(Todd A. Smith)

The hate that the film “King Richard” has received stems from a hatred of men in general and African-American men in particular.

Prior to the release of the film “King Richard,” I heard nothing but rave reviews from my colleagues.

Some of my colleagues in the Houston Film Critics Society said “King Richard” brought them to tears.

Others even flew from Houston to Los Angeles to watch “King Richard” on the Warner Bros. Pictures lot.

As a result, I could not wait to see it when it dropped on HBO Max because, unfortunately, I missed all the advance screenings in Houston and Los Angeles.

However, by the time my family and I sat down to watch “King Richard,” unexpected controversy had already surrounded the film about tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams, and their visionary father and first tennis coach, Richard Williams.

Although the title of the film “King Richard” should have given a hint to what the movie was about, many critics, mostly White Americans and a few African-American women, took to social media to trash the movie for focusing on Richard Williams as opposed to his daughters.

Some of those haters believed that the movie should have focused more on the accomplishments of young women, and not the vision and determination of their father.

Those not-so-hot takes show a lack of understanding of the Williams’ story and ignores the fact that Venus and Serena Williams served as executive producers of the film that stars Will Smith as their father.

Throughout the last couple of decades, it seems like a movement in feminist circles has taken off to diminish the need of men, fathers and husbands in the family.

To some super-feminists, men seem unnecessary in the grand scheme of life as if sperm and a strong male figure is something not needed to develop strong and intelligent offspring.

Additionally, the movement to discredit African-American fathers goes back more than a couple of decades.

Whenever a racist brings up the problems in the African-American community, they often point to statistics that say that most African-American fathers are absent from their children’s lives.

I have often found those statistics (according to 2018 Pew Research, African-American solo moms are more than twice as likely as cohabiting moms at 30 percent to 12 percent) to be out of context because although many African-American fathers might not be present in the homes with their children because of divorce or other relationship issues with the mother of the kids, that does not mean that they are absentee fathers.

Many times, it is quite the opposite with African-American fathers playing very active roles in their children’s lives despite living under another roof.

Nevertheless, it seems like when strong and outspoken African-American fathers like Richard Williams, Joe Jackson and LaVar Ball have dreams of greatness for their children, many women of all colors and people in White America try to downplay the important role that that particular father played in taking their children from poverty to the palatial homes of Hollywood.

In the mid-1960s when Joe Jackson saw that his five eldest sons (Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael Jackson) had enough talent to create a group and possibly find a professional career in music, he eventually quit his job at a Gary, Ind. steel mill and managed the career of The Jackson Five.

Sure, his methods might have been harsh by today’s standards, with the tireless work and corporal punishment, but the neighborhood that the Jacksons lived in was infested with gang activity and juvenile delinquency.

The Jacksons’ two-bedroom house on 2300 Jackson Street sat very close to a local housing project, run by the Vice Lords street gang.

One day Joe Jackson caught his second son Tito hanging with the street gang.

He instructed Tito to go home, and he told the Vice Lords if he saw them hanging with his boy again, he would beat all of them up.

With Joe Jackson’s history as a professional boxer, that threat seemed like a likely possibility.

That environment of gang activity or a life slaving in the steel mill encouraged Joe to get his children out of that environment by any means necessary.

Whatever negative comments people make about Joe; he accomplished his goal.

The Jackson Five became one of the biggest phenomena of the 1970s.

The Jacksons, as they have been called since 1976, still perform to this day.

Michael Jackson became the greatest entertainer in the world.

His baby sister Janet Jackson became an icon in her own right, and still packs arenas to this day.

And his other children found success in the entertainment industry as well from music to reality television.

Despite Joe’s track record of success with his children, people still saw him in a negative light until his passing in 2018.

Williams received criticism from the rich White tennis fanbase when his girls burst onto the professional scene in the late 1990s.

However, critics cannot say that his methods did not work because he allowed his girls to escape an environment of gang violence in Compton, Calif. to become two of the best tennis champions of all time.

LaVar Ball came onto the scene a few years ago when his eldest son Lonzo Ball played for the UCLA Bruins before the Los Angeles Lakers selected him with the second overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Despite his loud and obnoxious public persona, all three of LaVar Ball’s sons have played professional basketball.

Although LaVar made some business mistakes with the apparel company Big Baller Brand, to have three sons play professional basketball shows that he had more success than mistakes when it came to parenting.

All three of those fathers had heavy hands when it came to their children’s future.

But what would have been the alternative for fathers like Joe Jackson and Richard Williams?

If they had truly been absent from the children’s lives, they would have faced similar criticisms and been the poster children for negative stereotypes about African-American men.

Furthermore, their children could have gotten caught up in gang activity and a life of crime.

Instead, they were visionaries that did a better job setting up their children for astronomical success than many of the people criticizing them.

But people somehow ignore their vision and dedication.

So basically what America is saying to African-American men is that they do not care what they do, be present or absent, we are just going to find a way to downgrade and degrade African-American men.

Thankfully, “King Richard” chose to put African-American fathers on the pedestal they so richly deserve.

Todd A. Smith
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