In a recent (you guessed it) Fox News interview
, Milwaukee County Sheriff, David Clarke, talking about issues of police brutality and murder, declared that poor policing wasn't the problem, but absentee black fathers. Few lines are more popular with the conservative white media than this one. It not only fully absolves them from any responsibility, but places the full and complete blame for a very complex issue on the backs of a group Fox News doesn't really love that much anyway. Here's David Clarke:
“The discussion we need to be having and the NAACP can lead it — stay off the police — is why is the stuff happening, and what are we going to do about it,” he continued. “The number one cause of this is father-absent homes. So what are we going to do in terms of having more effective parenting, more role modeling, more engaged fathers in the lives of these young black men so that we don’t have this behavior.”
I honestly have to take a few deep breaths and have a "woosah" moment before I can even respond to such simplistic foolishness. First off, let me say that all parents should be great parents—regardless of race. Great parents, I will agree, play an amazing role in the lives of their children. This much is obvious. However, for Sheriff Clarke to reduce the issue of police brutality to one that would all but disappear if black fathers stepped their game up is completely ridiculous.
When Harvard Professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates was arrested on the doorstep of his home, was that because his father wasn't handling his business? When NY Times columnist Charles Blow revealed that police unjustly pulled a gun on his son, a biology student at Yale, because they thought he fit the bill of a suspect, was that because Charles wasn't really handling daddy duty properly? When Amadou Diallo was killed at his doorstep by the NYPD because they thought his wallet was a gun, was that because he didn't play enough baseball with his father?
Get real. In prominent case after case in the murder of black men, absentee dads have NOTHING to do with it.
Ron Davis, father of the slain Florida teenager Jordan Davis, was an amazing dad. Tracy Martin, father of another slain Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin, was as close with his son as a father could be. Mike Brown, Sr., father of slain Missouri teenager Mike Brown, was not an absentee father. In fact, weeks before his death, Mike Jr. served as best man in the wedding of Mike Sr.
Was Tamir Rice really shot and killed by Officer Timothy Loehmann because Tamir's father wasn't active in his life, or because Loehmann was so inept an officer that he was fired by his previous force for poor gun training, emotional instability, dishonesty, and more?
Aiyanna Jones, VonDerrit Myers, Ramarley Graham, and Kendrick Johnson - young black victims, all had very active fathers in their lives.
Not only that, but a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics actually determined, contrary to the stereotype, that Black fathers are more likely to be active in their kids lives than dads from all other ethnic groups.
Here's the thing—having an amazing father is great, but it's not bulletproof to police harassment, brutality, or murder. It won't keep overzealous citizens with guns like George Zimmerman or Michael Dunn from killing black boys they don't like or trust. None of this is to say that we shouldn't always advocate for great parenting, but the reason London and all of the United Kingdom has less than one half of one percent of the police murders of the United States is not because fathers there are exponentially more active, to the factor of 10, in the lives of their kids. The parenting problems of Americans are not uniquely American, but the policing problems are—and the answers and solutions are a hell of a lot more complex than boosting the quality of black dads.