re retail ready.

No one likes to hear this because we’re all supposed to pretend that there’s no real difference between men and women, but there’s a politically incorrect fact of life: it takes a man to raise a man. (Stick to the truth even when it’s not popular — dad’s life lesson No. 3.)

A boy at birth is an intelligent, tool-using primate with natural instincts of aggression, competition, and, yes, violence. The potential danger and damage is manifest – look at history. Savagery is in our nature. You have to shape, curb and refine those natural instincts, so that they serve the boy in ways that are positive for him and all around him. With rare exceptions, what that requires is a father or other strong male role model in the home, every day.

This is the first thing that came to mind when, after another round of murders, I was asked why there’s so much violence in southern Dallas, especially in the black community.

Before I go any further, let’s make this clear: “Violence within the black community” doesn’t mean the majority are perpetrators or victims of violence. I’m talking about a group within a group. If you talk about the left-handed kids in a classroom, you’re talking about the five who are left-handed, not the other 30 righties. To speak of a problem within a group is not to say the whole group has a problem. Are we clear? Because study after study shows that kids – especially boys – from single-parent households are twice as likely to crimes as kids from families where the father is present, regardless of ethnicity.

So why so much violence in the black community in Southern Dallas? My answer: I think too many black males aren’t black men.

Look at the numbers. More than 70 percent births to black women are out-of-wedlock, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That means you have boys growing up never learning even the basics of manhood. Not just this house or that – whole neighborhoods.

It wasn’t always like this. Before we started killing the black family with kindness through welfare, single-parent black households were the exception in this country.

In 1960, just 22 percent of black households were headed by a single mother — less than the percentage of single-parent white households today. By 1970, it was 29 percent. By 1990, 40 percent. Today? Seven of every 10.

Call it the “Not-So-Great Society.”

Absent a father in the home, these boys don’t have a clue what manhood is, so they hide behind false, emotional and violent bravado. They think violence is an assertion of manhood. Minor insults become fighting words when your manhood is faux and fragile. What two men with confidence would let be just an argument becomes a fight. What should just be a fight becomes a shootout. Inmate logic. Be the baddest or be on the bottom bunk, so to speak. (Real men know insults come from small people not worth noticing — another lesson from dad. No. 23, I think.)

The numbers from the U.S. Department of Justice don’t lie, and you’re fooling yourself if you think it has nothing to do with the culture of false manhood that’s risen in the absence of fathers. Almost half of all violent crimes are committed by black males even though they represent just seven percent of the U.S. population. In 2005, homicide victimization rates for blacks were six times higher than the rates for whites, and offending rates for blacks were more than seven times higher than the rates for whites.

That doesn’t make it a black thing. It’s neither a race thing nor a poverty thing.

It’s a man thing.

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, cited exhaustive studies when she wrote in The Atlantic Monthly that the “relationship [between single-parent families and crime] is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime.”

If you want to stop the violence, you have to get fathers back to raising their kids. Period. Full stop.

I don’t know how to do this, but we can’t talk solutions until we’re honest about what the problem is. (Lesson No. 15 from dad.)

No matter what the flaws in the thinking of the welfare state advocates, they didn’t set out to destroy the black family. But they did. So whatever is done going forward, we’re going to have to watch for unintended consequences. And we’re going to have to accept that the welfare state is not a family value.

If you want to look at my mug shot above and discount what I’m saying because of the color you see, fine. Listen to what this other guy had to say:

“We know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison… We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child – it’s the courage to raise one.”

If you don’t agree with that, send him a letter. He, it turns out, is the rare exception to the usual outcome of growing up in a fatherless home. His current address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington D.C. He lives there with his wife and his two kids.

Comments

  1. Tracie S. says:

    Fantastic! It’s a truth that needs to be said and said and said again. The Government is a poor parental substitute…sure Uncle Sam will send the child support checks but is incapable of being what these children *really* need, which is a Dad.

  2. Rawlins Gilliland says:

    Nice. I’ll read the cut on Sunday. This version being almost 1,100 words. Which if you ever get that many words in Viewpoints or Points, I’M buying a gun, so misery is the allowable length now that the paper is smaller, narrower, etc.

