Many readers of this blog know that I’ve been criticizing Barack Obama since before he made his run for president official, but he made a Father’s Day speech this weekend, parts of which are praiseworthy. In it, he sharply criticized absentee black fathers – and he did so while speaking in front of a black Chicago church audience (not TUCC, of course). The NYT reports:
CHICAGO — Addressing a packed congregation at one of the city’s largest black churches, Senator Barack Obama on Sunday invoked his own absent father to deliver a sharp message to African-American men, saying, “We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception.”
“Too many fathers are M.I.A, too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes” Mr. Obama said, to a chorus of approving murmurs from the audience. “They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”
The speech was striking for its setting, and in how Mr. Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, directly addressed one of the most sensitive topics in the African-American community: whether absent fathers bore responsibility for some of the intractable problems afflicting black Americans. Mr. Obama noted that “more than half of all black children live in single-parent households” a number that he said had doubled since his own childhood.
Accompanied by his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, who sat in the front pew, Mr. Obama laid out his case in stark terms that would be difficult for a white candidate to make, telling the mostly black audience not to “just sit in the house watching SportsCenter” and to stop praising themselves for mediocre accomplishments.
“Don’t get carried away with that eighth-grade graduation” he said, bringing many members of the congregation to their feet, applauding. “You’re supposed to graduate from eighth grade.”
On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama has frequently returned to the topic of parenting and personal responsibility, particularly for low-income African American families. Speaking in Texas in February, Mr. Obama told the mostly black audience to take responsibility for the education and nutrition of their children, and lectured them for feeding their children “cold Popeyes” for breakfast.
“I know how hard it is to get kids to eat properly” Mr. Obama said. “But I also know that folks are letting our children drink eight sodas a day, which some parents do, or, you know, eat a bag of potato chips for lunch. Buy a little desk or put that child at the kitchen table. Watch them do their homework.”
He’s absolutely right about this. He’s making bold statements on the issue that you don’t hear often from liberal black “leaders” like the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton, who revel in and promote victimhood so often to the point that it ought to be considered a criminal act (and we all know that conservative black leaders are often called “Uncle Toms” and “Oreos” and other denigrative terms by some of these same race hustlers, derogatory terms meant to diminish their character and importance and as a result negate anything insightful they have to say on the issue). The fact that Obama is looked upon by many in the black community as a role model, especially considering the fact that he’s now the presidential nominee for the Democrat party, gives one slight hope that maybe his calls to action -alongside Bill Cosby’s and Juan Williams’, among others – will serve as a catalyst for real change in the black community in the future. But, as the saying goes, the devil is always in the details.
On Friday, Mr. Obama announced that he would be a co-sponsor of a bill with Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, that his campaign said would address the “national epidemic of absentee fathers.” If passed, the legislation would increase the enforcement of child support payments and strengthen domestic violence prevention services.
Well, ok. That sounds good on the surface, but what impact will that have on the absentee black father problem? How about even more meaningful acts like forcefully calling out hip hop moguls like Russell Simmons who are in large part responsible for promoting and selling (and getting rich off of) the disgusting woman-hating, cop-killing nature of most popular rap music heard today? What about not only acknowledging but also rejecting the liberal policies of the 60s – many of which continue on today – that served (and continue to) to foster this type of devastating environment for black children? Policies that de-emphasized parenthood, the role of a father in a child’s life, personal responsiblity, and strong punishment for criminals, as well as glorified victimhood and sexual promiscuity?
Won’t happen. In fact, though he has been critical of some of those policies, his answer is not to reject them – but to try and “fix” them with more government, not less. Rejecting the foundations of where most of the problems we see in the black community began would mean he would have to reject a good portion of his domestic platform – and a good portion of the liberal domestic platform, for that matter.
At least he recognizes there are problems and is willing to acknowledge them. If only he understood, though, that his many of his repackaged Great Society “solutions” probably won’t have the positive impact on the black community he hopes they will. In fact, many of those solutions – along with the failure to forcefully address the negative cultural influences that greatly impact and harm the black community – are likely to only make matters worse.