Oftentimes, when we discuss fatherhood we assume that African-American men aren’t part of that conversation, largely because a number of studies and reports have repeatedly told us that black fathers are overwhelmingly absent from their children’s lives.
However, while these numbers are nothing to ignore, they contribute to a damaging narrative about black men and negate the achievements of the number of black men who play an active role in their children’s lives. In honor of Father’s Day, here are five lies we should stop telling about black fatherhood.
Black Fathers Aren’t Involved In Their Children’s Lives
Recent data published by the Center for Disease Control reveal that African-American fathers spend more time in their children’s day-to-day lives than dads from other racial groups, defying stereotypes about black fatherhood. The Pew Research Center has found similar evidence that black dads don’t differ from white dads in any significant way, and that there isn’t the expected disparity found in so many other reports. Although black fathers are more likely to live in separate households, Pew estimates that 67 percent of black dads who don’t live with their kids see them at least once a month, compared to 59 percent of white dads and just 32 percent of Hispanic dads.
The Increasing Number of Single-Parent Homes Is Exclusively A Black Problem
The increase in number of single-parent homes has repeatedly been painted as a problem exclusively rooted in the black community. However, that fact couldn’t be further from the truth. The number of single-parent American households has tripled in number since 1960, and while an overwhelming majority of these households are likely to be led by black or Hispanic women, the number of black, single-father households is also on the rise.
The Number Of Un-wed Mothers Is a Statement on Morality In The Black Community
According to a 2010 study, 72 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers, a sharp contrast to the 24 percent detailed in the 1965 Moynihan Report.
Some have taken this number and cited it as a contributing factor to a large portion of black America’s present-day plight. However, many have taken issue with how this statistic has been used with respect to the black community’s moral standing. In an article for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates broke down the numbers in an effort to give a more accurate depiction…
But while the number of unmarried black women has substantially grown, the actual birthrate (measured by births per 1000) for black women is it the lowest point that its ever documented.
So while a larger number of black women are choosing not to marry, many of those women are also choosing not to bring kids into the world. But there is something else.
As you can see the drop in the birthrate for unmarried black women is mirrored by an even steeper drop among married black women. Indeed, whereas at one point married black women were having more kids than married white women, they are now having less.
I point this out to show that the idea that the idea that, somehow, the black community has fallen into a morass of cultural pathology is convenient nostalgia. There is nothing “immoral” or “pathological” about deciding not to marry.
Men Who Didn’t Have Fathers Won’t Make Good Fathers
There’s no disputing the effect fatherlessness has on children’s lives. Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor, and being raised without a father raises the risk of teen pregnancy, marrying with less than a high school degree, and forming a marriage where both partners have less than a high school degree. However, men who didn’t grow up with their fathers are not incapable of being good fathers themselves — an assumption disproportionately assigned to black men who are more likely to be raised by single mothers.
Black Fathers Are An Anomaly
Black fathers do exist, a message that entrepreneur William K. Middlebrooks hopes to spread with his book “Dare To Be Extraordinary: A Collection of Positive Life Lessons from African American Fathers.” Part chapter-memoir, part call-to-action and part inspiration, the book recognizes and honors the wisdom and teachings of African-American fathers passed down to sons and daughters. Among them: Cultural icon and entrepreneur Russell Simmons, NBA veteran Allan Houston, ABC News broadcaster Robin Roberts and the authors themselves.