Theatre IV – Black Fatherlessness
(Excerpted from Harlem Meets Mayberry)
Once upon a movie, white actor Tom Cruse begged black actor Cuba Gooding, “Help me…help you. Now, on behalf of sincere white people everywhere, I appeal similarly to sincere black people everywhere: “Help whites…help blacks.”
Millions upon millions of white folks are willing to do almost anything they can do to help win the War on Racial Dissonance, but there’s one thing that must be done that is above the white “pay grade.” There’s one thing that must be done that whites can’t do. That one thing is to persuade black men to stop making babies and then abandoning those babies and their mothers.
Baby Daddy confounds Mayberry. Baby Daddy frustrates Mayberry. Baby Daddy angers Mayberry. And as long as Mayberry is confounded and frustrated and angry with Baby Daddy, the War on RD will be stalled. That’s why reducing the rate of fatherlessness in the black community is one of the three Non-Negotiables in the War on RD.
Whoa! Where did that come from? I’ll tell you where that came from: That came from Mayberry Town Square. That came from the very heart of Mayberry, and it’s been stuck in Mayberry’s heart for a long time, and it feels good to finally let it overflow from our hearts. It feels good because Mayberry knows that even though it’s going to stir up resistance, the message is true and the message is delivered in love, and the message will ultimately take root in good soil.
And what is good soil? In this case, the good soil is reasonable black people who are sensitive toward both Mayberry Reality and Harlem Reality. The good soil is intelligent black people who can do simple math and who can see that neither Caesar nor single moms nor tired grandparents can possibly continue their rescue efforts indefinitely. Black fathers must step in and step up to protect and bless the millions upon millions of innocent lives they continue to help create.
The good soil is sincere black Christians who are heartbroken by both the spiritual weight that Baby Daddy places on himself and the enormous stumbling block that he places on the life path of his innocent children and the mothers of those children.
In this one case, on this single, non-negotiable issue, Mayberry is useless here because Baby Daddy doesn’t care about Mayberry and will not listen to Mayberry. Mayberry is also useless here because, to Mayberry, Baby Daddy behavior is one of the most puzzling of all human behaviors. Simply put, Baby Daddy behavior is totally foreign to the Mayberry mind.
Mayberry isn’t on speaking terms with Baby Daddy and Baby Daddy isn’t on speaking terms with Mayberry. They need a mediator, and the perfect mediator is the reasonable, intelligent, sincere black Christian!
Warning! What you are about to read could very well anger you. You might react with strong emotion, and that’s OK. Just remember that when emotions run the show, the show is always a circus. What follows is hard truth but it is truth expressed in love.
Every time a white person sees a young black lady pushing a stroller or holding a baby, the white person’s eyes go reflexively to the lady’s left ring finger, where four out of five times there is no ring. And every time a white person sees a white lady holding a caramel-colored baby or pushing a stroller containing a caramel-colored passenger, the white person’s eyes go reflexively to the lady’s left ring finger, where over nine times out of 10 times there is no ring.
When a white person sees a fatherless child, that’s when the sadness and anger kick in. We are sad for the unwed mother and her child because we know how absurdly high the odds against long-term security and happiness are stacked against them. We’re sad for the lady’s parents because we know that they are too old and too tired for this drama and this commitment, a commitment which will surely follow them to their graves.
We get angry not at the lady nor at her innocent child but at the man who did nothing more than donate sperm. We also get angry at Caesar because he forces us to underwrite the food stamp card that the lady will almost certainly swipe at the checkout counter. Mostly, though, we get angry with ourselves because we know that we are wasting our time on this unproductive anger. We see a problem and we don’t have a clue as to how to be part of the solution. And so we simmer with silent anger, and in our simmering we come to a frightening realization. We realize that we are nothing more than plump, helpless mice shaking our tiny, powerless fists at a famished cat. It’s a sociological bummer with a capital B, and the B stands for Baby Daddy.
Today it’s more socially acceptable for a man to sire multiple babies by multiple women than it is for that same man to smoke a cigarette inside a restaurant. The man who throws a styrofoam cup out the car window is subject to more backlash–criminal charges of littering and social charges of failure to recycle–than the man who impregnates as many women as he can and then serves as loving husband to none of the mothers nor as loving father to any of the kids.
