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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Why Are Black Fathers So Absent?

Why Are Black Fathers So Absent?

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Source: SeventyFour / Getty

Let’s quickly dispense with the absent father stereotype that stalks African American dads, families and communities.  

For at least the last 10 years, report after report has shown that Black fathers are more involved in their children’s lives than white and even Latino fathers. Through the deindustrialization years that put Black fathers out of work in the post-Civil Rights Movement period; through the years of addiction that followed in the wake of Vietnam and so many brothers having their station in life, their sense of themselves, snatched away; through the years when wolves of government descended upon impoverished Black home claiming they were there to help, but actually forced Black mothers to send their husbands and partners out of the family or else their children would not be able to eat; through the years of targeted policing and mass incarceration, the involvement of Black dads in their children’s lives has consistently taken the number one spot.

And that finding, which uses 20th and 21st century data,  doesn’t include the Black fathers in the wake of emancipation, how they walked hundreds of miles, often barefoot, to find the wives, children and other family members that slavery had stolen from them. Libra Hilde’s book, “Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty in African American Communities over the Long Nineteenth Century,” shed light on the deeply loving and involved nature of Black and enslaved men in their roles as fathers, despite the oppressive barriers imposed by white society, Black Perspectives noted.

She vividly illustrated how enslaved men fulfilled their paternal responsibilities. They demonstrated unwavering dedication by providing for and safeguarding their families to the best of their ability, offering spiritual guidance, and instilling a strong sense of self-worth and identity in their children, regardless of their physical presence, the outlet highlighted.

Even still, the lie about Black fathers persist. Perhaps the thinking is that if we believe Black fathers are absent, they can be made obsolete: by a cop’s bullet, by prison, by a disease of despair for which little treatment is made available. All of these harms and losses are made ever more palatable by a stereotype that has little to no relation to the truth. It’s much easier to kill a man who was already gone, absenteed.

Who created the absent Black father narrative?

In the modern age, the absent Black father stereotype can be traced to Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Because white supremacist thinking is not the sole purview of people who can best be described as inbred Confederate flag wavers’s, Moynihan’s 1965 report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action” (a.k.a. the Moynihan Report), foists socio-political choices made by white men, the majority of American legislators, onto the backs of Black fathers and their families. He used the kind of non-scholarly, threadbare evidence and white supremacist “thinking” that to this very day, still allows for the unarmed victims of police and police surrogates’ to be cast as the responsible party. It’s the kind of logic that allowed Trayvon’s Martin’s killer to be acquitted, for example.

As highlighted in a 2021 UCLA Law Review Report, Moynihan’s Report attributed disadvantage in the Black community to the breakdown of the Black nuclear family, emphasizing the absence of Black fathers and the prominence of Black women as household heads.

Moynihan literally blamed the Black girl.



He argued that Black matriarchy played a pivotal role in fatherlessness, as it led to a decline in Black men’s perceived power within their families, causing them to relinquish their roles as patriarchs. Legislated poverty, racist norms that kept Black men and women from high education and dream jobs, a war that returned people to their homes addicted to opioids because the pain of what saw and the pain of what happened to their bodies, was so great?  Not a thing. Surely has nothing to do with debunking the assertions the Moynihan Report.

And that mid-60s disinformation was reinforced in the 1970s through the Reagan construction of the “Welfare Queen,” which took the life of a single, Black woman, Linda Taylor, and made her criminal enterprise the story of all poor Black women–again without evidence. (Not Fun Fact: Linda Taylor didn’t claim being Black and worked hard to pass.).

Ronald Reagan’s use of the term, coupled with the already vilified image of Black fathers became an effective political tool in the criminalization of Black people, Black parents, Black fathers. Black mothers were considered, then, a threat to the Black family. And Black fathers? Further, forced sterilization and mass incarceration decimated Black families and put Black children quite often in the hands of white caretakers who, with their monthly state checks,  were doing what they’d always done: making money off the backs of Black babies.

All of that was made possible by the Moynihan Report and the Welfare Queen construction. They perpetuated such negative societal perceptions of Black fathers and the single Black mothers they “left behind” that to this day, they drive extraordinary discriminatory outcome in child welfare and foster care. The National Bureau of Economics reported last year that Black children were twice as likely as their white peers to spend time in foster care.

And Black fathers? Well, they were just gone, their voices dismissed when they were heard at all. Left in the place fathers once stood were enormous harmful social implications, policies and practices that disproportionately target Black families for surveillance and intervention.

Why is the Black absent father narrative BS?

Kids and Parents

Source: Getty / Getty

The rate of unmarried Black fathers is a poor excuse to use to connect to the idea of fatherlessness. Using the rate of unmarried Black fathers as a sole indicator of fatherlessness among Black children is a flawed premise. As forcefully noted in  “The Truth about Black Fatherhood,” marriage rates do not accurately reflect the presence of Black fathers in their children’s lives.

Moreover, studies indicate that Black fathers often provide substantial support to their children’s mothers compared to other ethnic groups. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 National Health Statistics Report, 70 percent of Black fathers living with their children were more likely to engage in daily caregiving tasks such as bathing, dressing, or assisting with toilet needs, compared to their White (60 percent) or Hispanic (45 percent) counterparts. Additionally, these Black fathers were also more likely to share meals with their children.

Dr. Erlanger Turner, a licensed psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, emphasized to CBS News, that the CDC findings were significant because they extended beyond biological fathers residing within the household.

“It also indicates that Black fathers often step into the role of (stepparent) or maintain consistent involvement when living outside of the home,” he argued. “You can have perhaps multiple fathers or father figures and grandparents, who can play a very strong role that is just as strong, if not stronger than the father,” she said. “You really do have uncles and grandparents and coaches and community members, pastors that can step in and really provide all those things like the guidance, the empathy, the attunement and support.”

The CDC reported that approximately 2.5 million Black fathers reside with their children and roughly 1.7 million are officially living apart from them.

But the persistence of the stereotype of Black children being fatherless has had significant consequences on Black families. It not only perpetuates negative perceptions of Black fathers but also undermines the experiences of Black children who come from loving and supportive households. Further, this stereotype can contribute to feelings of shame, stigma, and self-doubt among Black fathers and Black children, exacerbating existing challenges and barriers to positive family dynamics. 

We must challenge these misconceptions

It’s crucial to debunk the stereotype of Black children growing up without fathers by showcasing the diverse range of Black family experiences. Many Black families are defined by strong bonds, active parental engagement, and resilient community networks. By spotlighting positive representations of Black fatherhood and illustrating the myriad ways in which Black fathers enrich their children’s lives, we can combat harmful stereotypes and foster more accurate and inclusive narratives that will encourage us all. 

Christmas at home with family

Source: svetikd / Getty

We need more honest and dignified media content, from televisions shows to films, music and books. Shows like Black-ish has been instrumental in showcasing the strength of Black fathers and the Black family unified. Additionally, organizations like the Black American Dad Foundation, which aims to challenge biased perceptions of Black fathers through firsthand accounts, are actively working to challenge these stereotypes.

It’s imperative to celebrate and uplift Black fatherhood in all its forms. Black fathers play a pivotal role in nurturing, guiding, and supporting their children, and their contributions should be acknowledged and valued. By honoring the diverse experiences and narratives of Black families, we can strive towards building a more inclusive and compassionate society where all families are recognized and respected.

Happy Father’s Day!!


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The post Black Fathers Are Most Involved In Their Children’s Lives: End The Fake News Stereotype! appeared first on NewsOne.

Black Fathers Are Most Involved In Their Children’s Lives: End The Fake News Stereotype! 
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