About Jesse

Posted: Jan 25, 2001 12:00 AM
Now we know. Rev. Jesse Jackson's admission that he fathered a child out of wedlock helps to answer the big question. Why does the so-called black leadership fail to fight the No. 1 problem facing the black community: children having children? In his statement acknowledging an extra-marital affair resulting in the birth of a daughter, Jackson said, "I was born of these circumstances, and I know the importance of growing up in a nurturing, supportive and protected environment. So I am determined to give my daughter and her mother the privacy they both deserve." Jackson also said he provides "emotional and financial support" to the mother and their daughter. Flashback to 1970. Sociology 101: My college freshman class read a highly controversial book by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, later the Democratic senator for the state of New York. His book, "The Negro Family: A Case for National Action," made an argument many considered racist -- that the rising number of black children born outside of wedlock threatens the stability of the black community. The nearly all-liberal, predominantly white class went bonkers. They taunted Moynihan, calling him "Racist," "Eurocentric," "Patriarchal," as well as one who subscribes to "middle-class values." But now we know. Since Lyndon Johnson's so-called War on Poverty, government taxpayers "invested" trillions of dollars, much of it designed to "alleviate poverty." The result? In the last 30 years, the black poverty rate stagnated, while the percentage of black children born outside of wedlock exploded from 25 percent to nearly 70 percent. What, no marches, no picketing, no sit-ins?! The absence of a father in the home increases the odds of a child going on welfare, dropping out of school, getting involved in crime, or becoming a teen parent. Did Rev. Jackson's situation, and his possible concern about the revelation of his out-of-wedlock child, cause him to pull his punches on this disturbing phenomenon? Certainly we place Jackson -- as an adult with resources -- in a different category than a teenager impregnating another teenager, after which the male often abandons his spiritual, emotional and financial obligations. The president of the NAACP, Kweisi Mfume, fathered five children out of wedlock. Like Jackson, he says that he supported and remained involved in the children's lives. But because of his past, does Mfume, like Jackson, spend more time pursuing the Great White Bigot at the expense of far more pressing issues of personal responsibility? In 1911, Booker T. Washington said, "There is (a) class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs -- partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs ... " And, "There is a certain class of race problem-solvers who don't want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public." Hm-mm. Rev. Jackson frequently complains about the income and net worth gap between blacks and whites. But the employment rate for married black men approaches parity with that of married white men. And, for welfare recipients, the quickest and easiest route out of poverty remains marriage. Men who father children and then take a hike create the moral equivalent of a drive-by shooting. Jackson, Mfume, and other "black leaders" could and should lead the charge. But they don't. Think tanks like the
Heritage Foundation, as well as many government studies, reach the same conclusion: dads matter. Black columnist Jonetta Rose Barras wrote, "At 13, my older sister was pregnant and unmarried. I followed in her footsteps, becoming pregnant at 17, continuing a series of bad choices. My older brother had already begun his walk down his own crooked road, getting arrested by the time he was 16 on a half-dozen occasions for petty crimes. We were linked by fatherlessness. None of us knew it then, but the loss of our father through divorce ravaged our lives. It took two decades to discover fatherlessness was at the core of my vandalized childhood and resulting adult dysfunction." Reconciling Jackson's behavior with his wife is Jackson's business, for he is an adult who acknowledges his paternity and who possesses resources for the child's welfare. But what about the inner-city 15-year-old who gets pregnant by a 19-year-old "inseminator"? It may be hard for a Jesse Jackson or a Kweisi Mfume to say children cannot assume adult responsibilities. But they must. That they don't, well, one can only ask why ...