I’m registered Green, but I’ve got no beef with Obama. He has, I think we all have to admit, said some pretty kick ass stuff. I don’t agree with him on everything, but he’s certainly not a bad guy. I don’t think he’ll make a bad president (I just don’t think he’d be the best president either). So when I heard some critical remarks about his Father’s Day speech at my Green Party meeting yesterday, I was a little curious as to what he actually said in his speech.
Here’s what all the fuss is about. “You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled – doubled – since we were children. ” That’s what Obama said in his speech that struck a lot of people as racist. I can see where people are coming from on this one, but really, if you read the whole speech, I think people calling it racist are just searching for something to dislike about it.
This is what I hate about politics and why I feel so jaded about it. Lets just all refuse to take things in context so that we can find as many reasons to hate each other as possible. Obama was speaking to a primarily black audience, and that one mention of African American single parent homes was obviously a “This is what this speech has to do with you” addition.
For example, I could make a speech about all the drawbacks of driving a Hummer to a bunch of white, upper middle class people. The white people might be thinking “What does this have to do with me? What does this have to do with us as a group?”, so it would be a good idea for me to site some sort of reason I’d be making this speech to this group by saying something like “This percentage of white, upper middle class Americans drive hummers, and it affects us in this way.” Are white people the only ones who drive Hummers? Of course not. Are white people the only ones affected by driving Hummers? Certainly not. Does it make the speech more relevant to the listeners if I show them how my topic affects them specifically? Yes it does. Maybe I’m misinterpreting his speech, but that’s how I took his one comment about black single parent homes.
Of course, the racism thing aside, thank God someone is finally saying something about men’s responsibilities to their children in a big, public forum. There was a time in this country when, if a young boy came home and said “Mom, Dad, my girlfriend is pregnant” the parents said “Well, son, you know what you have to do. You have to take responsibility and marry that girl.” Now, the parent’s response is more like “You don’t have to marry her! You don’t even know if that baby is yours!”
Now, while I’m no advocate of getting married just because of a pregnancy this shows a drastic change in attitude towards unplanned pregnancy. Where as before society told men (or boys, as the case may be) they had to take responsibility, now society tells boys that an unplanned pregnancy is not their problem, and we dump the full burden of what was a joint decision to have sex on the woman, calling her promiscuous by making accusations and doubting paternity with or without cause. Society is suffering from this change in attitude, and good for Barack Obama for saying so.
Most politicians want to ignore the problem of males abanoning their responsibilities as fathers. Most want to quietly ignore how the pattern tends to repeat itself, and how, as the number of children who grow up in forgotten and unsupported single parent households grows, society starts to change to mimic what the majority of us experience growing up. Family, after all, is the first society we all are exposed to, and how it functions for us as children is how we function in larger society as adults.
Politicians ignore the repercussions of unsupported single parent households because they, like most parents, don’t want their sons to “make mistakes”. Its easy for sons to walk away from an unplanned pregnancy, not so easy for daughters. Society’s sons can go about their lives as if the “mistake” was never made, but it still was. Not only does this harm society, but it actually hurts our sons more than it helps. Rights exist only in conjunction with responsibility, and by taking away our sons responsibilities, we have taken away their rights as well.
Women are no more foolish than men are when sex results in a pregnancy. Both parties can take responsibility for birth control or making the decision to abstain from sex. We are doing our sons a great disservice by not teaching them how to take control of their own reproductive rights and making them responsible for their own birth control. We treat our boys like they have no control over where their penis takes them, what a horrible way to dis empower our sons.
When we sweep single mothers under the rug and try to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist, we do even greater harm. Children do not choose their parents, yet we forget and shame them the same way we do their mothers (as if the mothers are deserving of shame). Single parents need support, from families, communities, and governments. Not for their sake, but for the sake of their innocent children who, no matter what you may believe about thier parents, did not choose to be in the situation they are in. If parents and children do not get the support they need, then society will most likely see their children repeating the exact same actions that their parents did.
So thank you, Obama, for bringing it up and not ignoring the problem like so many others do.