Lessons from my fathers

This is about education.

Lately, there have been increased references to the absence of Black fathers as a cause, possibly the cause, for all manner of social and economic ills in the Black community, including poor academic performance, especially by black boys.

Well, this is a case study about a Black family [and there are many of us] in which the fathers are present.

My husband has worked full time since he was 16 years old. Often, he has worked two jobs at a time, while also putting himself through school and helping to raise 11 children. He has multiple college degrees and other certifications. He has never earned over $20,000/year. Forced to retire a year ago, at age 62 due to failing health, he now gets around $600/month in social security. Were it not for my job-related health insurance, he would have none.

Our son, has some college, but not finished a degree. He has a wife and child. He can only find minimum wage jobs.

My three black sons-in-law all work. One has a college degree from a prestigious program at a local university. But when he applied to work in a new project launched by that same program, he was rejected.This son-in-law made a conscious decision to do something with his life; resisting pressure to join the gangs or get involved in the drug trade. He now works for a retail store, at low wage and has a health plan that covers only him, not his wife and two children. (She is also working as a sales clerk, but her job offers no health insurance to those who work under 40 hours a week—she is routinely assigned to work 30-35).

The other two sons-in-law are high school grads. One is a cook; the other works at a lumber yard. The wages are low; the work is hard; only one has health insurance, and that is for him only because they can’t afford the family coverage.

One of my daughters did the math and figured out how financially, at least, she and the children would be better off if she were single. “But,” she quickly adds, “I’m glad he’s here.”

This is not every black family’s story. There are still the occasional rags-to-riches accomplishments that we applaud and admire. But those stories are increasingly the exceptions in our community.

The men in this family are black fathers who have tried so hard to do the right things.

Go to school. Study hard. Pass the tests. Graduate. Get a job. Get married. Work hard. For what?  To watch as their dreams crash, and their familes suffer? In America?

This is about real education.

We’ve drilled a generation with the lesson that the purpose of getting an education is to get a job. Yet, many young Black look at people they know and respect, like the men in my family, and ask, “Why bother?”

Maybe it’s time to teach the rest of the lesson. That the purpose education in a free nation is to prepare well-rounded, intelligent citizens who can work together to find real solutions to the problems in our society.

Hat tip to @TheJLV (aka Jose Vilson) who inspired this one.