This week I would like to share an abbreviated article by former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia John Anderson, published in The Australian: “Black lives matter, but dads should matter first”. John’s main thesis is that most of the problems in our society, among both white and black, can be traced back to the Fatherless epidemic sweeping our Western world in particular.
My wife and I have spent a lot of time (over three decades) in Indigenous communities, and our observation is that fatherlessness and family breakdown is a major issue. In fact, it was Indigenous Elder Ps Ronnie Williams who inspired the founding of Dads4Kids.
To get the full story, I encourage you to watch John Anderson’s videos, especially his interview with Warren Farrell. Both videos are exceptionally good. Here is an excerpt from John Anderson’s article:
Black Lives Matters as a movement has played fast and loose with the facts regarding police brutality. The Washington Post police killings database shows that African-Americans are far more likely to be killed by other African-Americans and that last year, out of 56 unarmed Americans killed by police officers, 15 were African-Americans.
Yet could the Black Lives Matter movement have gained such traction if there was nothing at all wrong in the African-American community? It’s doubtful.
However, merely appealing to racism to explain inequality and high levels of incarceration among African-American men hasn’t proved to be very helpful over the years. In fact, there’s more to the story: it’s a problem with men in general, and African-American men are bearing the brunt of it. The problem is fatherlessness, and it’s increasingly being recognised not only as the greatest problem facing African-Americans, but America itself.
There can be no doubt that today many men are feeling a mixture of confusion and self-doubt, which is spiraling into a crisis of confidence about what it is to be a man. The explosive success of Jordan Peterson’s writings and lecture tours, much of which speaks to men struggling to find their role in the face of often virulent criticism, testifies to this. I have had the great honour of coming to know Peterson and it was he who personally introduced me to Warren Farrell.
Farrell is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met, and I was delighted to interview him recently for my video podcast Conversations series. Farrell, once recognised as America’s most famous male feminist, is now also one of America’s most well-known and respected experts on what he and his famous co-author John Gray call The Boy Crisis — the title of their recent book.
Farrell remains a feminist and a political progressive. On family issues, however, he’s more conservative and is deeply concerned by the disastrous social impact of the disintegration of the family over the past 40 years.
Speaking to Farrell at his home in California, I was deeply impressed by his mastery of the facts and figures and also by his genuine concern for the largely silent plight of men. With the decline of the family and traditionally male-dominated industries — manufacturing, mining, farming — we have inherited a serious problem for men, what Farrell and Gray call the “purpose void”.
Men without purpose are easily manipulated by charismatic men who can make them feel important. In our age of deep and wide social division, the last thing we need is a generation of men who can be manipulated by fringe militant ideological movements, right or left.
In the US, for example, men aged between 25 and 31 are 66 per cent more likely than women to be living with their parents. The prison population has increased by more than 700 per cent between 1973 and 2013. Of that population, 93 per cent are male and disproportionately young. Every day, 150 workers die from hazardous working conditions, and 92 per cent of them are male. By the eighth grade, 41 per cent of girls are at least proficient in writing, while only 20 per cent of boys are. A large study from Britain finds that boys’ IQs have dropped by about 15 points since the 1980s.
To return to the above figure of 93 per cent for male incarceration, Warren and Gray make a simple but devastating point: “We often allow that the disproportionate percentage of young black men in prison may reflect our racism, but rarely contemplate whether, since the other half of ‘black men’ is ‘men’, it may also reflect our sexism.”
The diagnosis is confronting. “The most important single crisis in developed countries,” write Farrell and Gray, is “dad-deprived children and especially dad-deprived boys.”
Speaking again of the US, Farrell and Gray show that a staggering 85 per cent of US youths in prison grew up in a fatherless home. Ninety per cent of US male prisoners are dad-deprived, as are 85 per cent of mass shooters. The link between the health of the family and crime is also strong.
In 1965, 25 per cent of African American families were dad-deprived; today this is about 75 per cent, with about 33 per cent of white families being dad-deprived. Farrell points out that researchers have shown mothers are good at setting boundaries, but fathers are better at enforcing them. In other words, huge populations of children are brought up without firm boundaries. The evidence is conclusive: vast numbers spiral into dysfunctional living, even crime.
On top of all this, Warren and Gray show that the absence of a father leads to both boys and girls having problems in about 50 areas of life, including health, education, discipline, and self-esteem, but boys will have those problems more severely. And here is the terrible reality, according to Farrell and Gray: “When boys are hurt, they hurt us — physically, psychologically and economically…”
As African-American professor and expert on race and policing in the US Wilfred Riley points out: “The black community endured slavery, at least in the south, endured Jim Crow. The crack era and so on down the line.” But Riley points out that, now: “Fatherlessness is the biggest problem … The biggest problem among all groups in America…”
But until the African-American family is restored, young men will find meaning and purpose in crime, and black men will continue to kill black men. The father void needs to be filled.
If we really believe that black lives matter then we must become equally convinced that black fathers matter. Or better still: all fathers matter.
Spend some time having fun with your children this week. Children spell love = TIME.
Yours for our Children,
PS: Dads4Kids is running another Courageous 8 Week Online Fathering Course
Monday 8PM 19 October 2020 (First night 7:30PM for Registration)
Check out the Courageous promo video.
Space is limited so be quick as spots will book out fast.
Bookings close: Midnight Friday 16 October 2020
For more information, contact Paul Lassig: 0412 418 498