I am not exactly sure how the political capital weighs out when black men are blamed for society’s problems, but there must be quite a bit to gain for doing so. In a recent speech in Queens, NY, Attorney General Eric Holder decided that, for some reason, black men are the ones who should be singled out for being bad fathers. In his speech, Holder said, “Too many men in the black community have created children and left them to be raised by caring mothers. These women do a wonderful job, but we ask too much of them and too little of our men.”
I am sure we can all agree that being a good father is very important. I fully expect that Holder was trying to do his part to encourage black men to take care of their responsibilities, since it is apparently the case that we are the only ones who should be pulled together like children to be taught the essence of personal responsibility. For some reason, the millions of black fathers who do their jobs effectively are missed in the conversation, as well as the fathers who may have wanted to be involved with their children but were victims of parental alienation. What’s most interesting is that many of the men Holder was speaking about were likely not in the congregation during his speech. I am not sure what purpose such a speech would have other than to gain political leverage by pointing the finger at people who are not in the audience you are addressing.
There is a part of me that wonders if Holder would be committed to holding himself to the same standards of accountability that he holds up for African-American men. I would imagine that he, as Attorney General of the United States, can see the mass incarceration, disparate sentencing statistics and economic marginalization of black men that the rest of us see. Given that black male unemployment is as high as 40 to 50 percent in some urban areas, wouldn’t it make sense to include criticism of the Obama Administration for not alleviating the employment gap?
If white America had 40 percent unemployment and Holder simply gave them speeches on personal responsibility, don’t you think they might be a wee bit offended? If he is going to give a speech telling black men to be more responsible, I would hope he’d be open to a lecture from us about how he has a responsibility as Attorney General to alleviate gross imbalances within the criminal justice and economic systems of America.
I wonder why Eric Holder isn’t out giving speeches to white men about the 50 percent divorce rate in the white community? Doesn’t that make roughly half of all white males absentee fathers also? Would Holder go to college campuses to give white college students speeches about their commitment to excessive alcohol consumption, causing thousands of drunk driving deaths and campus rapes every year?
I become quite curious about these speeches on personal responsibility, which appear to be patronizing belittlements that allow the political figure to deviate from their responsibility to advocate for concrete policy. Perhaps Holder and Obama should leave such speeches to black pastors, given that Holder and Obama are apparently afraid to give such speeches to other Americans (and I haven’t noticed them sending Joe Biden out to the white community to tell white males all the things that are wrong with them). After all, is Eric Holder the Attorney General for black America or the Attorney General of the United States?
Black men have flaws, the same as everyone else. Anyone who is somehow committed to the idea that black men are excessively flawed relative to the rest of the American population has become victimized by the very same ignorance that leads to the historical scapegoating of minority groups. I can look at white women, white men, black women and Hispanics and find a long list of “epidemics” in their communities too. If that’s the case, then why in the world do we have black politicians seeking to gain political capital by singling black men out?
If Holder and Obama feel compelled to criticize black men as a collective (rather than focusing on the positive things we do for the world), then I hope they don’t get offended when black men start criticizing right back. Given that his father was African (not African-American), the idea that President Obama has used his own father’s behavior to validate his critiques on the African-American male is incredibly problematic as well. Obama’s own experience communicates nothing about him ever being abandoned by an African-American male.
To talk about absentee fathers every time you discuss black men is like talking about strippers and prostitutes every time you refer to black women. Even the black women who don’t engage in such activity would become offended that the behavior of a subgroup has been consistently used to address the collective, or that black women are considered more likely to become strippers than white or Asian women. Mr. President, if you cannot also address the good things that black men do, then please do not address the negatives. Both you and Eric Holder are more intelligent than that, so it’s time for some personal responsibility.