2016 | Week of August 15 | #1164
Fatherlessness is epidemic in our country, and we are reaping the consequences.
Recent statistics tell us over 20 million children are living in homes without their fathers. That’s pretty abstract; so let’s get closer to home. In Milwaukee 7 out of 10 African-American children in our state’s largest city are in single-parent homes with the vast majority of those parents being single mothers. That figure corresponds pretty closely to the statistic that tells us 85% of babies born in Milwaukee are born to single moms.
This is a recipe for disaster. Here’s the reality. Fatherless children are significantly more likely to live in poverty, abuse drugs and alcohol, commit suicide, experience psychological problems, score lower than the norm in reading and math, drop out of school, engage in premarital sexual activity, exhibit violent behavior, be involved in crime, and be incarcerated.
One of the most frightening aspects of fatherlessness is its generational nature. Children reared in homes without fathers tend to repeat it in their own lives, perpetuating and almost ensuring the cycle continues. This cycle is destroying individual lives and even entire communities.
Want proof? Just look at what happened in Milwaukee this past weekend. Of course I don’t know the background of everyone who participated in that riot, but I do know the neighborhood where it happened. And I think the statistics I just cited would be borne out if we could interview every person involved—from the original perpetrator to those involved in the resulting mayhem and destruction.
The 23 year-old African-American man killed Saturday night, Sylville Smith, appears to, tragically, bear out the statistics. Apparently, at some point Smith’s mom and dad were married, which is good. But in an interview with the dad, we learn he wasn’t always in the home nor was he a good role model. But he does take some responsibility for what happened with his son, who by the way, had his own 2-year-old son—showing the cyclical nature of this plight.
Patrick Smith says, “I had to blame myself for a lot of things too because your hero is your dad and I played a very big part in my family’s role model for them. Being on the street, doing things of the street life: Entertaining, drug dealing and pimping and they’re looking at their dad like ‘he’s doing all these things.’ I got out of jail two months ago, but I’ve been going back and forth in jail and they see those things so I’d like to apologize to my kids because this is the role model they look up to. When they see the wrong role model, this is what you get.”
Yes, sadly and tragically, this is what you get when fathers aren’t in the home being good role models. It’s encouraging to know this dad knew his son and his son knew him. That’s certainly better than in some instances. It’s also good that Mr. Smith recognizes his part in this tragedy and is speaking out. Hopefully, it’s not too late for his other children. It is too late for Sylville. Instead of teaching his son how real men appropriately deal with anger, competition, relationships and responsibility, Mr. Smith was on the street or in jail.
I wish the Smith family were an exception, an abnormality, an anomaly, a weird blip. But they aren’t. If we want to know what rampant fatherlessness looks like, we need look no further than Milwaukee. The headlines on most weekends show it pretty clearly, and situations like this past weekend show it in living color and sharp focus.
That’s not how real men deal with frustration and disappointment or even hurt. But communities where dads are absent don’t know differently. Their young men in particular are easy prey for gangs, hoodlums, pimps and any other unsavory sort.
The tragedies will continue until we take seriously the importance of marriage and child-bearing in that order. That’s easy to write and very difficult to do today. A good starting point is with churches and ministry leaders. They need to be marriage champions and not condone or wink at immorality. They must lead by example as well as in their preaching and teaching, letting the men know being a father is a high and holy calling.
May God grant families and churches in particular wisdom as they seek to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.
For Wisconsin Family Council, this is Julaine Appling reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed. for lack of knowledge.”