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A black man holds a young child
State Auditor Shad White responds to a previous Mississippi Free Press column on his “fatherlessness” report, which said it contained errors and that “decades of U.S. policy was specifically designed to break apart the Black family.” White accuses the two academics of allowing “common-sense consensus” in his report to “trigger them.” Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

‘White Dads Can Be Deadbeats, Too’: Auditor Responds to ‘Fatherlessness’ Report Critics

Last month my office released a report on the tragic consequences of fatherlessness. Kids who grow up without an engaged father in the home are more likely to go to prison (especially boys), less likely to graduate from high school, less likely to be healthy, and young girls are more likely to become pregnant as teenagers.

For pointing out these facts, two out-of-state academics submitted a Mississippi Free Press column calling  the report “misinformation,” “poorly written,” etc.

What’s interesting is that our report relies on the same sorts of statistics that President Obama quoted in a 2008 speech on fatherlessness.

“We know the statistics,” Obama said. “[C]hildren who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools; and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”

I don’t recall the critics of our report reprimanding President Obama for talking about the issue. I’ve searched for Christine Dickason and Kaitlyn Barton’s (the two academics) scathing analysis of Obama’s speech and subsequent report, but it’s nowhere to be found.

‘White Dads Can Be Deadbeats, Too’

Dickason and Barton said my office’s “whole report is a dog whistle” and racist. I don’t recall them saying President Obama was racist for pointing out similar facts. But I’ll keep looking.

I’m not sure why Dickason and Barton decided to bring race into the conversation. It reveals more about them than it does the report. If I say, “fathers need to be engaged in kids’ lives,” and they say that statement is demeaning to Black fathers, that tells you exactly what you need to know about the stereotypes of Black fathers that live in their heads.

State Auditor Shad White equated his “Dads Matter” report on fathers to a speech President Barack Obama gave on the same subject. In that speech, Obama urged fathers to “pass along the value of empathy to our children. Not sympathy, but empathy—the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes; to look at the world through their eyes.”

News flash: White dads can be deadbeats, too. I’d encourage you—two white women—to reflect on your own antiquated views of Black families.

My report proposes several solutions for the fatherlessness problem. One is the bipartisan legislation Gov. Ron DeSantis just signed in Florida. Another is the expansion of the evidence-backed JROTC program currently operating in Jackson.

I like the JROTC military program because data support it. Students enrolled in the JROTC program at Jackson Public Schools have a nearly 100% graduation rate compared to a 75% district-wide graduation rate.

Furthermore, JROTC students score an average of nearly three points higher on the ACT than other JPS students and have an absentee rate about one-ninth the JPS average. I also like the program because a team from Fort Knox audits it to ensure they hit their numbers.

‘How Far Astray the World Has Gone’

In fact, Dickason and Barton are blunt about one of their solutions: “Access to abortion can help young people make informed decisions about whether they want to become parents.”

Stop and think about that. It’s sickening. Part of my solution is military-based programs in schools to give kids the discipline they may be missing at home to help them achieve their potential as adults. Dickason and Barton would kill those kids in the womb before they walk in the school door. Voters can decide which plan is more compelling and virtuous.

Side by side photo of two women
Christine Dickason (left) and Kaitlyn Barton (right) wrote in an MFP Voices column that Auditor Shad White’s “Dads Matter” report “is not a well-researched policy memo with thought-out ideas for improving the state—it’s a poorly written piece of propaganda.” They say the former Rhodes scholar ignores the role of racist policy; he responds that they have “antiquated views of Black families.”

All told, I’m glad Dickason and Barton chose to respond to the report. Their take shows how far astray the world has gone. What was once a bipartisan, common-sense consensus is now enough to trigger them.

Their column also shows the importance of having public officials who are willing to stand up and fight for common-sense values. If not, you can be certain this new brand of intellectual will railroad those values. Dickason studies at the education school at Vanderbilt, and Barton is the dean of instruction in a Texas school system. People go into this line of work to influence what kids are taught in the classroom.

Mississippians have a choice to make: Start electing leaders who won’t back down to radical ideology or watch your kids be trained to parrot the Dickason/Barton worldview.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints. 

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