Black Fathers Are Actually Winning at Parenthood

Photo taken by Kiana Keys

“Black Fathers Don’t Pull Their Weight.”

This is the consensus, right? It’s interesting that we sit back and believe that garbage. It’s time to shatter, crush, and dismantle that lie. I’m about to tell you something that may blow your mind and change everything you know about everything.

Black fathers spend as much, and in many cases, MORE time with their children than other racial groups. Yup, right here in America. It’s proven. Gasping for air yet? I did. When I first came across this study, I thought it was a joke. But I also knew it had to have some validity, because major news outlets reported it:

Children under the age 5: Black Fathers prepared and/or ate meals more with their children vs their white and Hispanic counterparts

Children 5-18: Black Fathers took children to and from activities daily more compared to their white and Hispanic counterparts

 Children 5-18: Black Fathers also helped their kids with homework more than their white and Hispanic counterparts
CNN

Accepting the truth about black fathers.

Reading an article wasn’t enough and I still struggled in my confusion. I never heard this assertion and I wondered how many others missed it too. My curiosity took over, and I went straight to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) report. And there it was. I was staring at beautiful charts, graphs and data tables proving that black fathers are winning in parenthood across multiple areas. Still shaking your head? That’s fair. It was a hard notion to wrap my head around too. Look at the graph below for more proof.

The Los Angeles Times

Related: Black Moms Are Defying Stereotypes and Slaying Motherhood

According to the report, black fathers show as much, if not more involvement with their children than their white and Latino counterparts across categories:

  • Mealtime
  • Bathing/diapering/dressing
  • Reading
  • Playing
  • Talking
  • Helping with homework
  • Extracurricular activities

-CDC

Waaaait, what??? Come again? So basically black fathers are winning in all these categories? Well, I’ll be. This is great, because fatherhood involvement has so many positive effects imperative to our children’s well-being. Involvement increases child academic achievement. Decreases childhood delinquency. And decreases childhood substance abuse. But I’m still a bit baffled on why negative narratives about black fathers have circulated through the country and our communities for decades, despite this truth.

Related: Breastfeeding While Black. Let’s Normalize It

What we THOUGHT we knew.

Why is this report so surprising? Because it goes against everything we thought we knew. Allow me to clarify. Personally, I know many great and involved black fathers. My husband, dad, uncles, cousins and friends are testaments to that. But there is a collective ideological narrative buried deep down in my, ahem, our subconscious that overrides what the data proves to be true. The narrative that “black father’s ain’t nothin” rings as clear as our dark/light skin “colorism” complex, and echoes louder than our historical emotions towards breastfeeding.

This vile narrative reeks of the distrust, shame and disappointment we show towards black fathers as it resonates across mainstream America. It drowns out the conversations being had around our own dinner tables. It even overhauls Father’s Day. You know, all the reminders about how Father’s Day should really be for the mothers that struggled in their absence. The general consensus buried deep in the bowels of America is that black fathers are gone. Ghost. Aloof. Disinterested. Basically they have no desire to step up and pull their parental weight. These myths are contagious, destabilizing, and toxic. And what do we do? Sit back, accept, and add fuel to the fire of this public castration.

Related: “Why You Look So Mean?” Tales of An Angry Black Woman

Why everyone got it wrong.

Many of our negative assumptions have long, complicated roots entangled in oppression. Perhaps it’s because so many of our black men are dead, absent or behind bars due to structural barriers, inequality, and institutional racism. In fact, 1.5 million black men are deemed “missing in America” because of early death and imprisonment. Yep, their black faces STAY plastered right there on the sides of 1.5M milk cartons. But let’s be clear. When they go “missing,” it’s generally not because they place a lesser value on parenting. Instead, it’s due to the aforementioned factors that strip this vulnerable population of parental engagement.

It also rings true that over the centuries, many black families have adopted a non-traditional household makeup that is confusing and unfamiliar to mainstream white America. Black household structures emerged out of collective adaptation to marginalization and oppression. For example, marriage is a disincentive for many black women on welfare because a growing household reduces their government assistance.

Related: Why Black Couples Still “Jump the Broom” at Weddings

Long story short, for too many, marriage leads to more financial struggles as opposed to the elevated socioeconomic status of their white women counterparts. The New York Times journalist, Charles Blow, speaks of this when addressing the black household: the CDC reports that 72% of black children are born to unwed mothers. Black men and women are more likely to live together without getting married.

