During last night’s show, I happened to glance up at that the monitors in the studio and was surprised to see my face on MSNBC. Rev. Al Shaprton’s PoliticsNation was doing a segment on how some people have “dishonored” Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy.
Shartpon was upset that nightclubs were using King’s likeness to promote weekend parties. I, too, find the Photoshopped images of America’s greatest civil rights leader appalling, especially when they immaturely associate his message of equality with the, “freedom 2 twerk.” It’s deplorable, and it diminishes King’s memory.
“I am even more disturbed by how Dr. King’s legacy is being distorted in the political arena by conservatives, twisting his life’s work for their own agenda,” Sharpton continued. “On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, one conservative radio host, a former congressman, delivered his own ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.” Boy, I wonder how many former congressman-turned radio hosts there are?
Unfortunately, Sharpton took my words somewhat out of context. While the MSNBC host was trying to make a point about how people use King’s work for their own agendas, in my original post, ironically, I was making the same argument, only I was calling out Rev. Al.
In the build-up to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, many people have invoked King’s legacy to promote their own various causes. Yesterday, President Obama was asked by morning radio host Tom Joyner what King would think of Obamacare. The president quickly responded that King “would like it.” While our commander-in-chief usurped King’s dream to selfishly promote his own legacy, our country’s race-baiter-in-chief, Rev. Al Sharpton is using this week to push back against the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling to strike down parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Of course, Rev. Al didn’t point out that he’s guilty of the same crime. He just calls his manipulation of King’s legacy to promote his own agenda, “advancing the dream.” No, what Sharpton was upset about was how I offered hoped that every African-American in this country could be as successful as they wished to be.
I called my hopes for the black community, “My Own Dream for America.” It contained a list of problems plaguing black America — obstacles such as failing public school systems, gang violence and troubling fact that too many children grow up without fathers.
Why Sharpton wouldn’t want the same things for the black community is beyond me. You would think that a man who has dedicated his life to advocating for the advancement of African-Americans would agree that a tight family structure is a vital ingredient in the child’s success. The plague of fatherless homes is spreading more rapidly among the black community than it is in other racial backgrounds.
Think Progress’ Tara Culp-Ressler wrote an article the other day arguing that absent black fathers are a “myth.” Citing data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Culp-Ressler believes all the other research that has shown fatherless homes are more prevalent among the black community must have been a statistical anomaly.
The fact that the phrase “black fatherhood” is almost always accompanied by the word “crisis” in U.S. society, makes the CDC’s results seem innovative. But in reality, the new data builds upon years of research that’s concluded that hands-on parenting is similar among dads of all races. There’s plenty of scientific evidence to bust this racially-biased myth.
Unfortunately, Culp-Ressler is missing the point entirely, and perhaps this is why people like Sharpton get upset. The problem isn’t solely about the quality of parenting. It’s the quantity of involved parents. I, and the people who have raised the question before, have never argued that the quality of fathers involved with their children was the problem. Nearly 64% of black children live in fatherless homes — a number that grows higher and higher each year. Compared to whites (25%) and Latinos (33%), one can’t deny that a father’s absence is more common among blacks.
Maybe Sharpton wasn’t so much upset with what was said as much by who said it. Perhaps he doesn’t appreciate that a person who doesn’t share the same skin color as him could talk frankly about the plight of black youth. I’ve spent much of my adult life helping those struggling on Chicago’s south and west sides. While I’ll never experience what it’s like growing up black in America personally, through my work, I can certainly empathize.
Joseph T. Jones, Jr., of the Baltimore-based Center for Urban Families says it’s time to start talking about absent black fathers outside of the community. “The problem is so massive that we can no longer have private conversations,” Jones told The Grio in 2013. “We need other people to be engaged in this conversation.”
Reverend Al, while you and I don’t agree on anything politically, I do believe we share the same desires for black America, as well as other minority groups. I applauded you when you came to Chicago on a mission to curb the gun violence that tears apart Chicago’s south side. I’ve already shown that I can put political differences aside for the greater good, perhaps you would be more successful as an advocate if you would, too.