On their website, Black Lives Matter lists this Guiding Principle: “We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure…” On that front, there is very little work left to do, as currently only seventeen percent of black children will reach their 18th birthday living in a nuclear family headed by their married father and mother.
Deion is one of those black children. He grew up in a family that was comprised of four half-siblings and his white grandmother. His mother brought four children into the world, all with different fathers, all absent. After a few years, his mother was absent too. Deion’s father was black; all of his siblings were white.
Deion was pissed off.
His siblings were pissed off.
Because when your father is not around, kids often feel unwanted and as a result… angry. Deion’s anger was a constant and he was only fourteen when he had his first run-in with the police because he had become physically violent with one of his sisters.
When I look at videos of black youth
rioting and looting “protesting” in Charlotte or Milwaukee or Baltimore under the banner of Black Lives Matter, I see an ocean of Deion’s. Young black men who are understandably filled with rage. The common denominator for their fury isn’t the color of their skin, it is that less than 20% of them spent the entirety of their childhood in the stability afforded them by a married mother and father.
Family breakdown has a devastating impact on children: poverty, mental health struggles, increased risk of physical and sexual assault, academic challenges, teen pregnancy, just to name a few. Children are made to be nurtured by their mother and father and, when they are deprived of it, they suffer in myriad ways. It doesn’t matter what color your epidermis is, having a dad matters.
Fathers offer distinct and irreplaceable guidance for children especially in the area of discipline. And if your dad is MIA, it often falls to the police to fill the role of disciplinarian, especially to angry boys. Simply put, “[fatherless] boys hurt, and boys who hurt, hurt us- and themselves. Prisons are centers for dad-deprived boys.” Black children, more than any other demographic, have suffered from dad-deprivation.
Deion was your standard-issue statistic. He was just another fatherless youth on his way to an overcrowded jail.
Until the day his father, Jamal, called.
Jamal was sober for the first time in his adult life. He had joined AA and was working the steps; making amends with all of the people he had wronged while in the grips of his addiction and Deion was at the top of that list.
More phone calls came.
Christmas cards were sent.
Birthday gifts were exchanged.
Jamal lived in a different state but the effort to know, shape and love his son was pivotal for Deion.
Jamal had an impact on Deion that no other adult- not his grandmother, nor her husband, nor a well-meaning teacher and certainly not the police- could have in his life. When Deion was caught smoking pot and told the police to “F-off”, it was Jamal who got his attention by telling him “Don’t go down the road I’ve traveled. I started with pot too, and it lead to hard drugs. You’d better not do that again, Son.” And when Deion once scoffed “Oh you know those white women” at something his grandmother had said, Jamal responded with “I never want to hear you disrespect your grandmother again.”
When Jamal speaks, Deion listens. Deion wants his father’s approval because he was made for his father’s approval. Deion, a boy once defined by rage, is now at peace because he finally has what he was made for: his father’s love.
Today’s Black Lives Matter activists decry the presence of systematic racism. And indeed, black youth are being deprived of their fundamental rights. But it’s not the brand of institutional discrimination that our black brothers and sisters faced during segregation. Quite to the contrary, higher ed and the biggest names in business are begging for minorities. Some of the most powerful offices in government are now occupied by African Americans.
However, there is an institution that is increasingly out of reach for black kids today. Its the institution that preserves a child’s right to be known and loved by their mother and father: the institution of marriage.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s generation was denied opportunities in employment, education and the legal system because of their race. However, Dr. King’s generation was blessed to come from mostly in-tact homes- about 75% of King’s peers experienced the love of their mother and father and they also had the joy of witnessing their mom and dad love each other. Strong and proud black mothers and fathers raised their children together. And as a result, their children healed our nation. Now, fifty years later, those macro-systems of educational and governmental injustice have been rectified and all the freedoms that Dr. King dreamed of exist.
But it’s not enough, is it?
Equal opportunities in education, business and government are often out of reach when children are denied access to the foundational human institution- the “nuclear family” that Black Lives Matter seeks to completely dismantle. It’s the institution of marriage that provides children with the components necessary for emotional health: identity, maternal and paternal love, and stability. Without the steady involvement of both mother and father, children often struggle.
So what do we do?
- We tell young men of every race that they are irreplaceable in the lives of their children.
- We encourage men to commit to the women with whom they are making babies.
- We affirm that dad-deprived children have a right to be angry, because their fundamental right to be known and loved by both their mother and father was violated.
- We fight for legislation that rewards parents who commit to each other so that their children’s rights are preserved and the deck is stacked in favor of their kids social, emotional, and physical health.
Historically, the cheapest and most effective means to that end is to promote: marriage.
I’m not a marriage advocate because I pine away for the “good old days” or because I’m clinging to an out-of-date tradition. I’m a marriage advocate because I watch my friend’s nephew Deion and his siblings struggle in school and at home and with their own self-worth because they were denied entry to the most basic human institution.
I don’t know why the leaders at Black Lives Matter have decided that the nuclear family is the enemy. But it’s clear from Deion’s experience that what mattered most in his black life, was the presence of his father.