How important is our relationship – or lack of one – with our fathers?
New York Times columnist Maureen Down writes, “American politics bristles with Oedipal drama. Sons struggling to live up to fathers. Sons striving to outdo fathers. Sons scheming to avenge fathers. Sons burning to one-up fathers. Sons yearning to impress fathers who vanished early on. Sons leaning on fathers. Sons using fathers as reverse-play books.”
Today, 25 percent of whites, more than 50 percent of Hispanics and over 70 percent of blacks are born outside of wedlock. In the case of blacks, nearly 85 percent will live – at some point – in a home with no father. What does this do to a child’s confidence, self-esteem and his or her worldview? The late rapper Tupac Shakur once said: “I hate saying this ’cause white people love hearing black people talk about this. I know for a fact that had I had a father, I’d have had some discipline, I’d have had more confidence. … You need a man to teach you how to be a man.”
In the documentary about President Barack Obama, “2016,” writer Dinesh D’Souza interviews a psychiatrist. The doctor said that World War II widows often displayed large, uniformed pictures of their fallen husbands in their living rooms so their children can “know” their fathers and have a positive role model to aspire to.
“The official story,” says D’Souza, “is [Obama's] a very unique, multicultural guy … with the black dad from Kenya, a freedom fighter. … That’s the official narrative. It’s one thing if this official narrative was irrelevant to Obama’s story, but it actually is Obama’s story, it was the whole pitch for Obama in 2008. But almost all of the aspects of the official story are actually false.”
Obama’s father was an alcoholic, a physically abusive bigamist and serial cheater who fathered several children by several different women. Obama Sr. returned to Kenya having obtained an M.A. in economics from Harvard. But he grew bitter toward to newly independent government when he was fired from a senior government position and failed to find another job commensurate with what he felt his talent and training commanded. He died a double-amputee after his third serious drunk-driving accident.
About Abraham Lincoln and his relationship with his father, historian David Herbert Donald writes: “Abraham had made a quiet reassessment of the life that [his father] Thomas lived. He kept his judgment to himself, but years later it crept into his scornful statements that his father ‘grew up, literally without education,’ that he ‘never did more in the way of writing than to bunglingly sign his own name,’ and that he chose to settle in a region where ‘there was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education.’ To Abraham Lincoln that was a damning verdict. In all of his published writings, and, indeed, even in reports of hundreds of stories and conversations, he had not one favorable word to say about his father.”
This brings us to angry “black leaders” like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan, all of whom somehow managed to become wealthy while fighting racism in this allegedly still racist country. What do they have in common? None had a good relationship with his father.
In Sharpton’s case, his middle-class New York City lifestyle collapsed when his father abandoned his family. In Jackson’s case, his teenage mom became pregnant with him by the married man next door. Growing up, Jackson endured schoolyard taunts like, “Jesse ain’t got no daddy.” Farrakhan’s mother, estranged from her husband, got pregnant by him with Louis. She had a boyfriend whom she feared angering, so she tried to abort Louis with a coat hanger.
The M.O. of these so-called leaders is simple. They denounce the alleged persistent racism still practiced by The Man, the System and the Republican Party. Does an internal pain drive these men while blinding them to the obvious decline of anti-black racism in America? They ask blacks to vote Democratic because they characterize the opposition party as the party of bigots who want to “turn back the clock on civil rights.”
To compensate for an absent father, another villain – real or imagined – can take his place.
In my book, “Dear Father, Dear Son,” I write about my Depression-era, former World War II Marine father. He never met his biological father. Kids teased him over being, as he put it, “an illegitimate child.” As a child of the Jim Crow, Ku Klux Klan deep South, my father grew up in a brutal time of in-your-face, back-of-the-bus, “separate but equal” segregation.
Raised by an irresponsible mother and her series of irresponsible boyfriends, my father left home at 13 years old, never to return.
Still, my father called unfocused anger and bitterness the tools of the weak. Work hard, he told my brothers and me. That America, “the one I grew up in,” Dad said, no longer exists – and all whites should not be blamed for the actions of some. About making it in America as a black person, Dad said it wasn’t complicated: “If you want your prayers to be answered, get up off your knees and do something about it.”