I wanted to follow-up on my piece last week about hot takes with a recent example of a hot take over the weekend. Last Wednesday, two teenage girls, ages 13 and 15, carjacked a 66-year-old Uber Eats driver killing him in the process.
Matt Walsh, a personality formerly with The Blaze and now with The Daily Wire, tweeted on Sunday, “I know without checking that those carjackers don’t have a dad in the picture. This can automatically be assumed in these situations. And yet we’re still not supposed to talk about rampant fatherlessness in the black community and what it leads to.”
Ok, first, the girls have not been identified anywhere, and this is days after the carjacking. The police will not release their names because they are juveniles. Second, I watched the video available online, and I can’t even say for sure that one or both are black (more on that in a second).
So, we don’t have the girls’ identities, but Walsh knows without checking that these girls don’t have fathers in their lives.
That is some spectacular gift of insight that God has given Walsh, that he can magically know the girls’ family structure without knowing their identities.
But let’s look at his statement that with juvenile crime incidents, we can “automatically assume” there is no dad in the picture.
Unlike Walsh, I worked with juvenile offenders for 13 years and have researched, trained, and have been trained on the subject. So I have expertise and I can’t “automatically assume” there is no dad in the picture.
Studies have shown that kids who don’t have contact with their biological father are more likely to commit a crime or have contact with the juvenile justice system. There are several potential adverse outcomes. So that is true, but it is more complex than that. “More likely” doesn’t mean we can “automatically assume.”
Implying fatherlessness alone is the slam dunk factor for juvenile offenders is simplistic. Usually, kids who commit juvenile crime have several risk factors present in their lives, not just one. Then you have to evaluate protective factors as well. These are buffers to risk factors.
For instance, if dad isn’t in the picture, is mom present at home? Is she attentive? Does she have a support system (grandparents, other supportive adults)? Also, all kids have developmental assets that are present in their lives (these would also be considered protective factors), but how many?
Consider this: dad is in the home or present, but he’s abusive and a drunk. Or both parents live at home, but they are hardly at home. Those are risk factors that are just as powerful as a father not being present.
Yet, I can’t assume any of that with these girls because I don’t know.
In terms of his remarks about the black community, yes, the black community has the highest rate of single-parent homes. In 2019, 64 percent of black households were single-parent households, down slightly from last decade’s high of 67 percent from 2011 to 2013.
However, single-parent homes do not necessarily mean that dad is out of the picture. Yes, it’s ideal if kids have attentive, loving Dads at home, but which is better? A Dad who intentionally spends time with his kids but lives outside of the house or a workaholic dad who is emotionally absent when he is at home?
Also, evidence shows non-resident black fathers are more likely to remain involved with their children than white non-resident fathers. According to the CDC, more black men aged 15 to 44 lived with their children than didn’t. That same research also showed that among fathers with coresidential children, black men were more likely to have bathed, dressed, diapered, or help their young children use the toilet every day compared to white or Hispanic dads.
Obviously, yes, some children in the black community have dads who are not present in their lives. Is Walsh willing to discuss the disproportionate incarceration rate of Black men as a contributing factor?
From a theological perspective, Walsh also forgets that kids are free moral agents with sin natures. There have been kids who had loving, intact families commit horrendous crimes. Take, for example, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who committed the Columbine High School mass shooting in Littleton, Colo., at the time, they both lived with their mother and father. By all accounts, Andrew Golden, one of the perpetrators of the Westboro Middle School shooting in Jonesboro, Ark., had a solid, intact family. The other, Mitchell Johnson, lived with his mom and stepdad and had a good relationship with both. I could go on.
In the 13 years I worked with juvenile offenders, while I didn’t poll kids, I worked with plenty from two-parent households.
Walsh could be right, I wouldn’t be surprised. Perhaps they don’t have a Dad in the picture. I don’t know, and neither does he. Guessing correctly doesn’t excuse making assumptions based more on stereotyping than data.
It’s easy to be a provocateur. It’s harder to actually research the topic you are spouting off about.