For many of them, fatherlessness is common in the neighborhoods they grew up in. They recount that it was rare to see a household with both parents. Further, the issue of fatherlessness in the black community seems to be prevalent regardless of socioeconomic status.
Whenever I listen to commentary about police issues in poor black communities, there is never any mention of the lack of men.
About a year ago, TV Commentator Larry Elders was seething about ‘everything being blamed on race instead of supporting young people in working hard, doing well in school and preparing for the job market.’ He went on to say that, “the biggest problem in the black community is that there are no men.”
Often when there is talk about problems in a person’s life, there is discussion about the mother, father, or parents. However, when there is conversation around problems in poor and minority communities, I never hear those three words. The only words I hear is ‘police’ over and over again.
Does that mean there are no parents? Does that mean there are more separated families than in other communities? Are parents stressed from working at low wage jobs and spending hours getting to and from those jobs? I often listen to commentary and wait to hear any mention of parents or family, but it never happens.
Are the police part of the parenting structure? Are the police replacing men who disproportionately die at a younger age, are routed to the prison system, or leave family behind?
Recently one of my counseling clients mentioned the untimely death of her brother after an incident in his neighborhood. She overheard the police talking about her brother as if he was ‘just another young black man who died on the streets.’ She discussed how cold and heartless the police sounded and the feeling that they were ‘discarding’ his life.
What immediately came to mind for me was the fact that her father discarded her brother and failed to raise him long before the police encountered him. Instead, her dad went off with his girlfriend and started a new family, leaving her and her brother behind to be raised by her mother.
She didn’t make the connection.
It’s time that we started to connect the lack of men with the over involvement of the police. Thus, spending our time and resources on keeping young black men engaged in school, their families and in life.
Kay Gimmestad, LCSW-C is a business coach and clinician in New York City with 20 years of experience working in the profit and not for profit sectors of Human Resources, Health and Human Services. She has built a reputation for being highly skilled in facilitating behavior change while working with employees, both individually and in groups, on matters relating to performance management, substance abuse, crisis intervention, and stress/wellness.