Fathers, sons and Sherman Park

I have become my father. My sons are becoming my father’s son. That is the way it is supposed to be…


But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in my old neighborhood, Sherman Park. You know – the one in Milwaukee that was on fire last weekend. It was set on fire after a black cop shot a black criminal.

That is what we are told.

What we are not told is that our communities have been on fire long before the first match was struck in Ferguson. Across the country, our communities have been smoldering since the first father was sent away from the home by the brain trust behind the Great Society.

The Great Society started to slowly stoke the flames by turning the working poor into the idle. You see, a family could only receive government assistance if there was a single mother. So “welfare” actually incentivized fathers to say, “well, see ya,” so mom and kids could have a better life. Goodbye daddy, your family is better off without you. At least financially. Come around every once in a while, but make sure no one knows you’re here.

And they left….dutifully. So it isn’t really that mysterious what happened to entire generations of young men of African descent. It isn’t a mystery at all.

What can a boy become when he has no father to emulate? Lost. What can a boy become when he has only criminals to admire? Drug dealers and scammers. What does a boy become when he can only watch a struggling single mother navigate poverty? Angry and rightly so.

Yes, it’s true that there were fathers who stuck around and provided for their families – often with smaller paychecks than the government was handing out. I know, because my father was one of those hardworking fathers who refused to believe the broken promises of the not-so-great society.

I’ve always admired my father for the example he set for me and my sister. But his example was too often the exception to the rule.

Without fathers at home, so many of our inner-city neighborhoods began to crumble. For the many years I lived in Sherman Park, it was on the precipice. It did not crumble, but the foundations were wearing away, and there were visible cracks in a once-solid structure.

For generations before, Sherman Park was known as a true community – and in some pockets it still is – but as the number of aimless, hopeless and misguided young men increased, even the once-strong Sherman Park is having trouble standing.

I prefer for the federal government to stay out of family business. But if it has to intercede, it should do so in ways that keep families together. Instead it has served as an agent of destruction.

The truth is that the government can’t put out the fire it started. Only the strong arms of strong men of faith can douse the flames and restore stability and hope. The same stability my father provided that allowed me to thrive.

What would my father say if he were alive today? I look at my thriving sons, and I thank God that I had his example to follow.

A government – any government — can’t be that father; we can and must.

James T. Harris is a conservative radio show host and social media sensei. You can find him on KQTH, 104.1 FM on your radio dial or livestreaming.


  1. Great article. Many great insights and observations.

    To piggy back on the Feds staying out of family business, I agree.

    Gov’t policies of things like the “community school model” in Northern AZ is taking on the role of the family household and transferring it to school districts/taxpayers. The community school opens early morning and closes late after dinner time. Families are invited to take part in breakfast and dinner so all you have to do is wake up, get dressed–the school will provide, homework is done at homework club, then have dinner together at the school, go home, bathe, go to bed.

    Some may say, these are the only meals some families have. Even with good intentions, the focus of the family unit is lost as kids see someone else outside the family “takes care of them.”

    James T makes a great point: Gov’t does a disservice to financially “reward” fathers to stay away to give the mothers and children assistance. Gov’t rationalizes their good intentions.

    I applaud the single parents who can and do a great job. As a Mom, I am grateful everyday to have a supportive husband who is a great role model for our child.

    Dads absolutely matter in a kid’s life!

  2. Another great article by James T. Billly B and Aric you are the (fortunate) exceptions that proof the rule. You are Good Guys.

  3. give me a break! My father left when I was 2, my mother never remarried till I was 21 – she supported me, living with my grandmother. She bought a house, worked every day, and on the weekend a bit of moonlighting. Doing hair for her entire life. I left home for the Army at 17 – she never got one nickel from my father or the government. We ate well, simple, but well – had a car, house, clothes, food, grew some grapes and berries. It was a simple little house, Two bedrooms – one bath – want heat in the kitchen open the oven. That was life ; a strong faith and work ethic. Hispanic mother and grandmother, my mom finally became a citizen when I was about 5 years old. Grandma never did. Mom live to 100. Rarely saw a doctor. I’ve learned many lessons, but one that has stuck in my head is don’t blame me for the mistakes of my father or his father. That seems to be the popular thing in black America, the blacks blaming the whites for what happen 200 years and many fathers ago. Get over it, shut up and get to work, if not for this generation the next, but do something about beside burning down your neighbors home or business.

    • I agree with you Billy B,
      My mom was left with 6 kids and although we lived at La Reforma for about a year, she refused welfare or commodities. She worked very hard to support us.
      My father had started a new family but was very present in our lives, He didn’t give my mom one penny until I was 15. But he was present, one thing my mom never did was talk bad about our father, he was to be shown respect and loved when he visited. Just because they didn’t work out didn’t mean we were to take sides. We spent many weekends with him and later I lived with him and his new family.
      They were all very kind and I loved them. He took my older brother and myself hunting and camping. Later he hired my older brother to work for him at his company and taught him the trade.
      My father taught me so much and so did my mom. Work hard, your word is your bond, educate yourself beyond school, Read!

      I really thank God for them, and am glad they are no longer around to see the way America has changed. They were so patriotic, it would break their hearts.

  4. It goes back farther than that, it goes back to mankind and the religion of worshiping oneself over worshiping the Creator God. Buying the lie that we too can be like God believing we know what is right for us.

  5. I am a long time resident of Sherman Park, and I agree with your observation that here is a “father vacuum” in much of American society. I also agree that many policies of “the Great Society” inadvertently contributed to these ills. HOWEVER, to suggest that the problems in the African American community BEGAN with the Great Society is short-sighted. The Watts Riots (and the Milwaukee Riots, for at matter) occurred BEFORE the establishment of the Great Society. To begin to understand the African American psyche, you have to get into issues of slavery, and racism, Jim Crow, and socioconomics. African American fahers were separated from their families from the beginning of their time in America. And this continued during the Great Migration of men from the south to the north to find jobs. These are complicated issues in need of a SUPERNATURAL solution.

  6. I am a
    On grime resident of Sherman Park, and I wholely agree that there is a “father vacuum” in much of American society, especially evidenced in urban black communities, and that men have been derelict in their responsibilities to lead their homes and families. I also agree that the “Welfare State” inadvertently contributed to the problem. HOWEVER, I have issue with the proposition that this BEGAN with the establishment of the Great Society. These problems go WAY deeper, as evidenced by the fact that the Watts Riots (and the Milwaukee riots for that matter) happened BEFORE the Great Society. One has to get into issues of slavery, and racism, Jim Crow, and complex socioeconomics to begin to understand the psyche of urban African Americans. It’s gonna take a SPIRITUAL renewal to transform the minds of America.

  7. This is right on. I am so afraid for our country, afraid for my 10 grandchildren. Trump may not be everything I want but Hillary is everything I don’t want. More of the same. People don’t seem to get it. I lost sleep at night worrying about the future.

  8. Revival of the family begins
    With the instructions manual for living
    Having rhe proper compass to navigate , turning on your spiritual GPS
    Knowing where truth north is will not be enough
    One still has to traverse the terrain

    “And he will [himself] go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn back the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient and incredulous and unpersuadable to the wisdom of the upright [which is the knowledge and holy love of the will of God]–in order to make ready for the Lord a people [perfectly] prepared [in spirit, adjusted and disposed and placed in the right moral state]. [Isa. 40:3; Mal. 4:5, 6.]”
    ‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭AMP‬‬

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