This is an excerpt from a December 25, 2012 Washington Times article:
“In every state, the portion of families where children have two parents, rather than one, has dropped significantly over the past decade. Even as the country added 160,000 families with children, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers”.
The article continues:
“In all but 11 states, most black children do not live with both parents. In every state, 7 in 10 white children do. In all states but Rhode Island and Massachusetts, most Hispanic children do. In Wisconsin, 77 percent of white children and 61 percent of Hispanics live with both parents, compared with more than 25 percent of black children”. (taken from the article-http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/25/fathers-disappear-from-households-across-america)
Did you catch that? Only around 25% of black children live with both parents; that means that 75% do not. That is a staggering, almost unbelievable statistic. When you take in consideration that in the 1960’s approximately 62% of children in the Black community live with both parents, it should clearly show the trend that is taking place; as well it should give us a sense of urgency about bringing some sort of resolution to the issue.
THE CORE PROBLEM
In February of 2012 a black teenager by the name of Trayvon Martin was shot dead by a man named George Zimmerman; this trial caused much debate and racial unrest. Many protest from all over the country rose up to protest the treatment of black males in America. Although many people pointed to racism and the targeting of young black males as the primary cause of this there is a much bigger issue that I would like to focus on.
Those that want to have an impact in urban areas need to be aware of the opportunities and challenges in the city, especially if they are from suburban and rural areas. One of the communities that seems to be the most distressed is the African American community. In the last several years, images of violence, incarceration, and lack of opportunity have plagued the African American community. I want to examine the possible reasons for the increase in these consequences in the community as well as examining some solutions.
President Obama even made a public statement regarding the case. On June 19, 2013 the president told CNN, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago”. The implication was that senseless violence perpetrated against young black males is more common than many would want to believe. Ironically in that same year Chicago, the president’s hometown, led the nation in homicides (fbi.gov). Of the 500 murders in the city well over 300 of them were black males.
Herbert confirms, “Gun violence is increasing at an alarming rate. Herbert (2009) points out that Americans have killed about 120,000 of their fellow Americans since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 200−nearly 25 times the number of Americans killed to date in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dozens of boys and girls school-age and younger are murdered in Chicago alone every year”. Most of the victims are children of color.
Aside from the violence that takes place in the AA community there are many other problems that they are faced with as well. Poverty, lack of education, high incarceration rates, etc. are all evident in the community. Violence is the culmination of many other underlying issues. I would like to look at one of the primary factors that I think helps precipitate these issues.
I believe that fatherlessness is the #1 factor plaguing the black community. By looking at the role that fathers play in the lives of young men, I do not believe that there is any coincidence in the high rate of these negative statistics that are plaguing the community.
J.M. Perkins defines three of the universal needs that communities are built around. These three include; the need “to belong”, the need “to be significant and important-to be somebody”, the need “to have reasonable amount of security”. Fathers play a significant role in the development of these needs in young people.
There is a significant amount of the statistical data that confirms that households in which the father is absent demonstrate a significantly higher pattern of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, decreased physical and emotional health, as well as low educational achievement. Households in which fathers are absent also show an increase in adolescent and teen violence.
In the lives of boys, dad is his hero. A young boy looks up to his dad; young men tend to want to follow in dad’s footsteps. Boys traditionally tend to equate dad’s capabilities to their own. Consider areas in which young men have fathers that are incarcerated. Many of them end up incarcerated because subconsciously they have identified with their father’s identity. That is how God intended it to be, obviously this was meant for positive development and not negative.
Fathers are supposed to help develop self-worth and give guidance. Young men believe that they can achieve great things if their father has instilled that in them. Whenever dads are not around to validate them and to lead them into their purpose, they receive that validation from other sources. Drugs, incarceration, and criminal behaviors can result from absentee fathers.
We can see that, “Children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes. The influence of a father’s involvement extends into adolescence and young adulthood. Numerous studies find that an active and nurturing style of fathering is associated with better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement among adolescents” (childwelfare.gov).
It is vitally important that in urban ministry we never minister from a place of condemnation. However, we have to be honest and look at cause and effect. There is no coincidence in that the communities with the highest rate of incarceration, lowest academic performance, highest poverty rate, and the highest mortality rates also have the highest rates of unwed pregnancies and lowest percentage of fathers living in the household.
In the year 2014 for instance, Baltimore, Md. Had one of the highest homicide rates in the country. During that same time, it is reported that only 16% of teens in Baltimore City lived in a household with a mother and a father (Barkoukis, 2015).
Community leaders must offer a multi-faceted approach to combat the devastating effects of fatherlessness. As with anything, we only shine a spotlight on the issue of broken families and lack of fatherlessness to move into a place of wholeness. God never wants us to focus on dysfunctional situations to make people feel condemnation, these issues arise so that we can address that problem and move from dysfunction to wholeness.
I specifically use the term “wholeness” as opposed to “functional”. Wholeness implies a healthy stable situation. Functionality implies that we can manage our situations. There are many single family or blended family circumstances that are functional; our goal is to operate at a healthy level.
As we look to make an impact on the urban community it must be done with an emphasis on the re-establishment of the spirit of fatherhood. Obviously we cannot force the biological fathers to go back into their rightful place in the lives of the families; therefore, a ministry focus should include a type of surrogate fatherhood, also known as mentoring.
Male mentors help fill in the void left by the absence of positive male role models in the community. Not only can these mentors help to stabilize the young males by connecting with them as well as teaching them the basic fundamentals of manhood. One of the greatest demonstrations of Christ’s love is a person that commits to the spiritual development of a young person that is not their own. Just as Jesus brought in the spirit of adoption, mentoring fills a similar purpose.
Mentors can help fill the needs outlined by many experts because a mentor must have a buy in to the community. The mentor should live in the same community as those that he is mentoring. The mentor will also act as a spiritual guide for those that he impacts. He will help to reconcile the community back to God through His evangelistic efforts, patterning Jesus in his good works towards the community.
Matthew 17:While Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”
Taken from the upcoming book, “Cultivating Connectivity within a Fatherless Enviroment” written by Dr Joseph L Green Jr, PH.D. (July 2016)