Words are powerful. They can paint pictures motivate us toward action. Not only that, words can spark certain emotions about a person, place, or thing. Let’s try a little exercise. I will provide you with several words and phrases, and I want you to take a moment to engage the emotions that arise in you after you read each word. Here we go: ice cream, real estate, Mom, work, church, why, public education, smartphone, and forgiveness.
In light of Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, I’d like to continue the focus on the word why. Relative to our culture today, one big issue that troubles me is why we have such an extreme absence of caring, manly fathers in our homes. This is especially a question for the African American community. My aim here is to simply cast a visual of what is happening now and what we may see in the near future.
The following are questions leaders have mentioned to me that they are hearing from the young men, both urban and suburban-based, that they mentor. Such mentors are attempting to help the young men answer their questions and discover some resolve where it has yet to be found on the journey.
Why is it that sometimes I feel like I am not going to make it past 16 or 18?
Why can I not communicate what I am feeling on the inside?
Why do I feel like I am behind in the basic things that I think I should know such as how to shave, how to make a decision, or how to read?
Why is school such a challenge for me?
Why are lighter skinned peers, black or white, receiving better treatment or seems getting more attention that I do?
Why is socializing with other cultures making me feel so inferior?
In many cases, the few men who are involved in these young males’ lives either display extreme passiveness or are expected to go with the flow with little-to-no involvement. One thing that sticks out like a sore thumb in our schools, neighborhoods, and churches is the absence of a father’s constant presence in the lives of our young people, and especially the young men. More and more men are crowding our prisons today. On top of that, the age of inmates is getting lower. Amongst some ethnicities, some sources explain that the men account for more than half of the prison population. The remaining young men are tagged with being the most likely to drop out before high school, not living to see age 25, or helping to create babies that they will not personally rear. Are we on the verge of totally losing the influence of family men amongst minorities and across the board? Is this the beginning or a continuation of a fast downward spiral of male leadership? Why don’t more dad’s step up to the plate in a positive light?
Long gone are the characteristics of men from The Cosby Show, Bonanza, The Wonder Years, The Riflemen, and Fullhouse. We are looking for strong voices to speak affirmation, encouragement, and direction in our churches, schools, and homes today. It could be that in the coming years, words and phrases like dad, paternal, and father-of-the-child will disappear into the abyss. Will the young men today know what it means to provide, protect, and promote balance and healthiness in a family? How will they treat their wives and children? How will they weather life’s storms and remain men of integrity if they don’t know what one looks like? Young ladies will continue to choose a date and future mate. However, without the presence of a quality father-like role model, how will they be able to distinguish character? How will they know what they really deserve in a man and how to properly treat him? Too many males today are simply known as dead-beat dad, sperm donor, baby daddy (alluding to one night of heated lust), or that jerk. A turnaround is needed in our culture today.
Why isn’t the reversal of this issue more of a priority? Have we simply admitted defeat? No matter who you are, a boy needs his father. A girl needs her dad. Both need that man to stand up as a man of character and lead their families.