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The Absence Of Fathers Matters

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The Absence Of Fathers Matters




Maybe you heard about the tribute Kevin Durant paid his mother last week. You probably missed the one he paid his dad.

Both came during Durant’s acceptance speech after being named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. Maybe you don’t follow sports, maybe you’ve never heard of Durant, maybe you think a pick and roll is a roadside produce stand. You still should see the video.

In a voice choked with tears Durant, a ferociously talented forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, thanks God. He thanks each teammate by name, thanks his coach, support staff, brothers, friends, grandmother, fans, the sportswriters who voted for him. And in the part that will have you clearing your throat and discovering a foreign particle in your eye, he speaks directly to his mother.

“The odds were stacked against us,” he says. “Single parent with two boys by the time you were 21 years old. . . . We moved from apartment to apartment by ourselves. One of the best memories I have is when we moved into our first apartment. No bed, no furniture, and we just all sat in the living room and just hugged each other. We thought we’d made it.”

He recalls her waking him up before dawn to work on his game, exhorting him to run, practice, play to the pinnacle of his ability. “You made us believe; you kept us off the streets, put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.” Wanda Pratt catches her tears in her hand as the crowd gives her a standing ovation.

By contrast, Durant’s acknowledgment of his father is short and almost perfunctory. He notes the “up and down road” they have traveled, the support his father has given “from afar.” He tells him he loves him, but he lavishes less emotion on Wayne Pratt than he does Russell Westbrook, who’s only a teammate, or Scott Brooks, who’s only his coach.

It is a telling moment.

It turns out Pratt deserted his wife and two boys when Kevin was one, because, as he told The Washington Post in 2012, “I was immature, selfish; I was young.” It took him almost 10 years to apologize to his sons and make peace with his ex-wife. He says he was a constant presence during Kevin’s teenage years.

The intention here is not to indict father or son. No, the intention is simply to say this:

The absence of fathers matters.

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh May 12, 2014

    Leonard, it is more than just Black families that experience the absence of fathers. Granted, this is the visible one that every Right-Wing politician and pundit points to, and refuses to do anything about. But it also happens with White, Latino and Asian families (albeit less with the latter).
    There is also an insidious problem of parental absence these last 13 years caused by excessive deployments in the military due to two no-win wars we have been working at. These have cause parent X or Y to be absent for more than a year at a time, and when they return, they find themselves to be superfluous. This brings out another problem – a cross between PTSD and being made to feel useless around the home resulting in anger, alcoholism, drug use, and physical and mental abuse.
    So there is really no single problem that needs attention in order to restore families. Rather, we are being torn in multiple directions of need with fewer resources being allocated for those needs.

  2. charles king May 12, 2014

    FROM A black perspective and coming from the old school Where? the thinking”unity and large familys were an assets instead of a liability my family consisted of parents and ten silblants, (2) girls and ten boys) I am now the top dog over one sister and two brother that are left. One thing I have found out in living (there is nothing in this world that a human being can’t do) Critical Thinking has made a path for me along with Our Democracy, I feel there is Nothing that the human spirit can’t solve. Social Security Works, Obamacare will Work, Public Education still Work but need some attending, do not let privatizing of Public assets take over your Democracy, Unions Work, I still play J A Z Z and the music is my therapy so keep on getting up and make America Work, again. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All.Mr. C. E. KING

  3. charleo1 May 12, 2014

    It’s tough out there in the best of situations for young parents. Raising kids is hard work. And when both parents have to work to make ends meet, and children grow up in daycare centers. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. We know it isn’t. At least half of us grew up listening to our parents squabble, then fight, and divorce, over a myriad of issues, that collaborate to doom the
    relationship. Speaking for myself, I failed to fully appreciate the never ending grind, of wanting to do better for your kids, for your wife. And the frustration you live with as a parent, of knowing you’re falling short. Until I became a too immature, struggling parent, got a divorce, failed to stay engaged with my
    Daughter, became estranged, and pretty much managed to make a wreck of my life in the process. I came to see myself as an unmitigated failure as a Father, which was absolutely true. I felt I could never, and, didn’t deserve to ever be able to go back, and rekindle that relationship with my child again.
    This is difficult to write, and the only reason I am, is because I know there are millions of Fathers out there, who know exactly what I’m talking about. And if I could say one thing to them, it would be to not waste another day. Gather your courage up, and call your kids. I’m talking from experience. Whether you realize it or not, they want, and need to know their Father loves them. And, although as a Father, you may not feel you deserve it. And they may have a step-dad they think the world of, and that’s great. But, your kids want, and need to love their Father. Trust me on this. Both as a kid who’s
    Father walked out of his life never to return. And as a Father who nearly made the same mistake. That call, no matter how it turns out, will be one
    of the best things you’ll ever do, if you live to be a hundred.

  4. Greenie Beanie May 25, 2014

    Evidence of cultural evolution is visible in related alphabets, such as those of the Greeks and Russians, who trace their roots to the same language ancestor as Hindi, Urdu, and Sanskrit.


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