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In 1978, in his book “Invisible Man” (a title that paid tribute to Ralph Ellison’s earlier “Invisible Man”), George Gilder warned us against treating blacks as if they were children — unable to be told the truth, unable to understand the basic facts of a market economy, unable to rise above a system of fantastic expectations, indulgences, and entitlements. “This is the worst kind of racism in America,” he said, “the respectable kind.” The kind that unmans black men, that belittles them with pity and charity.

He noted that problems inevitably arise when welfare payments become more valuable than wages. “Under these conditions, regardless of reforms and regulations, welfare will be a government machine that fosters illegitimacy and turns dads into deadbeats.” Unwed mothers are particularly eligible for these generous benefits, which means that the need for husbands is more than simply eliminated: having a working husband, who could not possibly earn as much as the government provides, becomes an outright liability. Thus the family structure is dismantled, more and more fatherless children are encouraged, men are emasculated, boys grow up without strong male role models to teach them how to become worthy adults, little girls are motivated to have babies as soon as possible (the relentless vulgarity of television, movies, and music videos, increases this motivation a thousand-fold), and the spiral of urban problems becomes more and more unsolvable.

Today, we have reaped the harvest of all this ignorance and condescension. Black teenage boys, wishing to be acknowledged as men, but completely unneeded in the traditional male roles of husband, father, and provider, find other ways to be acknowledged – they act out violently, join together in predatory gangs, rape and degrade their women. The prisons fill to overflowing and the inner city moves toward a police state. Babies are neglected by mothers who are still children themselves. Only a few manage to escape.

One who did escape this fate is now the President of the United States. In my opinion, the most crucial, effective, and significant change that might come from the election of Barack Obama — more important than any economic or foreign policy decisions — will result from his simple presence as an excellent role model for fatherless black boys, boys who can finally look up to a real man who works hard, studies hard, works for ideals that are bigger than himself, loves and honors his wife, and cares for and adores his children.

I teach in an inner city school and will be putting this quote on the wall of my classroom:

“Let’s admit to ourselves that there are a lot of men out there that need to stop acting like boys; who need to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; who need to know that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child (any fool can have a child), but the courage to raise a child.” – Barack Obama