Absence of active fathers is destroying our youth

bridgingthegapA biweekly column in which various contributors from both sides of prison walls explore common ground for effecting change.



Only those of us who understand the community’s needs can help

In every major city in America there is a public outcry pleading for someone to do something about the ridiculously high crime rates that plague our communities. As these crime rates incessantly grow, it has become commonplace to put the onus on the younger generation while we “sit back” and shake our heads in disappointment as we watch far too many of them speed down the road of destruction.

To such a degree as to be regrettable, we have a tendency to depend on the justice system to discipline “our” youth. In reality, though, the most effective disciplinarians are and always have been the men… the fathers in our community.

First and foremost, in collaboration with a mother there is absolutely nothing as beneficial to a child’s overall wellbeing as the presence and guidance of a spiritually, mentally and emotionally stable father. Unfortunately, in our communities we are utterly lacking that essential piece of the foundation that strengthens the family structure.

The absence of that key piece leaves a deep-rooted emptiness that is oftentimes filled with self-esteem and identity issues, loneliness, and discouragement, which ultimately engenders a distorted viewpoint of the world, accompanied by a false sense of who they really are as a person.

One underlying problem that contributes to the discouragement and loneliness that today’s younger generation may be feeling is the fact that the vast majority of the older men in our communities have already given up on them. They would rather publicly criticize and slander our young men and women under the premise that they won’t listen and therefore cannot be reached.

One common school of thought that seems to permeate our communities is this notion that our youth have gotten so far out of control that they cannot be reached, and the only practical solution is to let the “proper authority” handle them. When will we realize that the so-called “proper authority” is a justice system with a Catch-22 agenda whose only practical solution to the problems that plague our communities is to liberally hand down long prison sentences, leaving in their wake the next generation of fatherless fathers.

The biggest misconception that we have about our young men and women is that they won’t listen. One sad reality is that there are not enough real men trying to reach them by engaging them in conversation and playing an active role in their lives.

An even sadder reality is that music, television, video games and cell phones are more active in the lives of the vast majority of the kids in our community than are their fathers or positive male role models. The main reason that young men gravitate toward gang culture is because the other gang members, no matter how much of a negative influence they are, play active roles in their lives.

It’s time for us as men to stop being so scared of our kids and play an active role in their transition to adulthood. We owe it to ourselves, our ancestors, and future generations to break the monotony of not coming together as one unified community with a common goal to educate, inspire, and promote the growth of our youth.

When we finally realize that we are the only ones who truly understand our community, it is then that we will realize that we are the only ones who can help our community.


Mario Jackson Sr. is a participant in Voices for Racial Justice’s “Bridging the Gap” partnership. Reader responses are welcome to info@voicesforracialjustice.org. To learn more about the organization’s work, visit www.voicesforracialjustice.org.