Black Fatherhood: Escaping the myth of absenteeism

When I was a child, having a father was easy since my dad was always there. He gave us a bath, fed us, cooked for the family, and—most importantly—kept us safe. As I got older and navigated young adulthood and later adulthood, my viewpoint on parenthood evolved. Only then did I realize that the term "fatherhood" meant different things to the many people I knew and dealt with on a daily basis. I also discovered that "black fatherhood" was an exception. Therefore, what I went through as a youngster was anomalous, a wild guess, and a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence that only a select group of black children went through. I steadfastly resisted the idea that my experience was illusive for many others. Somewhere out there other black children were experiencing “black fathering” and challenging this social abnormality that was placed on us.

I've heard it said that, in part because of mass imprisonment, black fathers are "absent" from their children's lives. This myth has received too much attention and does not adequately consider the diverse range of experiences that black fathers have had to deal with throughout the years. Oppression, family separation, castration, persecution of many kinds, legal fights, tough relationships, policing and more have been faced by black fathers, yet some of them still want to be there for their children and families because they have been indoctrinated to be protectors. According to the CDC, African-American dads are more involved with their children on a daily basis than fathers from any other racial group. Nearly half of black fathers living apart from their young children said they played with them several times a week, 42 percent said they fed or dined with them that frequently, and 41 percent said they bathed, diapered or helped dress them as often – rates on par with or higher than those of other men living apart from their children (CDC).

In America, there are far too many dysfunctional families and many would like to point to the absentee black father. However, it is time to dispel that myth- let’s uplift and highlight the many black fathers who are there physically in the home and co-parenting. Happy Father’s Day!!!

 Recommended Reading:

  1. Slavery, Fatherhood and Paternal duty in African American communities over the long nineteenth century Call#: AARL 973.7092 HILDE
  2. Fathering From the Margins: An Intimate Examination of Black Fatherhood Call#: AARL 306.874 ABDILL
  3. Black Fathers: An Invisible Presence in America Call#: AARL 306.8742 BLACK
  4. Black Fathers: A Call for Healing Call#: 306.8742 TAYLOR
  5. Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood Call#: 306.8742 PITTS

Written by: AARL Librarian: Marsela James