If you’re not offended by the fact that two plus two equals four, you should not be offended by the spotlight being trained on Baby Daddy. After all, both problems–two plus two and Baby Daddy–are simple math problems.
Fatherlessness is a serious disability, and almost 80% of black kids carry the burden of having to navigate life with this serious disability. The math here is almost as simple as two plus two equals four, and the math says that this generation may well be the final generation that can possibly stand the emotional, financial and spiritual strain of epidemic fatherlessness. Once the strain becomes too great, the dam will burst and we will have forfeited the luxury of pro-actively addressing the relatively small problem of racial dissonance. Once the dam bursts we will all be forced to react to the overwhelming problem of racial chaos.
If you are reasonable and smart and sincere and black, now is the time to exert your God-given influence. Speak the truth, in love, to Baby Daddy. Speak it soon and speak it often and speak it over a long stretch. Use your own words, your own flavor and your own attitude, but speak the truth, in love, to Baby Daddy, because Mayberry cannot.
And what is the truth? The truth is not, “You and me, baby, ain’t nothin’ but mammals, so let’s do like they do on the Discovery Channel.” The truth is that the mammals on the Discovery Channel have no concept of God or the future or a better life, and no human is anything like those mammals.
The truth you must speak if you are a reasonable, smart, sincere black person is that the Spirit gives life and the flesh counts for nothing (Jn. 6:63). If Baby Daddy actually believes he “ain’t nothin’ but a mammal,” he deserves the chance to believe something better about himself. He deserves to hear that he is made in God’s image and is therefore wired with Paternal Instinct. He deserves to hear that he is vastly superior to the mammals on the Discovery Channel and that because he is superior to them, he must hold himself to a higher standard than them.
Should you decide to take a step of faith and speak the loving truth to Baby Daddy, go in knowing that your speech will not be the magic speech. Neither you nor anyone else can turn Baby Daddy around in just one sitting. You may be cool, but nobody’s that cool, and when it comes to the Joys of Fatherhood speech, “one and done” just won’t cut it.
Footnote to Cocoonians: Like all humans, Baby Daddy’s life has been a continuous search for security and significance. Unlike many humans, though, Baby Daddy’s search has been an exceedingly hard one. Throughout his search he’s likely been afflicted with the disability of fatherlessness himself. As a result, his concept of manhood has been informed by input from a hodge-podge of father stand-ins and lousy role models including angry athletes, sullen singers, neighborhood heroes, a small group of equally disabled friends and God only knows how many other poor substitutes.
No matter who Baby Daddy’s father stand-ins were, three things are certain. First, Baby Daddy has found much of his sense of security in those stand-ins. Second, Baby Daddy is loyal to his stand-ins. Third, few things are more important to Baby Daddy than the approval of his stand-ins.
If Baby Daddy had been raised by a loving father who was around and involved, he would probably be devoted to gaining and keeping his father’s approval. Instead, he is devoted to gaining and keeping the approval of lousy role models.
Besides his devotion to lousy role models, which stems from the disability of fatherlessness, Baby Daddy has another affliction which inclines him to resist and resent whites. That affliction is a keen sense of religious disappointment. To Baby Daddy, “Footprints in the Sand” is just so much sentimental nonsense: Nobody has carried him through the toughest times of his life!
To Baby Daddy, “Jesus loves you” is often a bigger lie than Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny put together. If you are a Cocoonian, you can get all freaked out and call me a blasphemer if you want, but at least poke your head out of your cocoon long enough to get a clue as to where Baby Daddy is coming from.
Baby Daddy is mad at God, and his anger is largely because of Cocoonians. While God can handle Baby Daddy’s unfair anger toward him, we Cocoonians can’t handle Baby Daddy’s fair anger toward us, and this dynamic is a serious impediment to victory in the War on RD.
So while reasonable, smart, sincere black Christians are having their loving talks with Baby Daddy, Cocoonians have a job to do as well. It is the Cocoonian’s job to resist the very strong temptation to dive back into the Cocoon.
God bless Baby Daddy, and God bless the rest of us, too, because the war is on and we are all on the same side.
Be street smart yet harmless. Peace.