Theatre IV – Black Fatherlessness
(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)
If you are anything other than a fatherless black man, there’s a kind of courage you’ll never have to muster up. It’s the kind of courage that fatherless black men in this generation must have in order to win the War on RD. We should salute the fatherless black man even before he has done his first courageous deed, because his is truly a tough row to hoe.
Upon the fatherless black man (FBM for short) of this generation rests a burden unlike any placed upon any other generation of men in history. His time is up. His time has come. It is his time to break the multi-generational curse of rampant fatherlessness. It is his time to fly in the face of a deeply ingrained cultural code. It is his time to become a man unlike few men he has ever personally known.
Today’s FBM faces a challenge more difficult and more frightening than merely rolling a resting stone. He must stand in the path of a huge, runaway boulder. He must risk being steam-rolled, bring the boulder to a stop and then reverse its course. Today’s FBM is the new Indiana Jones, but unlike Indy, outrunning the boulder is not an option for him. He must turn, face it and beat it.
The biggest challenge that the FBM faces as he considers the runaway boulder of fatherlessness is the siren call of Baby Daddy: Baby Daddy is seducing young black men with the imitation, “Come! Be like me.” Baby Daddy lives in a relatively small, all-black world where conformity is a given, judgement by his peers is quick and absolute, and the penalty for non-compliance is severe. Baby Daddy is a young black man, and he is always, subtly, recruiting other young black men to join the counterproductive ranks of Baby Daddyhood.
Mild non-compliance makes the FBM an Uncle Tom. Serious non-compliance makes the FBM a b****. Grievous non-compliance makes the FBM something even more un-mentionable. There is no judge and no trial, just a hastily-formed jury of “peers” dishing out the standard penalty for non-compliance, and that penalty is ostracism.
Ostracism is the modern equivalent of being put “outside the camp” or “outside the synagogue.” It is the forfeiture of one’s place in the universe. It is the severance of emotional security. It is desolation. More than almost any other fear, the FBM fears ostracism by his peers because many times his reality is that the approval of his peers is all he has.
Fortunately for all of us, the FBM has a great role model to help him overcome his fear of being put outside the camp. That role model is the first-century Jew who chose to follow Jesus.
We forget how great was the dread of ostracism among the Jews of Jesus’ time. It was so great that when Jesus gave sight to a blind Jewish man, the man’s own mom and dad were afraid to give Jesus public praise (Jn. 9:21). It was so great that even one of our heroes in the faith, the apostle Peter, gave in to it for a season.