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Fatherless girls' losses are deep, long-lasting
Wade Horn clearly understands the problem, we only wish that he
understood the solution, which is not just to tell fathers that they
are important, but to grant fathers a right to be in the family, that
is comparable to the rights that have been granted to women in
the workplace.  Simply guilt-tripping fathers is not enough.
ACFC
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http://www.suntimes.com/output/mitchell/cst-nws-mitch28.html
Chicago Sun Times
October 28, 2001
Fatherless girls' losses are deep, long-lasting
by Mary Mitchell -- Sun Times Columnist
Sahara Moorer's search to find her place is a heartbreaking story that
reveals the hidden pain of fatherless girls. Sahara was the 15-year-old
girl who was found raped and strangled last Sunday morning on Chicago's
South Side.
Two weeks ago, she ran away from her home in Texas, where she lived
with her white mother. She wasn't close to her black father, who lives in
California, but kept in touch with his relatives in Milwaukee.
Race is deemed to have played a role in the tragic circumstances that led
to Sahara's death because the biracial teen was struggling to fit in.
But I am a "daddy's girl," and I can't overlook the critical role fathers
play in their daughters' lives. I wish Sahara had been close to her
father. I wish he had been there to grow her in the circle of his arms.
Writer Jonetta Rose Barras explores the impact of fatherlessness on black
women in her intimate book Whatever Happened to Daddy's Little Girl?
It is a thoroughly researched look at the topic.
We have heard about the negative effects fatherlessness has on boys. We
have been told that women can't raise boys to be men. But what about
girls? Barras, who shares her own story about growing up without a father,
believes fatherless girls are just as likely to grow up emotionally wounded
and spend much of their adult lives trying to find a father's love.
"A girl abandoned by the first man in her life forever entertains powerful
feelings of being unworthy or incapable of receiving any man's love,"
Barras says. "Even when she receives love from another, she is constantly
and intensely fearful of losing it. This is the anxiety, the pain, of
losing one's father. I had had three fathers toss me aside; the cumulative
effect was catastrophic."
I was reminded of Barras' book when I heard about Sahara. Surely, the
biracial teen had a double burden.
Her mother told reporters that Sahara was having an identity crisis, and
perhaps she was. The teenager had slipped from being an A and B student to
missing so much school that she was scheduled to appear before a truancy
court in El Paso days before her murder.
She was also running with an older crowd--always a bad sign--sneaking out
of the house and violating curfew, her mother said.
"We are white, and she did not think we understood what she was going
through," Michelle Hufford said. "We would talk and cry, but we thought we
would get through it."
But race alone does not explain such turmoil.
"The fatherless daughter is a font of unexplained anger and rage.
Sometimes it is on the surface; other times it seethes out of sight, but
within range to burst on the scene at a moment's notice," Barras notes.
Of course, not all girls raised without fathers are emotionally scarred.
But as Wade Horn, a clinical psychologist and founder of the National
Fatherhood Initiative, points out, a fatherless girl has an "elevated risk
of bad outcomes."
It has been said that Sahara was looking for her "black roots," which
suggests that she was indeed searching for her father. Given the seemingly
eternal gap between the races, biracial children must learn how to
straddle America's racial divide.
I watched a biracial niece's world explode when she began high school.
Dating touched off an internal conflict that led to all kinds of
self-defeating behavior, like sneaking out after curfew and hanging with
the wrong people. Thankfully, her mother and father have a strong marriage
and were there for her.
In the end, it was my niece's spiritual upbringing and her father's
insightful guidance (the relationship between mothers and daughters is
another column) that help pull her through. Even so, growing up in a
predominantly white environment in Nebraska had its challenges, and my
niece looked forward to spending time with her cousins in Chicago with
great excitement.
Today, she is a remarkable young woman who possesses the best qualities
of her white mother and black father.
Clearly, Sahara had lost her way. Despite the love and care her mother and
stepfather showed, she was on a self-destructive path. Please don't get me
wrong, I'm not blaming this tragedy on the teen's mother or father.
The men who raped and strangled Sahara are the boogeymen.
But we have done fathers a great disservice in this country. Thanks to the
feminist movement and our cultural images, we have convinced many of them
that they are not needed in their daughters' lives.
In the absence of fathers, mothers have risen to the task without
considering that we are depriving our daughters of their first love.
"Our cultural decision-making created the mythology of the superfluous
father," Horn told Barras in an interview for her book.
We were so wrong.
I wish Sahara had been a daddy's little girl.
Mary Mitchell (e-mail marym@suntimes.com ) appears regularly on
"Fox News in the Morning," 7-9 a.m. on WFLD-Channel 32.
[Related article:  Why did this girl run away?
http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-sahara28.html ]
Copyright 2000, Digital Chicago Inc.
Chicago Sun Times Home:  http://www.suntimes.com/index/

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