Myths about “shacking up.”

Now for the kicker. The data shows cohabitation does not equal absenteeism. Now turn to your neighbor and repeat that. We mistakenly equivocate “shacking up” with bad parenthood. But research shows otherwise. Furthermore, 67% of black fathers that do live apart from their children see them at least once a month, compared to 59% and 32% of white and Latino dads, respectively. In other words, black fathers, both in and out of the household, are more involved with their children than other racial groups.

America is offended by what it doesn’t understand.

Unfamiliarity and lack of understanding begets frustration and negative assumptions towards black men. You know what they say about assumptions, and this is why America is confused as all get out about the black household. If America uses marriage and traditional white family structures as a metric to extrapolate and gauge black father involvement, it will come up short every time. It doesn’t fit, it doesn’t work. America can’t force-fit black fathers into it’s box of how things should be. Otherwise, it will forever wallow in a perpetual state of misconception about how black families really parent and operate. We are different. Our family structures are different. Different doesn’t mean worse. Perhaps our way isn’t so bad? Hmmm.

Related: Why You Should Teach Your Child Black History At Home

Hijack the narrative and tell the truth.

Courtesy of Shuttershock

Where do we go from here? I can make a few suggestions. If we don’t like the conversation, we have to change it. It’s clear we have to tell the truth about how well black father’s are parenting. But how? We need to acknowledge black fathers more. Celebrate them. Lift them up. Empower them. Now we know the truth and we can’t keep riding uninformed on this runaway train. We have the collective responsibility to dismantle, crush, and revamp the conversation until it resonates in our subconscious thinking. It’s up to us to grab the narrative and steer it back on track. When we sing this song from memory, it will emerge and embed itself in America’s lyrical psyche as well. Imagine America finding it “cool” to be like black dads!

Steps on how to change the conversation.

  • Believe it. Read, research and inquire. After all, this is the first step because we can’t preach what we don’t believe.
  • Flood timelines. Share positive images, posts, and stories about black father until it’s ingrained in America’s psyche.
  • Change the conversation in your community and around your dinner table. It starts with the little things.
  • Celebrate, promote, and encourage fathers every day of the year. It’s motivational for everyone.
  • Stop the shameful public-bashing. It perpetuates the negative narrative.
  • Give them their Father’s Day back. Yep, hand it back over. We know moms are great and sometimes take on more than we can bare. But shine the hell out of black father’s on that day while everyone is listening. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you again in June.

Reminder: Father’s Day Should Only Be About Fathers-Period.

We can’t wait on America to tell our truths. We gotta do the legwork ourselves.

Will you join me in changing this narrative? If so, share this blog and start your own conversations today.

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook!

Author
I am a career-driven mother of 3 dedicated to the health, spiritual, and emotional well-being of moms.

17 comments

  1. I know Black father’s pull their weight. My brother has two daughters he practically reared by himself.

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  2. My daughter’s father and I divorced when she was an infant. Because I was angry with him, I denied him a relationship with her. When our daughter was about four she asked a male friend of mine- who happened to be a fantastic father to his own children- to be her “Daddy”. He sat me down to have a heartfelt conversation about my damaging behavior and the emotional manipulation I was doing.
    After I acquiesced and my ex and I developed a healthy relationship with each other, he asked if our duaghter could come live with him so he could parent her and build a stronger relationship with her. It was a decision that I am greatful that I made, but did not come without raised eyebrows from friends and family. He was an exemplary Black father. Although our daughter lives with me now, the two have a favorable father-daughter relationship.
    Yes, society needs to stop propagating the notion that black men are deadbeat, absentee sperm donors. Share the reality that good father’s are the norm.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story! It can be hard to place our personal feelings aside and do the right thing. I’m glad you let him share in the parenting. Your daughter will be forever grateful. Great message.

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  3. This was hard for me to read. I understand the research, but I also have my experience. The sporadic periods when my parents were together were followed by years when they were not. I was glad they had separate houses. When they were together it was a whirlwind of arguments and insanity. My father had another family. I assumed they were receiving all the love, money and attention. At his funeral the half-siblings discovered none of us were being cared for by our father. I am now middle class with one daughter. When her mother and I were estranged for 2 years, I rented an apt. specifically near her high school. I cooked holiday meals and brought them to the house and ate with them and guests. I did not speak badly of my wife even after she continued to hurt me. I did the last minute pick ups, clothes shopping, hair appts and even listened as she sometimes complained about her mother ( like many teenagers do)-without trashing my wife. At the time, my wife thought I was a “half-a**husband” but even then she had to recognize that I was a 100% dad. The result? My wife and I have since gotten back together and I got a chance to model what a real father looks like.

