Charita Goshay: Obama won't ignore 'dirty laundry'

Charita Goshay

What does it say about our culture when a politician’s challenge to men to step up to their parental responsibilities is viewed as “risky?”

On Father’s Day, Sen. Barack Obama admonished absentee black fathers for neglecting their children. Some pundits fret that Obama is drifting into dangerous waters, resulting in a backlash from black voters who already may harbor doubts about his authenticity and who may view such talk as appeasement to whites.

Obviously, these are people who have never met a struggling, single black mother or a fatherless teenage boy who doesn’t even realize why he’s mad at the world.

Dirty laundry

Any time a black public figure points out what the black community clearly can see for itself, there are inevitable murmuring about airing “dirty laundry.”

But a 70-percent illegitimacy rate, a double-digit dropout rate and crowded jails is proof -- for all the world to see -- of what can happen when you don’t deal with your dirty laundry.

While the number of young black men (18-24) enrolled in college still outnumbers those in prison, Bureau of Justice statistics show that black men still constitute 40 percent of all inmates; more than six times higher than their overall population of 6 percent.

That’s a lot of missing fathers.

In 1965, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan was flayed by liberals over his now-prophetic Labor Department report, which warned that the black family was in eminent danger of disintegration as a result of a “social pathology” fueled by illegitimacy -- a damning legacy from slavery -- welfare dependence, and unemployment. Accused of blaming the victims, Moynihan however, also called upon the federal government to develop policies to strengthen public education and reduce black unemployment.

No panacea

Now, we know a father’s presence is not an end-all panacea for the world’s social ills. Adolf Hitler had two parents, as did Osama bin Laden. And how many instances have we seen where children were abused and murdered by their fathers?

We also know of people with loving and involved fathers, yet they still turned out to be knuckleheads because ultimately your choices are your own.

However, the evidence is indisputable. By and large, children whose fathers play an active role in their lives are better off for it. They do better in school, are less apt to get into trouble and have a better sense of self.

Obama, who was raised by a divorced mother, understands firsthand the searing scar that a father’s abandonment can leave upon a child’s psyche. Though he was fortunate to have supportive grandparents, he has been on a lifelong search for the kind of identity that children with two loving parents take for granted.

Simply by virtue of his gender, a good father contributes to his child’s upbringing in ways a mother cannot, no matter how conscientious she may be. It’s been said that you can’t miss something you never had, but not in the case when you’re know you’re supposed to have it.

You can reach Repository writer Charita Goshay at (330) 580-8313 or e-mail: