Fatherhood in the 'Hood

Father and Baby Daddy ...there is a difference

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: June 15, 2002

Fatherhood in the 'Hood

A major problem facing Latino communities is that many males have turned coward and have run away from their parental responsibilities. Hundreds of thousands have hidden themselves behind the skirt of substance abuse and the convenience of incarceration.

Homies use any socio-cultural mealy-mouthed excuse not to work a 9 to 5 and feed those little precious innocent souls they brought into this life. Many of our kids because of their unfortunate parentage really do not have a chance to scale the emerging class system of American society because of these "Baby Daddies."

Being a Father and being a Baby Daddy are two different things. A Father is a real man who works hard and raises his kids irrespective of domestic circumstances. A Baby Daddy is an absentee parent, an ignominious pariah on society, and a traitor to La Raza.

Kids, especially boys without real dad?s, look for validation in gangs and mischief, trying desperately to find role models. The sad thing is often they find archetypes in Rap videos, or they look up to local ballers who profess that manhood is all about materialism and misogamy.

It?s not.

Girls without real Fathers tend to look for validation in the arms of men and often find themselves in the same situation their mothers found themselves, with a ?man? in abstencia. The cycle of poverty and societal disenfranchisement continues.

There are, however, many men who are to be admired. These are the guys you see coaching Little League baseball, football, and soccer. Swimming coaches who wake up at 5 am to take the kids swimming at 6, then go to work at 8. Noble men with honor who sacrifice by working two jobs so Mam? does not have and so that she can be a full-time Mom and instill in our kids a real sense of honor, familia, faith, and integrity.

It wasn?t that many generations ago that men worked themselves to death so that their kids could own homes and live a better life. This country was built largely on the backs of ethnic male sojourner laborers. I remember being particularly touched by a Latino Father who struggled late one evening trying to carry a Christmas tree onto an urban bus so that his family could enjoy a real Navidad.

There are many real men you can see every day who stand on street corners 24-7 as day laborers who are willing to do anything so they can send money back to their wives and families back home. Meanwhile, as they are out hustling, Baby Daddies are living off women, sleeping late, watching soap operas, and waiting on the welfare check.

Statisticians report that almost 70 percent of the Latinos who now reside in this country were born in another country. Border brothers and sisters come here with an impressive work ethic, quite often transcending the material and educational accomplishments of those Latinos born in the USA.

Many second and third generation USA Latinos grew up with a certain Great Society opinion that, because of their race, they are disadvantaged. So society, through welfare and governmental programs, owes them a living or at least a stipend for the ?misfortune? of being born ethnic. Being a Latino has been an asset for thousands of years. It is those who appropriate the role of being barrio-fabulous who are the ones who has chosen to be on the losing team.

Culturally, I remember the values of 'patronismo' instilled in us by my Dad. We all respected him irrespective of his flaws. He, amidst poverty, housing projects and illness, never left or forsaked us. That is what a real man is supposed to do. My sons and I now do that, too. Men caring and parenting their kids are the best way for La Raza to thrive and survive.

On a positive note, I am particularly impressed by an emerging generation of Latino men who have taken on the role of stepparent. Many of our households are made up of blended families, and many good men have taken on the fathering responsibilities of 'los perezosos' who have run away.

Father?s Day is a time to honor the man who helped mentor your life and define you as a person. As Latinos, we need to recognize that all kids are our kids, and that we have an obligation to protect and nurture them. Their generation is going have to be tougher and wiser, better prepared than ours, because the divide between the haves and the have-nots is ever-widening.

Happy Father's day to the real Fathers out there. For the Baby Daddies, get your caseworker to read this to you, then get a clue.

It's never to late.

Send us your comments at: letters@latinola.com

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos has two kids, three step kids and five grandchildren.

   print this


Arts & Entertainment Comunidad Forum People El Editor's Blog

Careers Expresate Hollywood Tecnología RSS Feeds