    Meanwhile, I am fine with the premise. But I also know no few men who had fathers who gave them the impression that being a ‘man’ is abusing your wife, drinking as often and wherever you wish, ignoring and/or belittling their son(s). In other words, if we are advocating for fathers, let’s advocate for good ones.

    Meanwhile I met a lesbian couple who had three sons each in their traditional marriages until they divorced and became partners when both were in their 40s. That six boys. All are now in their twenties, and all are salt of the earth guys who love the world and their mothers. (Their words). So facts are facts, figures are figures, but life ultimately remains all about daring not to fail, whatever the obstacles. .

  3. Rawlins Gilliland says:

    Of for a world where spell check catched a typo,,,,, a semi corrected post where ‘avoidly’ becomes ‘avidly’ among other tweeks.

    Nice. I’ll read the cut on Sunday. This version being almost 1,100 words. Which if you ever get that many words in Viewpoints or Points, I’M buying a gun, so miserly is the allowable length now that the paper is smaller, narrower, etc.

    Meanwhile, I am fine with the premise, as I was when Bill Cosby and later Barack Obama….a man who grew up without his father…. made similar observations. But I also know no few men who had fathers who gave them the impression that being a ‘man’ is abusing your wife, drinking as often and wherever you wish, ignoring and/or belittling their son(s) and daughter(s). In other words, if we are advocating for fathers, let’s advocate for good ones.

    Meanwhile quite by accident I met a lesbian Dallas couple a few years ago who had three sons each in their (Catholic) traditional marriages before they met at church and divorced and became partners for the last 15 years when both were in their 40s. That is six boys total. All are now in their twenties, and all are avidly heterosexual salt of the earth guys who love the world and their mothers (their words). So facts are facts, figures are figures, but life ultimately remains all about daring …and daring to break the mold when possible or necessary….and above all not to fail, whatever the obstacles. .

  4. Michael in LH says:

    While advocating for good fathers is great the research shows that nearly any father is better than no father.

  5. Rawlins Gilliland says:

    Giving credit where it is due ~~~As Barack Obama said last summer when he was a candidate en route to becoming President:

    “We know that more than half of all black children live in single parent households”, Obama said at a church on Chicago’s South Side. “Any fool can have a child; that doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise the child that makes you a father.”

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91543799

  6. Prufrock says:

    Your statistics do not match well with your claims: you describe the trend towards more black single-mother households in one paragraph but then later offer that homicide victimization pinpoint-statistic comparing blacks and whites, which doesn’t logically flow all that well and hints at the tactics of AGW doomsayers. Why not show what the homicide or other crime trends were in relation to the single-mother trends?
    Or are the trends negative, as are overall trends of violent crime in the U.S. over the past decade or so?

    And I wonder if the problem is not women who can’t raise men, but that these young people grow up in families that are dependent on government rather than families that see hard work and self-reliance as virtues. It isn’t good for girls growing up in that environment, either, although young women’s failings tend to manifest in ways other than violence – such as willingly perpetuating this broken family cycle. Maybe the problem isn’t only men failing to be men, but also women failing to be women. Unfortunately, the word “woman” is more often used derogatorily rather than is seen as something to aspire to.

  7. Frank R says:

    Here are the numbers: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/race.htm
    While homicides for blacks has declined since they peaked in approximately 1993, they remain at more than twice the level of whites.

    Both articles were good and both presented different facets of the problem. Although the studies relating single parent families, specifically fatherless families, to homicide are correlational, it’s hard to argue that there is no causal connection. One of the enormous failures of the “Great Society,” is the proliferation of single parent families endemic in the black population. This is the elephant in the living room that plays into so many other issues.

    Although I give credit to Obama for his speech and for speaking out on this earlier, Bill Cosby beat him to the punch by several years. He also took an enormous amount of flack for saying what he did.

