My Response to Anonymous: Put Some Respect On It

By John W. Fountain
John Fountain Sr., the author's father whom he barely knew
as a child.
Dear Anonymous, Thank you kindly for your note. I think I understand your sentiment. But let me assure you that the reality of single-parent, African American homes needs no reinforcement. Neither is it a stereotype. The reality is that 7 out of 10 black children live in single-parent, female-headed households. That’s 72 percent to be precise. Truth. Facts.
I am well aware of two-parent headed households. Aware that black homes have fathers. My home is one of them. I am a father, mentor, uncle, brother… And yet, I am the son of a single mother, a wonderful mother who was my saving grace. That is the spirit in which my column was written.

"The next time you write to me, do me a favor: 
Put your name on it."


For the record, I have written plenty in the past and will write plenty more, I suspect, about what fathers can do. I in no way excuse them—us—not even in my current column. But what was my mother or other women to do when their no-good, irresponsible sperm donors decided to have nothing to do with the nurture and upbringing of the children they helped bring into this world? Sit around and pontificate or have a pity party, perhaps? Bemoan the fact that they were thrust into single parenthood? Or get on with the business of raising the children God blessed them with?
If you were truly a faithful reader of my column over the past seven years, you would know that I have said much about what fathers can do and that I've written a book titled, "Dear Dad: Reflections on Fatherhood," which echoes the call to responsible male parenting.
As for: “I have to admit I read the column with my eyes searching for the mention at least of what black fathers could do, but not one word, not one line, nothing…”
John Fountain's  grandmother Florence G. Hagler.
I wrote: “If you do not find elders who will bestow upon him “manhood” and walk alongside him, you hobble him. Create the ‘village.’ Seek out good men who will speak life into your son and model manhood.” Isn’t this something? Did you miss this? That’s entirely possible, especially when one reads with their own agenda and preformed context that allows us to see only what we want to see and that can make us blind to the truth.
Again, this column was to mothers, some who have since written to say "thank you." Not just single mothers. In fact, the column was birthed from a conversation with my wife that morning about raising our 14-year-old son. “Don’t coddle him,” I told her. “He’s going to be a black man. Stop coddling him…” She received my words in the spirit in which they were given: To equip the beloved son God gave us and to fortify him for manhood in a society in which he will be hated.
You accuse me of feeding a stereotype. Stereotype? What stereotype? That the vast majority of black households are headed by single mothers? That more than 90 percent of black people murdered each year are murdered by someone black? That we, as a people, remain so worried about what white folk think about us that we cannot look circumspectly in the mirror and call the truth so that ultimately we may heal?
“Demeaning,” you say my columns are?
John W. Fountain as a boy poses with his 
sister Gloria.
I write: “Dear mama, the hand that rocks the cradle still rules the world. The mother who safely guides her son through the peril of adolescence that exists with unique and deadly consequence for black males in America, will save a nation. For we perish.”
What is demeaning about that? Dear sister, my grandmother, a saint of God, if she were alive today, would call you a “foolish woman.”
And if you have “grown so weary” of my columns, why, may I ask, do you continue to read them?
Lecturing and demeaning? The sisters who have since written to me about today’s column said they found my words helpful and encouraging. Not ill intentioned, not demeaning. But I suspect they had no bitter context, no axe to grind with me, no lingering hurt or anger stemming from a previous relationship with one man that now clouds or colors even the well-intentioned, hopeful and loving words of another man, of any man.
You write to me in scolding tones about what I choose to write in my own column, accuse me of pandering to white people, tell me that my "pen could be used for more noble purposes..." “Noble” according to who? You?
And you call me lecturing and demeaning? LOL Wow.
Look in the mirror, dear sister. You might notice a little projection. But there I go again being perhaps a little too sanguine.
Let me assure you that no one could ever pay me enough to write to pander. For the record, I get for my Sun-Times column 50-cent a word, not a penny increase since I started seven years ago. Hardly enough to make me sell my people out. And truth is, there ain’t that much money in the world. I write what I believe, what I feel. And I stand by every word and with my name on it. Always have and always will.
Fountain dances with his mother
Gwendolyn Marie Hagler Clincy at
his wedding in 1992.
By the way, who are you? You who chose to write to me anonymously, hiding behind your digital cloak. Are you a colleague who in the past has taken issue with my column and gone behind my back to express your disfavor rather than coming to me first as your “brother”? Or are you a former Facebook friend or associate who has expressed anger in the past over me writing about black women’s hair, or mothers wishing themselves a Happy Father’s Day? Angry perhaps about my musings on middle class, college-educated black women calling themselves the “B” word and disparaging each other on shows like “Basketball Wives” and “Love and Hip Hop,” or angry about the vital role I repeatedly say that mothers must play in helping to save our people from this crisis that confronts us?
One of those colleagues, in fact, once asked me at an occasion that had nothing to do with work, out of the clear blue: “What qualifies you to write about black women’s hair?” Aside from the fact that I’m a writer and I can write about anything I damn well please? My mama, my grandmama, my wife, my sisters, my aunties, my daughters, my granddaughters and a host of nieces and cousins. (Negroes, pull-leeease, smh)
I write because I mourn over the condition of our people. And I put my name to all I have to say. Some would call that courage. Some would call not putting your name to what you wrote to me cowardice.
The next time you write to me, do me a favor: Put your name on it. That's what folks do who engage in serious discourse. Then I might at least respect what you have to say, dear sister.


John Fountain with his mother at his college graduation.