By David C. Miller
Historically, Black fathers continue to be marginalized and depicted as absent, deadbeat and emotionally disconnected from their children. Within public discourse, these exaggerated portrayals have become a self-fulling prophecy in the hearts and minds of too many Black fathers.
Father absence remains a significant issue with far-reaching generational implications. But imagine if we spent greater time and energy supporting the strengths of Black fathers and addressing the opportunity gaps.
On this Father’s Day, let us take a moment to examine the realities of Black fathers through data, and dispel popular myths and stereotypes associated with Black fatherhood.
According to a 2013 CDC report, Black fathers are more engaged in their children’s lives than any other ethnic group. The report highlights engagement as Black fathers spending quality time with their children, translating into participating in fun activities, afternoon pickups from school, preparing meals and other fatherly activities.
The report reveals that many Black fathers surveyed did not live in the home with their children; however, the fathers surveyed value their roles and responsibilities of being a father. This data unearths what I see when I walk the streets of Baltimore–Black fathers, young and old, out with their children in tow. Black fathers can be seen with toddlers in strollers, standing at the bus stop, walking down the street, laughing, and holding hands with their children. These are the sights and sounds of Black fatherhood that are seldom mentioned in daily news accounts or on the six o’clock news.
When I pass young Black fathers out with their children, I often chat with them and share inspirational words about my fatherhood journey. These impromptu conversations help to emotionally support Black fathers and paint beautiful narratives about our collective experiences raising children. While too many Black fathers struggle with economic deprivation, legal support and accessing quality mental health services, I see a glimmer of hope in the eyes of so many Black fathers I meet in barbershops, cultural events, and throughout the community.
I hope that we acknowledge the depth and the breadth of Black fathers in Baltimore City and marshal vital resources to support a forgotten population of citizens. If Baltimore is genuinely going to be a world-class city, better understanding the needs of Black fathers and providing safety nets to support these fathers and families is essential.
David C. Miller is a native of West Baltimore, father, husband and author of “Dare to Be King: What if the Prince Lives?”