The Castaways — Young, Black Men

A young, black man showing his muscle during a small community program in Chicago.
A young, black man showing his muscle during a small community program in Chicago.

Like most of you, I’ve struggled to find meaning in the chaos of rioting among black communities of late for the murder of their boys. I know, as a mother, I’d be feeling the same hurt, anger and desperation. But what about the fathers? This is, perhaps, where the problem is rooted.

Back in 1954, a novel was written called The Lord of the Flies, and it was about a group of English school boys who crash landed on a deserted island, and all the adults perished in that crash. The boys, all from upper-middle class upbringings, tried to build a life on their own, but without any adult guidance, ended up turning on each other and became violent.

Could this be happening to young black men, too, who don’t have fathers or any adult men to mentor them? So many women these days are having children as single moms, either because the guy bailed on their commitment to them, or they truly believe they can raise children on their own.

I am no sociologist, or have experienced any of the kinds of bigotry these people have, so I can only speak from the heart of being a mother myself. I could never raise my two children as I have without the influence of my husband. Sure, there are plenty of women who have done it, but I am sure there were those days when they simply did not have the energy to pour what was needed into their kids. That is why having a mother and a father is so critical in child rearing. When mom gets tired, Dad can take over and vice-a-versa.

A father’s influence is very different from the mother because she tends to be the nurturer, and he is the playful one or the boss, when needed. He’ll get down on the floor to wrestle with the kids, take them fishing, or just be that stern voice when needed. My kids know when dad says it’s time to do something, it better be done in a timely fashion or there will be consequences. Good, healthy discipline is what I so desperately need as a guiding influence from my husband towards our kids. I tend to cave, and my children know that! When they want something, they usually ask me first. If I’m wise, I will say, “Let me talk to your dad about it.” Then they realize it may not be a done deal. My husband provides strong, moral guidance, and is a wonderful example of what a loving father should bring to a healthy family unit. There are numerous other ways in which my husband completes my parenting. We are a team, and the male and female influence on our kids is the whole picture of what it means to be human. Kids need both moms and dads to understand the complexities of their identity.

Black boys (and all kids) need their dads, or some male mentor, to help guide them into adulthood. Without the development of that gentlemanly influence as a moral compass, these young people have become castaways on a deserted island in the middle of our inner cities. We need to get life preservers out to them — we need good, strong male influences that will teach them how to climb board ship, and sail away from that deserted island experience to find the promised land.