Of course it was all in fun and there were no hard feelings between the two. But I found the conversation to be a curious one, mainly because I’ve seen a lot of middle class fathers dealing with sons who felt compelled to hide their middle class upbringing, with an effort to trade it in for something that lets them “keep it one-hun-it” (one hundred).
Most of the American public, and even the world, has formed this odd fascination with the hood ever since hip-hop emerged from the South Bronx many decades ago. The funny thing, to me, is that a lot of the people who love being “hood” at every opportunity have little understanding of just how difficult it is to live under those circumstances. As a wise friend of mine once said, “Everybody wants to be black until it’s time to be black.”
I was touched by Deion Sanders speaking to his son and appreciate the fact that his son took it in stride. For those who don’t think the fatherhood crisis is a serious problem, we have to realize that this is what good fathers do: Keep their sons in check. I receive countless complaints from single moms who claim that “My 17-year old son is out of control, I just don’t know what to do with him.”
When I hear about exhausted and frustrated single parents who don’t know what to do with their teen sons, the only thing I can think to suggest is to give them a strong male mentor/father figure. The ugly, awkward and uncomfortable truth that many of us fail to accept is that TEENAGE BOYS NEED FATHER FIGURES IN THEIR LIVES.
Even among adolescent elephants, a lack of male role models will cause young males to act out in various ways, namely with violence toward other animals. But when male role models are present, the elephants are controlled and less likely to behave in anti-social ways. Their mothers, as necessary as they are, can’t really do that; they’re just not built like their fathers.
The example I gave with elephants can also be applied to the young men I see on the South Side of Chicago. Many of these children, without fathers present in their lives, either turn to gang leaders for mentorship or find themselves behaving in ways that reflect anger and frustration toward the world around them. Many of their fathers are gone away to prison, forced into slave labor for the federal government. In fact, black males are the most incarcerated group of human beings on the entire planet. Our world is less safe when we let our society lock so many male role models in prison.
Another thing that I loved about Deion Sanders’s interaction with his son is that it reminded me of a similar conversation I had with my own father over a decade ago. I’d appeared on a television show with a rapper, and found myself flowing along a little too much with the conversation. Not that I was out of character, but I did let some things slide that I normally would have spoken out against in other circumstances. Maybe I was admittedly a little star struck and letting my “inner hood” come out.
After the show was over, I got a call from my father. He knew that I’d messed up and flat out told me: “As a black man, you should never co-sign on ignorance.”
My dad had checked me, the way a good father does. I was ashamed of my behavior, swallowed my pride, took it in stride, held my chin up and committed myself at that moment to being a better black man.
That’s what good fathers do and that’s what Deion Sanders was doing for his son. Way to go brother, I’m proud of you.
Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins