A retrospective on forgiveness
And the Black father
Ahmariah Kyon Jackson
To quote the infamous rappers, Mobb Deep, There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from. While Blacks continue to constitute a marginal demographic of the general American populous, we are still disproportionately represented in correctional facilities and cemetery plots. The rate of college matriculation rises, yet underemployment abounded even before our current economic crisis. Despite all the knowledge disseminated in the early 90’s, gang warfare is still an epidemic. And as Hip-Hop curls comfortably upon couches and brains throughout all socio-economic strata, so does the ills so universally linked with the urban jungle. To say it simply; we all need a revolution.
It has been long documented that the same sex parent wields the most influence on a child. Boys identify with fathers, and from a young age, emulate even the tiniest details they associate with manhood. The same is true with girls, who no matter how progressive the mother, often become obsessed with nurturing slews of baby dolls and stuffed animals. Many of our sociological scholars point to the presence of fathers in the Black community as the single most powerful indicator of a child’s probable success. But, what of the child who simply has no father at home?
In “The Five Heartbeats”, Eddie Cain Sr. articulates the crux of the problem when he tells Eddie Cain Jr., “You ain’t gon be shit, cuz I ain’t shit!” What a wonderfully crude and honest statement. The statistics show that everything from high school graduation, incarceration, teenage pregnancy and drug use can be linked to the influence of parents. So, both bad and good habits are often imitated by children. However, the child with no father does not even have the opportunity to imitate; rather choosing to hate the man who abandoned his family.
This inclination can be viewed as natural; however, it is not healthy. The presence of hate within one’s heart blocks the receptors for love. While holding on to the sting of rejection, many find themselves unable to love and truly trust their mates. In this fashion, the abandonment becomes a curse that keeps giving. This pessimism can also lead to stalemates in career aspirations and the following of personal dreams. As the eloquent Marvin Gaye once crooned, “War is not the answer. For only love can conquer hate.”
Then what is the answer? How does one love the man who obviously didn’t love him enough to safeguard his life?
It is complex; however, the answer may be incredibly simple: love. Love covers a multitude of sins. To view it in a spiritual context, the God to which so many pray continually offers redemption through his everlasting love. However, we are human and imperfect and our abilities are finite. Yet, love is infinite. Love is not limited to the times of milk and honey. Rather, the truest test of love is its presence on the rainiest of days and during the most violent of storms. Recalling the popular “Footprints” painting lovingly hung on the walls of so many of our Big Mamas’ homes, we know that singular set of footprints represents someone or something greater than us shouldering our burdens.
In spite of any personal, spiritual beliefs, each human being attempts to manifest the power and energy of God. In “On and On,” Erykah Badu speaks of her life moving like the rolling stone. She expands the statement on the live album by illustrating the myriad similarities between ourselves and the Earth. By simply looking at the water composition and the presence of minerals and ores within our bodies, the direct parallel of existence is clear. Therefore, even an atheist can strive to understand the mathematical and scientific connections that humans share with our terrestrial home. Whereas we may differ on the presence of God, it is this shared system of energies and power that govern our world.
So, God is love and love is forgiveness. What does this have to do with me?
The wonder of Hip-Hop is that as we grow, so it grows. It has matured and developed into a multi-faceted art form and way of life. It should come as no surprise that pertinent life lessons can be found in Hip-Hop lyrics. Arguably one of the cleverest emcees in the game right now, Jay-Z shares a more enlightened approach to the absentee father on “Moment of Clarity.”
Didn’t know him that well
Between him doin heroin
And me doin crack sales.
With that in the egg shell
Standin at the tabernacle
Rather the church
Pretending to be hurt
So, a smirk was all on my face
Like damn that man’s face was just like my face!
So pop, I forgive you
For all the shit that I live through
It wasn’t all your fault
Homie, you got caught.
And to the same game I fault
That don’t parade loss
My big brothers and so many others I saw.
I’m just glad we got to see each other
Talk and re-meet each other
Save a place in Heaven
Till the next time we meet forever!
This verse is a far cry from the traditional rhetoric of a boy becoming a lost spirit; roaming and raping the world due to an un-existing father. That is not to say that the former is not an ever-present reality. However, it is the understanding and compassion of the son towards his father that is of note. As Jay raps about both father and son being caught in the same game, the message becomes abundantly clear. It is not that the son ignores his father’s absence; rather he sees a parallel in both their lives. He recognizes that both men are products of a system which places minimal value on their respective manhood. He recognizes the lack of opportunity that often faces young, black men who are not lucky enough to attend college. He understands that the same pitfalls into which he has fallen were probably stumbling blocks for his own father. Upon reconciling his own misdeeds, the son is able to see the humanity of his father. Moreover, he says, “Pop I forgive you.”
Love is forgiveness. Shawn Carter learns that in forgiving his father, he forgives himself. By declining to bear the torch of anger and malice, he opens himself to a new word of possibilities. It is a world where he can look forward to seeing his father once more on the streets of gold. It is a world where his transgressions can be washed anew. It is a world where everyone understands the frailty of the flesh and the limitations of man. It is a world of love.
This is not in praise or support of abandoning fathers. One could argue and be correct in asserting that the lack of a father precipitated the son’s nefarious actions. Lord knows that the more positive role models made available to our youth, the greater the probability of success. Yet, when a father leaves it is the child who must bear the load. It is the child who must become a man, standing firmly on his own two feet. As such, it is in that child’s best interest to empower himself to surmount the obstacles of life. With a heart brimming with love and understanding, he is better equipped to charge forth and carve his name in the sand.
This forgiveness also arms the child with compassion; an invaluable gift whose importance is only truly known when that child becomes a parent. It eradicates the penchant for self-loathing and indulgence. It allows for the pity party to end and life to begin. It produces parents who are not bound to just be better than their father, but who aspire to be the best parents possible.
That being said, Pop, I forgive you.