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    1. Thank you for your story. I appreciated reading about it. Everyone’s situation and perspective is different, and there are many factors that account for parental engagement. My goal is to help black fathers escape the stigma of not being there. Some are, some aren’t. But they should never be judged as one monolithic group.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this message with the world. As a black father I have to constantly fight the perceptions of my eventual disappearance from my children’s lives. I’ve always spent a lot of time with my children and even now that my wife and I are separated, I have to fight even harder to maintain those relationships.

    It’s great to have data to backup what is true, but we don’t hear. We hear way too much negativity surrounding black father hood. That’s why a couple friends and myself started a blog called “Dad Will Do It” to share the joys and challenges of black fatherhood, so that we can balance the poor perceptions with the truth.

    Again, thank you and keep fighting the fight.

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  5. The narrative that isn’t not being shown here is the number of failures. Two different discussions. Fathers when given the opportunity are making the best of it. How about the growing number of new child support cases that being filed every day across America. Family court visitation is a complete different debate but does have relevance here. When these unconventional families don’t work out usually they end up in Child Support court. These men are being crucified in the system. Men are killing themselves living in cars as well as living below the nations poverty levels. This is a great article however there’s a smoke and mirrors effect going on too. The child support system is destroying the rest of the men not mentioned here. Do they not matter? Are they the undesirables of the black communities. They don’t deserve a chance to live a decent life? All these stats are predicated on a cooperative custodial mother. Bitter women are keeping kids away from fathers everyday, Parental Alienation is real. Lets stop ignoring the pink elephant in the room and discuss the whole story not just the glamorous part.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree. There are many other areas as well and I am sure they will make interesting blog topics if anyone wants to delve further. This piece was meant to discuss the narrative at a high level. Thanks for reading!

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    2. But we have men posting their child support payments on Facebook. How can $70.00 per week destroy anybody?

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      1. The reality is this. Sister is right paying $70.00 does not destroy anyone. Only if you’re making minimum wage and you’re living on your own. Lets be fair and clear. Men are being crushed in Child Support to no fault of their own. Repetitive behavior is what’s getting many in trouble. Making the same bone head choice one after e other. One baby mama then leave that one start another family leave her its a behavior that is not being addressed. What grinds my gears is that this sites are punishing feel good stories and not reporting the epidemic that is at hand. You can visit any state and 🚶 in any community and you will hear the same song from 80 to 90% of men. Child Support Child Support ! If these statistics are wonderful why are the lines to file petitions in family courts always out the door ? When you have mothers who like this women just posted are cooperative and willing to work with what she got. She’s a rare breed. From what I’ve encountered more and more others are restricting access to the child because of all kinds of juvenile reasons. That’s why I would like to know what are they seeing ? Because its not the reality of the problem.

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  6. As an adoptive father and former single dad who absolutely loves and cherishes his children I am so happy to see others sharing the truth about black fathers. I agree with your assertion about the need for positive stories and images of black fathers and I’ve dedicated my life to empowering black men to live extraordinary lives.

    I am an author and motivational speaker who created an online resource specifically to provide men of color with some resources to overcome the negative media generated stereotypes. If you’re interested in sharing this resource please take a moment to review the site and see if you align with its intention.

    http://www.bmracademy.com

    Thanks for your article!

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  7. As long as black men bash black women all over social media. I WILL NOT stroke their egos and claim that they are good fathers.

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  8. Thanks for this. My child’s father is as active as he can be considering his financial, educational and living circumstances. I got pregnant by a “fling” and kept the child. I earn triple his salary. I am 10 years older. I realized my expectations had to change when he didn’t really build the tools to be a provider. But he is a father to our daughter. I couldn’t bring myself to take him to child support court because he will likely never catch up. But my daughter spends her weekends with him. The hardest part is the culture, values and class difference. He doesn’t’ value reading or education at home as much as I do. His family expect the schools to do everything. I expect that we will expose our child to be competitive in school. I don’t value toys and gifts as much as he does. And that is something we are working on. I think it is hard because many women who get pregnant by these men know that it is not the ideal man, but we want the baby. I know so many other ex loverswho would have been perfect fathers but nature and passion had other plans.

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