Speaking Our Truths

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Senator Obama’s talk on M.I.A. and AWOL Black Fathers delivered at a Chicago Church on Father’s Day lacks the informed analysis that I expect of him if he is win the vote of this African American father for President of the United States.

The absence of some black fathers from the lives of their children is owing to many reasons far too complex to cover in this space. I would like Mr. Obama to take the time to understand this complexity and not paint all black men with the same brush. Furthermore, I ask him to please share with the citizenry what he considers a father’s responsibilities. Surely there are many constructions of what is considered responsible father behavior.

Of concern is Mr. Obama’s singling out Black fathers as deficient. His statements about black fathers beg the question, who among the citizens of this country has gotten the fatherhood role right? Is there a correlation between race and ability to be a responsible father?

Are we to conclude that the gold standard for fatherhood is white fathers? Latino fathers? And if it is Latino fathers what about the Latino fathers who are also black? Is it Asian fathers? Or is it some combination of all of the above with the exception of black fathers? I don’t know. The point is that the Senator leaves this unsaid.
Years ago Elaine Pinderhuges pointed out that the first fathers in this Republic to abscond from the responsibilities of fatherhood were white males who fathered children with enslaved Africans. Not only did they desert their children, they sold their children.


I agree with your analysis of Senator Obama's statements. While there are a great deal of Black fathers absent from the home, Senator Obama demonstrates a lack understanding of the impact of crack on the African American "community" of the 1980s. This is not an excuse for the absentee father; however, it gives reason for some of the absence.

While it is unpopular to disagree with Senator Obama these days, in this instance I felt it necessary to speak out, because crack cocaine had a devastating impact on the so-called African American "community". The people continue to feel the effects today, evident in the prison population, the unemployment rate, some popular rap lyrics, the achievement gap in academia, et al. His statements were irresponsible and dismissive, because he made no mention of some of these factors.

In order for Obama to run this race "to win" he has to abandon that part of him that is black. He has to reassure white folks by speaking their mythological language and that means he has to ignore historical complexities related to the reality of a people who are 100% black and marginalized. To hold expectations of him greater than that is to not understand the strangulating grip of racism on this electoral cycle. He is diminished like we all are but hopefully, still under construction.

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This page contains a single entry by Willie Tolliver published on August 18, 2008 12:10 PM.

IX: The Privilege of Performance Anxiety was the previous entry in this blog.

X: The Disintegrating Families of White America is the next entry in this blog.

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