June 12, 2014 8:56 am
by Yvette Carnell
In an interview with President Bush’s daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, President Obama admitted that “a lot of young men of color aren’t doing well” but yet again, demonstrated that he has little empirical understanding of the causes for that failure.
“The truth is, is that a lot of young men of color aren’t doing well. Partly because they don’t have dads in their lives. Partly because they don’t have networks of support. It’s important to me partly because, you know, I grew up without a dad, and you know, I know that I went through my own struggles,” said Obama.
“I made a decision in young adulthood that it was going to be important for me to make sure that I was there for my kids,” Obama added. “I’ve really tried to make sure that I didn’t miss parent-teacher conferences, that I didn’t miss the ballet recitals or the soccer games. I tried to be disciplined about if I’m in town, being home for dinner every single night, and I think it’s made a difference. You know the one thing the girls know about me is I love them to death.”
Fathers are important, but so is government. As Jamelle Bouie explained in The Daily Beast, so-called dead beat dads didn’t create the ghettos, government did:
Redlining is the practice of denying key services (like home loans and insurance) or increasing their costs for residents in a defined geographical area. In theory, this could be used against anyone. In reality, it was almost exclusively a tool to force blacks (and other minorities) into particular geographic areas. The practice began with the National Housing Act of 1934, which established the Federal Housing Administration, as well as the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. It was this agency which created “residential security maps” for several cities to determine the safety of real estate investments in selected areas.
You should already see where this is going: Existing black neighborhoods were lined as unsafe, and thus ineligible for financing. For prospective property owner, this was terrible: Absent cash on hand, there was no way to afford a home or a business in your area.
The result was staggering:
In short, redlining forced blacks into particular areas and then starved those areas of affordable capital. Combined with widespread job discrimination—which barred blacks from public employment and forced them into low-wage labor—you had neighborhoods that were impoverished by design.
And redlining is just one example out of many of how the U.S. government, not black
fathers, set the stage for what we are seeing now. As professor Michelle Alexander noted, white men are prepared to make billions from legalized pot while black men are languishing in prisons over low level pot sales.
And if you go back even further, Ira Katznelson does an excellent job of detailing how black people were intentionally omitted from FDR’s New Deal. The result was that immigrant whites were given a ladder up to the middle class while blacks remained in poverty, hence the wealth gap we still see today. It will take policy to correct that, not daddy getting home in time for dinner.
Listen, I know Father’s Day is coming, but for once, I’d appreciate it if Obama would stop trying to be the Daddy of Black America and behave as the President of the United States of America. I wish he would stop trying to be the daddy some black men never had and be the president they never had. What they need is an advocate in the White House, not someone to pat them on the head. This is about policy, something over which Obama has some control, or at least he should, not just fatherhood.