  8. Rawlins Gilliland says:

    I agree completely with Frank R. (and certainly regarding Bill Cosby…a legit African-American trailblazer hero if ever there was one…whose contributions and ground breaking career(s) have been plowed under somehow this century. Particularly in the black community where he was later marginalized, deemed a turncoat./relic)

    But to the point, I appreciated both columns because on one hand you have a black writer making no excuses and no apologies so that the truth shines through and not the bias….while Trey’s piece corrals his sincere relish for intense and solid opinion thought while avoiding his ‘burn the bridge, take no prisoners’ rowdy neo-libertarianism that trips over itself from time to time. This was a pair of disciplined works by working pros; a refreshing exchange of comprised thinking by two independent thinkers (who undoubtedly are also fine fathers. )

  9. Tom Sandlin says:

    Thank you for your column re Culture of Disrespect. Between yourself and Shawn Williams, you described the problem and what’s needed to attack the problem about as well as it can be described. I have thought for some time that the problem is rooted in an effective bailout of the black male community. That’s not to say that there aren’t some black males doing yoeman service in attacking the problem, but there surely is a lack generally of black males adopting a “hands on, get my hands dirty, be prepared to give a bunch of time and effort” attitude in order to have much impact on the problem. Voluminous overheated rhetoric and accusations against whitey, or the government, or anyone else won’t even scratch the surface of the problem. This kind of problem is the direct result of a general waving our finger at responsible behavior in our society. It isn’t confined to the black community, but surely is a standout example in this instance of cause and effect.

    Tom Sandlin
    Krum, TX

  10. An article so nice, I read it twice.

    I think Shawns had some grounded points on what I see as causes, if you raise kids in an atmosphere of rap music and disrepect, than you may expect disrespect to be the result.
    Though not having a father there to kick some respect into your butt… has a lot to do with it as well.

    I would never believe in censoring music, I do however believe in parents being involved in their childrens lives enough to teach them right from wrong. If it was music alone that corrupts shouldn’t I still be bighting the heads off bats?

    That is the unfortunate side effect of being a single mother it’s hard to find the time to be that involved in your childs life, without as Barack Obama had a grand parent support structure.

    We do have a system that seems to reward mothers for being a single mother, but the fact is that the system only keeps people at poverty level. I am not for increasing that number, I am for doing away with the system so it doesn’t sound like an “opportunity” and would then encourage family.

    Believe me it would not be as bad as I just made it sound.

  11. Daniel says:

    Ballsy, Trey. I’d say “kudos” if I didn’t think people who say “kudos” should be shot, and if I didn’t know you have the guns to do so. So, “here’s to ya.”

    Random tangents:

    1) Black mother with 8- or 9-year old daughter in car at red light. Spirited mother-daughter singalong, right out of a credit card commercial — almost. The song: Shake that fuckin’ ass, girl, shake that fuckin’ ass; shake that fuckin’ ass, girl, shake that fuckin’ ass.

    2) You describe the boys who need a father, but you forgot to mention that they are fathers. Or, rather, “fathers.” Or will be soon. It’s a tight loop.

    3) Just this weekend I learned that an ex-girlfriend of mine from some years back is now the single mother of a bouncing baby boy. The father? A turkey baster. I am. Not. Kidding.

  12. A lot of the damage was done long ago and some of the fallout from that damage is the ensuing culture that is now spreading into other neighborhoods and into the homes of kids who have fathers. If your well raised son chooses “gangster” culture as his vehicle for rebellion the poison caused by the lack of fathers poisons the surrounding society. We now have a popular culture born of absentee fatherhood that preaches that criminality is cool and mistreatment of women is attractive to women.

    Not sure where the solutions lie either.

  13. keith johnson says:

    “3) Just this weekend I learned that an ex-girlfriend of mine from some years back is now the single mother of a bouncing baby boy. The father? A turkey baster. I am. Not. Kidding.”-Daniel

    That situation begs for a Fathers Day/Thanksgiving joke….

  14. Daniel says:

    I’m pretty sure the medical supply manufacturer markets it under a different name than “turkey baster.” It probably has a science-labby name. But in a pinch, no doubt a turkey baster could be, um, pressed into service.

  15. Sammie Jenkins says:

    I enjoyed this article! I am a mentor and believe this is one of the biggest problems in all communities. Not only do I agree but I think that sons and daughters are hurt by fathers not being there for them. You made great points about young males but the females are also included in this cycle. Some women run from guy to guy trying to get the love that their father didn’t give.

    This instance happened in my family where my little cousin was growing up and going from guy to guy. Eventually something fatal happened and her body was found. A few months later her brother was charged with attempted murder. Both of these kids did not have their father in their lives.

    But to get back on your subject false manhood; this is one reason why I became a mentor, although I don’t have kids I feel that we should all pitch in and help our community.

  16. Jennifer says:

    Michael,

    I personally do not agree with “Any father better than no father”