Tag Archives: single parents

The “dream” plus 50

I watched with interest the series of commemorations a couple of weeks ago, on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. As I listened and read about the speeches, I began to wonder about the issues facing the African-American community, and for that matter, the entire American culture, today.

This is a sensitive topic to address, simply because I’m a 60-year-old white guy. I don’t want to come across as an insensitive bigot, but that seems to be the risk whenever you touch on anything related to race.

My question is this; after 50-plus years of struggle against oppression from outside the African-American community, has the civil rights movement now reached the point where the most fertile territory for continued growth is not outside that community, but rather within?

50 years ago, the issues were fairly clear. African Americans were restricted by a series of restraints imposed from outside their community — segregation, voting rights, fair housing, and so on. What’s the story today? Specifically, what are the issues, the causes and the solutions?

For the issues, I’ll turn to former Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson, who spoke at an event at a local college. He is a smart guy, a former two-term mayor and college professor. As quoted in the local newspaper, Johnson said:

“The fight definitely is not over.”

“Our unemployment rate is still twice that of whites, our poverty rate is astounding, our dropout rate is still very unacceptable, and you go on and on and on about the key factors in the lives of people of color…So the struggle must continue.”

Unemployment, poverty and dropout rate – those are good places to start. I’ll add a fourth — single parenthood, especially teenaged single-motherhood.

It is obvious the first three, and even the fourth, are all connected. If you drop out of high school, you will probably be unemployed, or only qualified for only low-paying jobs, and hence, be poor. If you start having children in your mid-teens, and without the benefit of a committed husband/father, the odds are also excellent that you will drop out of school, be un- or underemployed and poor. The out-of-wedlock birth rate in the African American community is outrageous — nearly 68% (two and a half times the white community’s rate.) Unfortunately, that frequently means “Dad” is not around, and the children are being raised by single mothers, grandmothers, and so on.
The Brookings Institute produced its fairly famous three rules for avoiding poverty.

  • Finish high school
  • Don’t marry until 21 and don’t have children before marriage.
  • Have a full-time job.

It sounds simple. It is also clear that many young men and women of color are not following these guidelines.

I realize there are still external barriers that minorities will face. I won’t pretend it’s an entirely level playing field.  However, on an individual basis, none of these steps is all that difficult. For today’s young black teens, the right course is obvious. So how do you convince a generation of young people to actually act in their own best interest? I don’t think the answer is going to come from Washington or from people who look like me. The answer has to come from within the young people’s own community. Ultimately, you have to convince young African Americans (and young people of any ethnicity, for that matter) to stay in school and out of their boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s pants. That ethic must come from within the families and the community, not from a government program.

Yes, Dr. Johnson, the fight must go on, and there are still steps society in general can take. But for a significant part of the problem, the solution must come from within. Perhaps it is time for African American leaders to look to that great comic strip philosopher, Pogo.

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

‘Why don’t I have a mother?’

Last week it was same-sex-marriages. This week it is same-sex-parents.

I heard on NPR this morning that actor Neal Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) and his partner have gotten together with a surrogate mother to produce a set of twins (who are yet to be born.)

Neal Patrick Harris (l) and partner David Burtka

I’m not a homophobe. I really couldn’t care less what someone does in the privacy of their bedroom, so long as they aren’t hurting someone else. That’s the problem I have with this trend of gay and lesbian couples having children. There is potential harm.

I believe both mothers and fathers matter to children. Children absorb and learn different things from the different genders. In this case, why would you go through an incredible amount of effort and expense to create a child who will not have a mother? Did your mother not play an important part in your life? Why would you deny your child the benefit of having both a mother and a father?

The nephew of some of our friends went through the same process about a year ago. The two guys ended up with twin girls. While I’m sure these two guys will love and care for their daughters to the maximum extent of which they are capable, but they are limited biologically in what they can provide. Neither is female. The two girls will be raised without a mother or mother-figure. How will that affect the girls? I don’t know, but it can’t be ideal.

It seems like an incredible act of self indulgence. The same-sex parents get a baby to play with, but the child is the one who is missing one parent.

Of course, in today’s climate of “starter marriages,” “no-fault pregnancies” and high rates of divorce, missing parents are all too common with “straight” families.  The difference is that, usually, the parents do not plan to make it that way from the outset.

I feel the same about single women who elect to have a baby without benefit of a functioning father?  I don’t understand the benefit to the child of not having a father.  I guess some mothers really think you are going to be so good as a parent that they can fill both roles. Some of the time, and maybe even most of the time, many parents I know feel they stretching their abilities to handle one job, let alone two.

It may sound contradictory, but I don’t have any problem with gays or lesbians adopting children. Why? Because usually they are improving the lot of a child. By adopting, they are providing a child with a set of parents. While a male-female set of parents would be ideal, same-sex parents are better than no parents at all.

The question is simply this: In the grand scheme of things, is a would-be parent’s desire to have a child of greater importance than that child’s need for both a mother and a father? It’s something to think about.

Ironically, Harris is also the star of the CBS sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother.” That is one story he won’t have to tell his real-life kids.

Sometimes I hate it when I’m right

Mrs. Poolman frequently claims that I am arrogant, opinionated and judgmental. My response, somewhat tongue in cheek, is that it’s not an opinion when I am right. (Ha!)

The subject came up this weekend in the context of a young man who is a contemporary of our children and very well known to us. He has part-time custody of his school-age child. He moved the two of them in with his girl friend and her child.

I expressed the opinion (just to my wife)  that a couple should not enter into a “living together” arrangement if there are children involved, unless it is intended to be permanent (ie: marriage.) What adults do to each other is their own business, and as far as I am concerned they can mess up their lives as much as they want. However, when children are involved it is another story. They do not control their lives. They must go with the whims of their parents. Casual live-in arrangements that are “here today, gone tomorrow” do nothing for the child except cause unneeded anxiety and insecurity in the most basic foundation of a child’s life, their family unit.  (If they are involved in this kind of situation to begin with, their family picture is already fragile.) The together-part may be fine, but the break-up has got to suck.

We got a call last night. Our young friend and his girlfriend had a big fight this weekend. He packed up his child and moved them both back in with his mom.

Sometimes I hate it when I’m right.