Men To Fathers

“You do what you have to do, but we need milk,” Denzel Washington’s wife tells him in the remake of “Pelham 123.” Sometimes we are faced with adversity and it’s then we step up to the plate and do what needs to be done to take care of our families. Education has always been the best cure to many of our ills. Many choose not to see that, and in the process the values many of us held as more precious than gold has been tarnished by the things many have chosen as replacements, such as clothes, cars and concubines.   I wrote that last week.
This week I’d like to focus on the “cultural shift in many communities that makes it downright un-male to be studious, while we’ve celebrated the academic achievement of girls.  The pendulum has swung too far…it’s time to find balance—perhaps for the first time.”  Those words belong to Mary Broaderick, president of the Connecticut Association of School Boards.
Author John McWhorter’s commented similarly as he talked about therapeutic alienation, where people, because of insecurity disassociate themselves with what’s going on around them. Ironically, that’s happening in many communities today, where education was once important, it is now shrouded by an idea it is downright un-black to do anything that might be associated with being white, like getting good grades, living in the ‘burbs, getting off welfare, planning on going to college or even becoming president.
I realize those comments might be a bit strong, but not in light of the political fabric facing us today, and no stronger than the comments of Dr. Bill Cosby who told the women of Spellman College a couple of years ago that the black race has nothing left but its women, partly because too few black males are graduating from high school. Cosby went on to say these are the same male students who “have memorized the lyrics of very difficult rap songs…and know how to send their sperm cells out and then walk away from the responsibility of something called fatherhood.”  And that’s the connector. The connector for Dr. Cosby’s words and those of Mary Broaderick and as President Obama recently related, the connector is—fatherhood.  And why has this happened?  It’s because many men today have abrogated their responsibility encouraged by a feminist society who don’t believe its men can accomplish the great things our ancestors created.  And that leads me to somewhat take an issue with Dr. Cosby’s comments as I think maybe women have been too much in the front, so many men have felt unneeded and unwanted as I ask where have all the women gone?
And don’t give me any bull.  If nothing else, your ancestors left you to do better than they did, and if you don’t think you can…then you can’t, or rather won’t.  I’m riled.  I’m riled as I also think about how Jesse Jackson commented last year that Barack Obama talked down to black people and that he [Jesse] wanted “to cut his balls off.”  How soon we forget!!  Have we lost sight of what the education system has been doing ever since we desegregated the schools and took so many of the black teachers out…in an effort to reflect the school population?  With that…so many of the dreams we nourished and nurtured vanished!
I began to wonder if boys today have dreams, and if they do…do they believe in their dreams as fewer and fewer take up the gauntlet and try, even graduate from high school. I question their commitment, which for many run as far as their immediate gratification of success, success predicated on a ‘dollar made’ a ‘pat on the back,’ or a beautiful ‘ride.’ They seem to forget in this hard world that one ‘aw-shucks’ wipes away a whole barrels of ‘attaboys.’  We have to be careful about that dream.  Many used to dream of becoming a Supreme Court Justice.  Then we got Thurgood Marshall.  Some dreamed of becoming an astronaut, then we got Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr.  We even had women who might have dreamed of become Secretary of State, and then we got Condoleezza Rice.  Damn.  Then we dreamed of the White House.  Is it over now?
It wasn’t easy getting where we are.  But it’s not over yet.  If we don’t realize how little we have accomplished, we will be lulled into thinking we’ve made it, when we haven’t.  There are many in the wings who think because we are in the White House, we have had our run, that we need to be reminded of our place.  But where is our place?  What is our place?
Today I look at many of those women and I ask as the Peter Seeger asked “Where have all the young girls gone?”  They have been hidden.  They have burned bras.  They have stormed the White House.   Most subtly they have discarded the dresses they used to wear, and not only put on pants, many of them are wearing them in houses where men are ominously absent.  As society and researchers ask where all the young men are?  Many of them have gone to war because that’s the only place many feel they can be men anymore. That’s a shame.
It’s a shame because we need them to keep young men off the street.  It’s a shame because they are needed in the classroom where there has been a significant decline in the number of men in the classroom, which is currently at a 40 year low.  It’s a shame because as I notice in my classroom, male enrollment is at an all-time low and it’s continuing to decline.  Women are outdistancing men in college and the same is true in the professional arenas of medicine as litigators. Many women are even choosing sperm donors over actual men. Women don’t need us.  Do they?
I don’t know.  But until we ask them…we won’t find out.  Until they ask us…they won’t find out. But the cultural shift that has happened in many communities makes it downright un-female to be feminine, wear dresses and celebrate the academic achievement of boys.  Until we become mutually respectful, celebrate the achievement of both, we won’t have the renaissance of male involvement we so desperately need.  “The pendulum has swung too far…it’s time to find balance—perhaps for the first time,” as we find out where have all the graveyard of men gone?

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