Sunday, June 15, 2014

Something's Gotta Give

After reaching the Western Conference finals of the NBA last season, the Memphis Grizzlies fired, then Had Coach, Lionel Collins. This season, upon losing their leader and father figure, they struggled and barely make the final spot in the western conference playoffs.
 After making the playoffs the past 2 seasons for the first time in over 10 yrs, the Golden State Warriors recently fired Head Coach Mark Jackson. Will they digress next season after losing their father figure?

So today is Father's Day. A day set aside to celebrate and Honor our Fathers and Father figures.
The scripture encourages us to “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2-3 NKJV)

We are all called to honor our father and mother with the promise to live long and be well. I'd like to use this particular scripture to focus on men, if I may.
Is it possible that the lifespan of our men are shortened because, for the most part, we only honor our mothers? Think about the black community, men are usually raised by our mothers, taught by our mothers, and guided by our mothers. As a result, we only celebrate and honor our mothers. The last 3 MVP's of the National Basketball Association gave heartfelt, compelling acceptance speeches. They acknowledged their fans, teammates, coaching staff, and those who supported them along their journey to this remarkable achievement. The common thread in all three speeches was the deep felt gratitude for their mothers. I don't recall any celebration or honoring of their fathers. And this is the case with most of our black entertainers. From sports, to music, to film/tv, the consistent statement of gratitude is "I wanna thank my mama."   

There's a small fraction of us celebrating our fathers in public because there's a small fraction of our fathers present in the privacy of our homes.....Something's Gotta Give.

Paul, the author of Ephesians lets us know that honoring both our father and mother is the first commandment with a promise. The promise is that your days will be long. Not only long, but fulfilled. I'm fully persuaded that a large percentage of black men are unfulfilled and experiencing premature death because of the alarming rate of absentee fathers in the household.  
As men of color, how are we supposed to honor our fathers, when most of us don't know what our father's look like? How do we honor someone we occasionally see on holidays? How do we honor a person we have little or no relationship with? Is it fair to honor who you don't know? 
I believe we've lost the promise of long life because we've lost the presence of fathers. 
Certainly the reasons for the absence of a father varies. Some fathers are simply dead beats; No involvement whatsoever. While some are wildly inconsistent with their co-parenting responsibility. This sometimes leaves the mother no choice but to painfully pull the plug on the relationship all together, because the father's inconsistent presence proves to be more painful than his departure. (Read Day 1 of "31 Days of Wisdom" by Dr. Jonathan Shaw.)

For this particular post, I'd like to illuminate mass incarceration as a reason for absentee fathers. We have entirely too many of our black and Latino men behind bars. 

According to the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, in 2008, US prisons were comprised of 58% African American & Hispanic males. How is that possible when we only make up approximately 25% of the US population?
 If this country invested more funds into mental health care than the penal system, I strenuously believe we'd have more of our men raising families than raising bail. The Fact Sheet states that about 70 billion dollars are spent on corrections yearly. Prisons and jails consume a growing portion of the nearly $200 billion we spend annually on public safety. From the way I look at it, a portion of these funds should be allocated toward mental health care for the sake of rehabilitation. What "offenders" need is rehabilitation. Prison has not been proven as a rehabilitation for behavior, as two-thirds of prisoners, history shows, will reoffend. 
HELLO US of A!!! Direct some of these funds toward mental health and quit expanding the prison system!

Mass incarceration reflects the old caste system of slavery. Yes we were oppressed and forced into free labor. But on a larger scale, this system separated Men from their families, which in turn, destroyed the family nucleus. From slavery, we transitioned into another caste called Jim Crow. Pay close attention to the correlation between Jim Crow and present day mass incarceration. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were denied the right to vote & participate in jury service, discriminated against in opportunities for education & employment, legally denied housing, food stamps, and other public benefits.
According to Michelle Alexander's  "The New Jim Crow", mass incarceration serves as a redesigned racial caste system that seems to be history repeating.
Once labeled a felon in present day United States, a criminal is subject to the same legalized discrimination as during Jim Crow. A felon is denied the right to vote & participate in jury service, discriminated against in opportunities for education & employment, legally denied housing, food stamps, and other public benefits.
From me personally knowing drug dealers, some who I call brothers, I can understand how some of them choose to remain involved  with illegal activity to provide for their families. Please understand that I am in no way shape or form advocating this lifestyle. What I am saying, unapologetically, is that if I was involved in drug trafficking and had a felony attached to my name, and was legally discriminated against in public benefits that affords me the opportunity to excel and provide for my family, I would stay right in the drug business and milk it for every dollar it's worth. The risk factor would be a possible return to prison.
This was the mindset behind the Reagan administrations "War on Drugs". I'm highlighting drugs among other forms of criminal activity because, since 1982 when Ronald Reagan officially announced the "Drug War", drug convictions have accounted for the majority of the increase of the US penal population. In less than 30 years the numbers grew from 300,000 to 2 million impacting from the drug war. 

In "The New Jim Crow" Michelle Alexander informs us that "The racial dimension of mass incarceration is it's most striking feature. No other country in the world imprisons so many of it's racial or ethnic minorities. The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of the apartheid. In Washington, D.C., our nations capitol, it is estimated that 3 out of 4 young black men (and nearly all those in the poorest neighborhoods) can expect to serve time in prison. Similar rates of incarceration can be found in black communities across America. 
These stark disparities cannot be explained by rates of drug crime. Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkable similar rates. If there are significant differences in the surveys to be found, they frequently suggest that whites, particularly white youth, are more likely to engage in drug crime than people of color. That is not what one would guess, however, when entering our nations prisons and jails, which are overflowing with black and brown drug offenders. In some states, black men have been admitted to prison on drug charges at rates twenty to fifty times greater than those of white men. And in major cities wracked by the drug war, as many as 80 percent of young African American men now have criminal records and are this subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives. These young men are part of a growing undercaste, permanently locked up and locked out if mainstream society."

With these alarming stats and historical facts in mind, Something's Gotta Give!
Our men need to be home raising FAMILIES, not raising hell in prison.
Mass incarceration keeps our homes imbalanced, which in turn, keeps us from the promise from Ephesians of a long life. If we want to see a generation of young men that will live with integrity and purpose, past the age of 21, there has to be a solution to keep our men in the homes, to lead and guide our young men on how to live Life on Purpose. 

I'm in total solidarity with the movement to #BringBackOurGirls. Today, I sound the alarm to #BringBackOurFathers

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