Ending Black Fatherlessness Should Be a Priority…

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Nearly a decade ago, Charles Barkley made it known that all he wanted to do for his fans was play ball for them – and not play daddy to their children.

Said Sir Charles: “I’m not a role model … just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

To some, Barkley’s remark was heavier on arrogance than on wisdom. But to me, it reflected a simple truth that black parents should take to heart. That truth being that no matter what, they should ensure that they are the people  who their children look up to; that nothing should force them to abdicate their influence over their children.

As the Bishop Eddie Long scandal unfolds, that truth ought to ring especially loud.

Known for his pro-money and anti-gay rhetoric, Long has headed one of the nation’s top mega-churches – New Birth Missionary Baptist Church near Atlanta – for two decades. But four young men who he once mentored recently filed sexual misconduct charges against him.

According to the lawsuits, the men claim that when they were teenagers, Long performed a secret ceremony with them in which he proclaimed them his “spiritual sons.”

As one of Long’s spiritual sons, the men claim that he lavished them with cars, clothes and jewelry, and flew them around the world on his private jet. But, they claim, that all those niceties came with a price.

They had to submit to Long sexually.

Some say that Long urged them to call him Daddy, and told them that sex with him was a natural part of spiritual life.

And if those charges indeed prove to be true – so far, Long has not outright denied them – the fact that those young men had to depend on an outsider to act as their father probably had a lot to do with why they fell for that deception.

Three of the men had no father in their lives, while one had strained relations with his.

And this scandal should be a reminder that, for all the talk about finding role models and mentors for black boys, the emphasis ought to be turned back to combating black fatherlessness – and equipping black men with whatever tools they need to rear their own children.

That’s important because, as the Long scandal illustrates and as Sir Charles said more than a decade ago, that job isn’t one that ought to be left to strangers.

More than half of all black children are being reared by their mothers, and reams of research shows that growing up without a father, or without the presence of a father, puts black children more at risk of growing up poor, dropping out of school and committing crimes.

Given those odds, it’s easy to understand how a black mother would look to her pastor to fulfill the role of father in her son’s life. And most pastors would not use their authority to sexually exploit their charges.

But even so, it speaks to the fact that a pastor or a spiritual leader – or anyone else, for that matter – ought to augment the guidance and the love that a child’s real father ought to be providing. The real father, in fact, ought to be the one to help his son understand his sexuality and show him what a healthy relationship looks like.

Had that been the case here, no man of God would ever have been able to get away with telling a boy that sex with him had anything to do with spirituality.

Also, a real daddy would have asked some hard questions about why Long was flying his teenage son around the world by private jet several times a year.

Perhaps there were questions. But when boys have no fathers in their lives, and someone as powerful as Long steps up to the plate, it’s easy to be blinded by desperation as well as bling.

And preacher bling isn’t that much different from athlete or rapper bling – it blinds people to reality.

A reality that says that our incessant hunting for role models, rather than battling fatherlessness, could cause more black children to wind up as prey.

Written By Tonyaa Weathersbee