Tuesday, May 09, 2006
I wrote the following article for the Philadelphia Daily News back in 1996.
Scary as it seems, and as much as I hate to admit it; it's still relevant today almost ten years later.
"If Our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all" ~Pearl S. Buck
"Forty dollars a week?" The young man sitting before me seemed stupefied. "But how can I Live if you take $40 a week out of my check?"
I wanted to grab him and shake the Tommy Hilfiger shirt, and Karl Kani boots right off of his body. I wasn't negotiating the terms of paying back a loan, nor was I talking about a delinquent parking ticket. What I had just explained to the young man was the terms of his child suppport order and his obligation that came with it.
As a hearing officer who presided over support hearings, I always wondered when I would reach my breaking point. As I sat there looking at the young man, with his natty designer clothes, his fresh $20 dollar haircut and his overall vainglorious attitude, I couldn't help but think that this was it, I had finally reached that point.
Rather than give in to my emotions, I tried to reason with the young man. I tried to explain to him that his child support obligation is the most important responsibility he would ever have. That $6 a day would never be enough for his child's needs, and the emotional support that it takes to raise a child could never be measured in dollars and cents. I might as well have been talking to the wall. Clearly I wasn't going to change years of negative indoctrination, and a cycle of single parenthood in twenty minutes. In this young man's world, wearing the right clothes and looking fresh was more important than spending the money needed to raise his child.
I thought of all the problems facing American cities----crime, drugs, high unemployment, and the lack of proper schools- and it was easy for me to come up with a common denominator for all of them. Most, if not all of these problems started with the break down of the family structure. I thought of all the unanswered questions that come when a society is faced with such problems. How can you love your child if your father never loved you? How can you respect another human being (a total stranger) if you can't respect the one you created? It dawned on me right then and there, that until we can start reaching young men like the one that was sitting in my court room, we would continue to have these problems in our society. The urban violence and senseless killings will continue, until we find a way to reach these lost souls.
I have never been a big supporter of the republican party. Like most people of color I have often seen them as being too uncaring and insensitive to the underclass. But I must confess, that I agreed more with Bob Dole than Hillary Clinton on this issue. A village cannot raise our children. What it takes is not a village, but individual responsibility, a strong sense of family, and the proper support system from those who brought them here. We have depended on the village and the institutions of the village --- such as our schools, the welfare system, and our police departments - to raise and look out for our children far too long. What we need now is less dead beats in our villages bringing precious children into the world. Children, who at the end of the day, will have no shot at the type of life they deserve. For this, they can thank the uncaring actions of someone who should have been a parent to them from the very outset, but who chose to take the selfish way out.
Now all of this is really starting to piss me off, because these deadbeats are making my village harder and harder to live in.
Posted by field negro at 10:19 PM