Why Are Black Fathers Failing?
While lying on my couch, I found an article on Beyond Black & White titled “8 Ways Black Fathers Fail Their Children,” written by Nikole J. The article went on to list the ways black fathers are failing, from absenteeism to lack of estate planning. I wasn’t surprised by the article since society has a tendency to put a magnifying glass over the supposed failures of some Black men as a way to disparage the entire group. Still, this article bothered me because the author posted it on Father’s Day weekend, a time when the Black community should be celebrating and honoring good fathers and father figures. Instead, the article provided a negative over-generalization, which only serves one purpose, promoting harmful stereotypes.
I wanted to talk to somebody about this consistent push in America to denigrate black fatherhood. So, after helping my son with his college applications, I phoned a friend, another black father, but he didn’t answer. He texted me, saying he’d call me back because he was taking his three daughters to a gymnastics class. I called another friend, a black father, and we had a great conversation. We talked about how society has such a negative view of black fatherhood and how the often-cited statistics that 60% of black children are raised in single-mother households leaves out a key assumption that if parents are unmarried, the father is not present! Refusing to add context misrepresents Black fathers as absent when they are actually present.
In reality, 60% of Black fathers live with the mother and their children but are unmarried. Also, many Black fathers who do not live with the mother of their children are still very active in their children’s lives. So active, in fact, that a single Black father leads 1.2 million households in the United States. The statistical reality shatters the myth of mass absenteeism. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black fathers are more involved in their children’s lives than their White and Hispanic counterparts. “Black fathers (70%) were most likely to have bathed, dressed, diapered, or helped their children use the toilet every day compared with white (60%) and Hispanic fathers (45%).” Can we share these statistics about black fatherhood?
During the conversation with my friend, I heard his sons screaming “Dad” in the background. They reminded him they had a basketball game he promised to take them to. We laughed together at the fact he had forgotten about the basketball game and me telling him to get his black ass up and take those boys to the game. We said our goodbyes and got off the phone. However, for a moment, I realized that I could call down my list of black male friends with children, and all of them would be doing something with their children, or we would be talking about our kids. I do not know one absent black father from my entire network. So why is society so hellbent on portraying black fathers as monsters, losers, and worst?
Now let me be clear, I am not naive! I know that many Black children in inner-city communities do not have their fathers by their side in any capacity. I also know the effects of having children in non-commital or marital relationships can negatively affect the family. The reasons are sound; it’s not just because fathers and mothers provide different socially learned benefits; it’s also that having both parents means the child has double the resources provided in time and money. Another issue is out of 3 million Black fathers, approximately 400–500 thousand have criminal records, affecting their ability to find and maintain employment. The criminal justice system disproportionately punishes Black men; they are more likely to be stopped, incarcerated, and endure longer sentences than White men. Furthermore, systemic racism significantly reduces the average salary expectations of Black men. White men make an average of ten thousand more per year compared to Black male workers, regardless of their background.
Some of this can be attributed to self-responsibility, but I’d argue the majority of the issue above is related to a justice system that has unfairly targeted and imprisoned Black men. However, despite being part of an oppressed group for nearly five centuries, where many Black fathers died for their families during slavery and throughout the civil rights movement, Black fathers, in general, have “done their thing.”
The missing Black father trope is a myth! Yes, the community has challenges, but when do we read about the growing number of White single-parented families, which has grown since 1970? Indian American families deal with immense abuse and trauma from a caste culture that even follows them to the United States, a practice usually upheld by fathers, but I rarely see articles on this. Even the media will often highlight athletes who make it to the big leagues and how a single mother raised them, ignoring the Cam Newtons, Jalen Hurts, Jason Tatums, and Jamal Murrays, whose fathers were instrumental in shaping their success. It’s as if American culture loves trauma porn, mainly when the plot revolves around Black society.
Groups like The Dad Gang, Beleaf in Fatherhood, and Black Dads Matter are essential in helping change the narrative. In the meantime, let’s give Black fathers a round of applause, and if you are a Black father and reading this, start your son’s or daughter’s college application no later than the fall semester of their senior year; you will save yourself a lot of time and headaches (shrug emoji here).
Happy Father’s Day!
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