3 Kings: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with his father and son.
Re-thinking the G- Code
I’m not a father. Yet…
My relationship with my father was nearly non-existent as I grew up. Though recently my father and I have begun a healing process around that, I am always reminded and aware of the void in my development caused by him opting out of my life.
When I look at small children it confirms over and over again that if I ever have children I will be relatively useless to the rest of the world as soon as they are born. I doubt I’ll be on planes, writing, or even reading the newspaper for quite sometime after my child is born. I’m pretty sure I’ll spend the majority of my time absolutely stuck. Just standing there, staring! Hell I’m like that with other people’s kids now! I’ll be at a restaurant or something and a 3 year old will start talking or walking around exploring and I am totally fascinated. I wonder what they’re thinking about and how they perceive the world around them. This may seem odd to say, but small children just seem closer to God than most of the 7-90 year olds I come across. In a way I think they’re aware of this until they are talked, McDonald’ed, and TV’ed out of it.
After the thought of how enamored I’d be with a child of my own crosses my mind I often think, “How the hell do so many people not partake in their children’s lives?”
This is not a conversation that can be solely boxed into a certain racial or any other specified demographic box, but in relation to my experience, which no matter how many books I write or classes I teach will always be an experience with a foundation in what is coined and labeled as “ghetto”, “urban”, or “at-risk”- I will look at it through that lens.
Many, a lot, several, hundreds, thousands, too damn many Black men abandon and or opt out of being in their children’s lives. A decision and action with devastating affects on the esteem and success of the infants, toddlers, boys, girls, and teenagers thrown out on the dirt road of neglect by one side of their creation; Their fathers.
What I’d like to discuss and encourage all of us to discuss is beyond the above-mentioned fact. I’d be an utter redundant if this article was about the fact that Black men are not raising their children, as this is a point that has been expounded on via every outlet from doctoral thesis papers to rap songs.
What I’d like to address is the irony, and, for lack of a better literary term, assbackward-fuckery to be observed when you look at the standards that come from our communities when it comes to what’s deemed cool or not cool, acceptable or unacceptable, punk shit or player shit.
If I walk into any 6th grade class in Ghetto USA and ask what’s the worse thing a person can be in your neighborhood, EVERY child in that classroom would at the same time with the same tone and look on their face yell out with absolute confidence that they had the right answer: A SNITCH!
This is something we all know if you came up around the way. Snitching is a no no. Being a crack head is bad, but a crack head that snitches on somebody has stooped to a new low. Hoeing is never cool (though somehow pimping is), but throw a snitch jacket on a ho and suddenly she’s found an even lower tier of respect.
Even being suspected of being a snitch is so bad that it pretty much gets you the same quarantine or even murder bestowed upon you that a bona fide proven snitch would receive.
A close second to the disdain we are taught to have for snitches is the ever-loathed “hater.” Ohhhhh, we hate a hater! Player haters hate on your paper and mad they ain’t a player, you see… They hate cause you look better than them and have what they don’t. Hater!
So if you come across a snitch or hater in the neighborhood, barbeque, or club- whatever action of violence or verbal abuse you want to lay on them is fully accepted without much questioning. In fact, its encouraged, player…
But the G-Code is not just limited to a social penalty on snitching and hating. No. In fact, here’s a list of other things that the G-Code strictly prohibits:
Trying to be like someone else.
Copying a person’s style or way of dress.
Stealing someone’s drug stash.
Being or “acting” gay.
Being or “acting” white.
Being afraid of someone or something.
Knowing too many things that other people around you don’t know.
…Too name a few.
HOWEVER! The one thing that is not on the G-Code list of muthafucka-you-better’not’s is being a deadbeat non-existent father in your child’s life. Being a deadbeat dad rides in the hood more than $2000 rims on $900 cars. It is accepted, largely expected, and goes unchecked by families. A man who talks to the police risks being killed! A man who doesn’t talk to his child risks… not getting to hear their child’s voice?
I mean, what is the penalty? How is it that a man that knowingly doesn’t take care of his children can casually walk into family gatherings, barbershops, and especially into the arms of his mother and or father and not be checked on this?
As a man I wonder how other men in our communities interact with a deadbeat ass father. Personally, and I’m a nice guy, no friend or family member of mine has ever been able to get past me without addressing not being thorough in their presence in their children’s lives. Let me be clear though…
It’s not like I jump in a cat’s face like, “Kid check, punk! When’s the last time you saw your kid!? How much you put on the diapers this week!? I have had several conversations from a space of love though with some brothers who have not been as on point as they should be with their children. Amongst Black men, across age and class backgrounds, I’ve had conversations that are filled with both excuses and valid explanations, fear and incredible vulnerability regarding not being the father’s they should have been for their children.
The main consistency, in my opinion, is that most men do not fully realize the pain and collective trauma that is caused by their absence in their children’s lives. I think a lack of self worth and value feeds these Brothers not really understanding how important they are too their children’s development. They think that not being there is not the biggest deal, that it can be done without them. I believe a lot of this can be attributed to the country around them that has sent a stark message:
“Black man we can do this America thing without you. We can not hire you, not invest in you outside of a prison, and everything will move on fine without you.”
So you see, this larger narrative of non-value trickles down to the most essential role the Black man can have, fatherhood. While we are in consensus that women are a huge part of the development of children and are expected to be there for their children, Black fathers are like an incidental perk or some shit. Like an accessory a Black family is lucky to have but shouldn’t expect.
Well hear this as if the being you trust the most in your life, be it God, your Mama, Grandmama, or patna- was saying this too you:
NOT BEING THERE FOR YOUR KIDS IS SOME INEXCUSABLE PUNK SHIT!
And if you are related to, rolling with, or patna’s with, someone who is deliberately not there for their kids, that’s your business… But you surely ain’t sucka free, homie…
Shot out to all the great Daddies, Fathers, Babes, and Papas out there. We love you.
Ise Lyfe is a Spoken Word Hip-Hop Theater Artist and Author.
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