“As Morehouse men, you hold something more powerful than your diploma, and that’s the power to set an example,” President Barack Obama said to inspire the 2013 graduating class of Morehouse College. “I hear that a saying here at Morehouse is that ‘excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.’” This final article in the father’s day series will close out with a discussion about finding other fathers.
“When you write about father’s day, you should weave in Barack Obama’s speech at Morehouse College,” a mentor recommended when he discovered my intention to write a series of articles about father’s day. “In his speech he discusses that there are fewer excuses for young African Americans, such as not having a father. There are no excuses these days, and even if you don’t grow up with a father, you can still find other father figures to help you succeed.”
“You should use your platform to address ‘Root Cause Analysis’ and address the problems our community faces Anwar,” my mentor continued on another occasion which in part was the genesis for the last installment of this series and others that will visit the Achievement Gap and its causes. “Shine the light directly on the problem and get it out in the open for all to see.”
As per usual this mentor, whom is a father figure to me in many ways, had a very good point. Just because a child doesn’t grow up with their biological father, there are probably other men around who can help fill that role.
In my own life, even though my father was around and visible, there were other men who taught me things that my own father either didn’t or couldn’t. Staying the previously mentioned mentor for example, only after seeing him hold a woman’s coat and helping her put it on after getting up from the dinner table, did it become a practice and a priority for me.
“Your graduate advisor sounds like he was a father to you,” my fellow postdoctoral scientist said to me during my postdoctoral fellowship in Albany, NY. He was right and it didn’t hit me until that moment that the love-hate interaction me and my graduate school advisor had, was actually had was like a father son relationship. My advisor who was of Japanese descent taught me how to plan, how to multi-task, and similar to my biological father, a fear of failure. He wanted me to succeed, but he was hard on me in the process. It gave me great pride years after graduate school when he told me that he was “proud of me,” for the very first time.
“Your attitude determines your altitude,” my high school basketball coach used to tell us among other quotes and gems of wisdom. As with many African American males, he was like a father to me. He knew how to motivate me, and how to bring out my best efforts. My earliest lessons about adversity, disappointment and perseverance came from my days playing under him, and when he retired I was crushed.
The point of all of this, is that boys and girls need not mope around and feel disadvantaged because their biological fathers are or were not around for whatever reason. In most communities, there are probably men (potentially of another ethnicity) who can help fill that role, perhaps much better than the biological father. This is all assuming that the child is ready, willing, and able to receive the help. In some cases, the young person is not but there are usually men willing to help.