Tina Brown’s Vile Prog rag The Daily Beast:
When 15-year old Andre Green found out that his ex-girlfriend, Sonya, was pregnant with his child, he was living with six members of his extended family in a small row house in Camden, New Jersey. His mother was a drug addict. His father, in Andre’s words, was a “dog” who had never even told Andre that he had several half-brothers kicking around the neighborhood. (The boy found out gradually, when he noticed similar-looking children in school and at the supermarket, and asked them who their father was.) Yet despite his poverty, lack of parental support, and the fact that his romantic relationship with Sonya had ended, Andre was excited—even thrilled—to become a father.
“I was like, “Yes! Thank you, Jesus!” he told sociologists Kathryn Edin and Timothy Nelson. Indeed, within several months of his daughter’s birth, Andre had dropped out of school to become Jalissa’s primary caregiver. He took great pride in keeping her well fed, nicely dressed, and even taking her to church. There, despite his youth and joblessness, Andre was celebrated as a devoted dad. “People say, ‘Oh Andre, you’re doing a beautiful job,’” he told the researchers. “They’re like, ‘Andre, I’m very proud of you.’”
Why isn’t unwed teen parenthood more stigmatized in low-income communities? Eight years ago, Edin and her writing partner, Maria Kafalas, overturned stereotypes about inner-city single mothers with their book Promises I Can Keep. That study showed that many single mothers celebrated and even planned their serial out-of-wedlock pregnancies, not because they were “welfare moms” looking for a government paycheck, but because in neighborhoods in which college, satisfying careers, and financially stable marriages seemed to be little more than fantasies from television and the movies, motherhood provided the crucial, emotionally satisfying transition into adult life.
Now, in Doing the Best I Can, Edin and Nelson have returned to the streets of Philadelphia and Camden to tell unwed fathers’ side of the story. The results, from a seven-year study of 205 men, all earning less than $16,000 per year, are no less extraordinary, calling into question the caricature of the “deadbeat dad.” Like Andre Green, many poor men will overcome daunting personal challenges to spend time with their children, even as they fail to live up to middle-class norms of the father as provider and moral role model.
Poor, single dads have a lot in common with their female counterparts. Both young men and young women in these neighborhoods see forgoing contraception as a key sign of sexual trust and fidelity, and they demonstrate little anxiety about unexpected pregnancy—a surprising notion for many middle-class Americans, who viscerally fear the loss of educational, career, and romantic opportunities that premature parenthood brings. Far from disdaining marriage, low-income single parents have fully absorbed mainstream cultural messages about what that institution should entail: two good jobs, home ownership, and a “soul mate” kind of love. Because these goals appear impossible for people living hand-to-mouth at the bottom rung of the American economy, however, men told the researchers that marriage is generally off the table as a realistic lifestyle. Indeed, they mistrust women, whom they see as enforcers of middle-class earning expectations they cannot meet. The love these men feel for their children is far stronger than any romantic connection they’ve made with those children’s mothers.
There is a bunch more but my blood pressure won’t let me read it.
Let’s not be judgmental. We obviously don’t understand the richness and diversity of inner-city culture. We can’t impose our middle-class Victorian morality on other people. That would be racist.
Take your white male privilege with you when you go.