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When Hosting Hits Home

Man, what a challenge it's been for me filling in for Farai Chideya the last two days.

Don't get me wrong, hosting is wonderful. And whenever I sit in the host's chair for News & Notes, I know what to do: guide the discussion but try to "stay out of it" as far as offering my personal opinions and beliefs. (And that's a good thing.)

But on Wednesday, I found myself struggling to keep my on-air distance as Judge Lynn Toler and I discussed Barack Obama's "Father's Day" speech at a Chicago church. You see, I'm tired of hearing about how bad black fathers are, all the time. There, I said it.

Even though I know it's true in far too many instances, including some of my own relatives, I sometimes feel we black fathers are far too easy a target. Was Barack pandering for votes?

It was painful for both Judge Toler and me, and we struggled to find words that expressed what we were feeling. If you heard the interview, you know what I mean. It was painful to accept another negative portrayal of African American dads, and so publicly, and from someone who has the credibility to do it, thanks to his own awol father.

But did Obama have to add fuel to the fire? Are black dads going to be the Willie Horton of this campaign? Can't we just discuss this between us? The answer is, of course we can't. Not addressing the reality is what allows these deadbeats to keep messing things up for the rest of us.

I'm a black father who raised three children through two marriages. And I know countless dads just like me, all over the country. Involved. There for our kids (even at different addresses). Working our butts off to provide. I just want the world to know about us, for that to be the norm and not the exception.

That's not going to happen anymore than the Lakers were going to win Game 6 in Boston.

So Judge Toler and I just gritted our teeth and questioned whether Obama had to go there, but knowing full well why he did.

Comments

 

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Hi Tony,

I feel your pain. I am a Black woman who grew up without her father and raised a daughter who was not co-raised by her father. However, I did have a step-father who did his best and I surrounded my daughter with relatives and friends who are positive Black men. My story might suggest that I would be eager to hear Barack address the issue of Black men absenteeism but it does not. It was just as hard for me to hear the truth spoken about some of our Black men in public. I suddenly realized that although I know men who neglect their responsibilities, I keep my feelings about them to myself because I believe that it's a "conversation" that brothers need to have in private. Unfortunately, I have been waiting since before the Million Man March for "change" to manifest itself in our communities. As we know, it has not to the degree that it should. So the question is "who will participate in and continue this dialog after Barack's speech?" I listen to Michele, Farai and Tavis on a regular basis. The Black community needs Black media (the real media) to help structure and provide space for this much needed discussion. We need space to heal our hearts, to hear each others hopes and dreams and to work toward achieving our vision for the Black community. Please ask you viewers to volunteer. When you do, I'll be the first.

Sincerely,

harmony4sz

Sent by Stefani Zinerman | 6:07 PM | 6-19-2008

I could tell Mr.Cox was struggling with Obama speech on Black Fathers. I really think that Judge Lynn Toler hepled to frame the speech in a context that to my mind madea lots of sense.

Like she said who really knows what was in Barak Obama heart of hearts when he made that speech. He sure got a lots of Amens & applause from the pews, so a lots of Black folks was feeling him, it seems to me.

Also, like she noted, that he was coming from his own personal experience with his absent father, which to me made it more concrete & heart felt.
To be fare to Mr. Obama, one should see or read the entire speech, & not fragment or sound byts that the media have used to make it seem like he was just pandering to Euro- Americans or just beating up on the brothers. I give brother Obama a pass on his speech !

Sent by Robert H. | 8:58 PM | 6-19-2008

for the past 25 to 30 yrs: reproductively active usa 'black egg & sperm' donors have b@$t@rdized &/or materially abandoned 70% to 80% of their genetic offspring annually...

that is the truth!

whether 'team obama' or any other political party addresses that reality is not going to make a d@mn difference...

for the other large & unspoken truth within negroid america -- is the fact that black america does not impose any penalty on those irresponsible gamate donors...

& has not power to stop the massive - & every increasing number of black abandoned b@st@rds...

black b@st@rdization is the choosen standard of reproduction for usa negroes for the next 3/5/7/? generations...

along with all the negative 'civic, economic, intellectual, cutural & social' dysfunction & destruction

...priceless!!!

Sent by dirtyblues | 9:04 PM | 6-19-2008

Tony,

I understand your struggle to keep your professional distance during that discussion. I noticed one of the issues you seemed to be having problems with was the apparent differing public response to Obama's speech as opposed to the vitriol directed at Bill Cosby over his similar comments. I think the difference lies primarily in tone and the targets of criticism. Cosby directs much of his attack toward the underclass, which many perceived as demonizing the poor and ignoring the impact of structural inequities and systemic, institutional racism that impacts family functioning in communities of color. Obama, on the other hand, acknowledged those disparities and the legacy of racism, but made a call for personal responsibility in spite of the obstacles. His speech was far more inclusive and less contemptuous, which I think definitely influences the differences in perception and receptivity to his speech.

Sent by Adrianne Traylor | 12:33 AM | 6-20-2008

You're a great dad and your kids know it. The speech was not meant for you, so don't let it affect you.
{shout out to all the great fathers out there!}

Sent by ceecee | 12:51 PM | 6-20-2008

Hello Tony,
I kinda feel ya but let's face it, truth is, there are scores of men who've fathered children & simply walked away. My father did exactly that,but I made it. Would I be a better man today had he stayed, I don't know. But this I do know, I have a son and I've vowed that I'd be a better father to him than my dad was to me.
Let's consider, I've noticed for quite some time that the number of mother's and grandmothers at the barbershop has increased. This angers me, because I instantly wonder,where is the father? Sunday morning, count the number of men in the house of worship. Where the hell are they?
So why not talk about it? When there is a defect in the automobile industry, they put the word out, yes, they talk about it. They don't do this to make themselves look bad, rather they inform the public about the problem so those who own that type vehicle will know about the defect.It's not often they become combative, angry, or impenitent, instead; they set out to correct the problem.
We all know that there are countless numbers of childern being reared by mother alone. While the so-called man is out looking to father some more children, that he can walk away from.So why not talk about it?
The apex of the problem is; when it comes down to being a real father and a real man, many of my brothers have decided to tatoo thenselves with the ink of ignorance.
If my son who's 4 does'nt have dad to follow, who will he follow? I am very well veresd in African- American history, the stories of those who defied all the odds and lifted themselves above their circumstances and went on to become distinguished men of honor. That said, it does not derogate the fact that in the African- American homes, many men have punked out of their jobs.

Sent by Randy | 2:39 PM | 6-20-2008

@Tony Cox, you may "stay out of it," as you put it, but you still have a point of view. This effects your approach to the story, and there's nothing wrong with it. The only problem I see is that there isn't a diversity of points of view in covering stories.

For instance, as the father of an African-American son (and just the most adorable 8-month-old boy if I do say so myself), I don't disagree that "responsibility doesn't end at conception," but I disagree with the messenger of that message. While recognizing that fatherhood begins at conception, he rejects the notion that so does life. He has said that he doesn't want his daughters "punished with a baby." What a terrible thing to call your own grandchildren: punishment. Maybe, the messenger needs to listen to his own message.

But that's just my point of view.

Sent by Matthew C. Scallon | 3:47 PM | 6-23-2008

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