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MITCHELL: Too soon for Emanuel to lecture blacks on parenting

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It’s too soon for the mayor to get up on a moral high horse about poor parenting in the black community.

Too many black people are still angry about police shootings and rogue cops.

That’s what I would have told Mayor Rahm Emanuel had I been among those who’ve been given a preview of the major safety policy the mayor plans to deliver on Thursday.

Emanuel has been a big booster of the mentoring program called Becoming a Man, known for short as BAM. Now, he wants to increase funding for BAM and other mentoring programs as part of his approach to reducing the gun violence in the city.

That’s all good.

But impoverished black families don’t want white people and bourgeois African-Americans lecturing them about fatherhood.


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Because when Emanuel talks about “encountering only one black father in all of the homes, hospital rooms, churches and funerals he has visited after innocent children were gunned down or wounded on the streets of Chicago,” it will sound like he’s saying black fathers don’t care about there children.

Maybe it wouldn’t occur to him that these fathers weren’t just hanging out on the street.

Some so-called absentee fathers are unable to provide financially for their children and are not allowed to come around. In many cases,  these fathers don’t have the resources to secure court-ordered visitation. Some are in prison. Some are dead.

More important, the myth of the absentee black father was debunked last year when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that African-American fathers are more involved with their kids on a daily basis than dads from other racial groups.

So let’s be clear. It is usually not the children of middle and working-class families who are committing these violent acts. Most often, it’s the impoverished youth involved in gang and drug-related crimes  who are driving the gun violence. In many instances, these young men are following in the footsteps of their own fathers.

It is our shame, frankly, that so many of these young men dropped out or were pushed out of public schools and are now unemployable and have no future.

But keeping the black family together in a society rife in racist institutions has always been a challenge.

Decades ago, black fathers barely eking out a living were forced to abandon their homes so their wives could receive much-needed assistance from the government.

Little has changed for low-income families.

Today, black fathers with criminal backgrounds are banned from living in public housing. Many of these men are unable to find jobs and end up going back into the life that sent them to jail in the first place.

Clearly, Emanuel has heart for the young black males affected by this negative family dynamic.

“It is a conversation he started in his second inaugural address, when he said prison can no longer be the place we send young boys to become men,” according to Andrea Zopp, Emanuel’s deputy mayor,  clarifying the intent of the mayor’s upcoming address. “But he’s not just going to talk. He will deliver a real plan to significantly expand mentoring to provide role models and help more young men achieve a future beyond the cycle of poverty and violence.”

But because of the missteps the mayor made handling the Laquan McDonald police shooting, Emanuel does not have the moral authority to effectively deal with this problem.

To break the cycle of poverty and violence, you can’t just mentor the sons. You need to provide better opportunities for the fathers, too.

Rather than shame black fathers, the mayor should put more resources into helping these fathers build better relationships with their sons and their communities.

Tweets by @MaryMitchellCST


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