Featured Image: Arthur Fletcher (left), the “Father of Affirmative Action”, pictured with one of the principle beneficiaries of affirmative action (right).
Let’s just come out and say it. Father’s Day didn’t become a holiday on the merits of fathers. We had Mother’s Day everywhere in the United States since at least 1914. It is an understandable and natural holiday…everyone loves their mother. Father’s Day much more recent. It has been a national holiday either since the first Father’s Day proclamation by Lyndon Johnson in 1966, or when it was enacted into law by Richard Nixon in 1972. In that period between 1914 and 1972, the entire justification for enacting a national Father’s Day was the existence of a Mother’s Day. The reason for a Father’s Day was that fathers were underrepresented in days. It was only in the reasoning that prevailed in 1966 and 1972 that this was perceived to be a well-grounded argument. The zeitgeist that brought in the Civil Rights Acts brought Father’s Day along for the ride.
Essentially, Father’s Day was promoted to a national holiday because of affirmative action.
Father’s Day is not the egalitarian celebration of fathers everywhere either. Father’s Day celebrations typically do not include fathers in non-traditional families, or non-binary or gender non-conforming fathers. Overwhelmingly, those fathers likely to get a barbeque and a new tie in this egalitarian celebration of fatherhood are straight, married, white men…a demographic that went heavily for Trump in 2016.
The fathers most likely to benefit from Father’s Day belong to that demographic most opposed to affirmative action.
This is a short post; I don’t have any point to make beside to reflect on the irony and to note that this is not first time white men used affirmative action to their benefit. I would recommend Ira Karznelson’s excellent book When Affirmative Action was White about how southern racists rigged the laws to create an affirmative action regime for whites only. We don’t need to go to history for examples. We could simply look at the tax code, or the criminal code, or any facet of government to see that white men don’t always need to win, but they damn sure won’t lose. It is the recurring story of US history, a common story in the history of civilization. White men have always had their way in the end.
So fathers, fire up the grill, grab a cold Zima, and take a day to celebrate the cis-hetero-patriarchy that made this day possible while you still can.