By Kevin Daniels, Lawrence Jackson and Paul Archibald
Over fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson designated through an executive order the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. While African traditions always celebrated fatherhood on a continuous basis, in the U.S., Father’s Day was designated as a day to honor all fathers, father figures, and fatherhood.
Historically, the focus of Father’s Day was to show the positive influences and contributions made in their children’s lives; however, it has become a myriad of negative memes and myths that have shifted the Black fatherhood narrative to a stigma of perceived absenteeism.
According to a report by the Center of Disease Control (CDC), and a recent study by Dr. Travis Dixon, “It is a dangerous distortion to Black families to incorrectly depict Black fathers as uninvolved or not present in the lives of their children, thereby, inaccurately suggesting that Black fathers are absent and abandon their children, especially given there is a lack of evidence to support those claims.”
The two-year study found that cable and network news shows, national and local newspaper articles, and online opinion sites continue to proliferate the false claims of the 1965Moynihan Report, which depicted Black families as “crumbling” because the fathers were not present. The Moynihan Report made egregious assumptions and failed to empirically take into consideration the legacy of slavery, the generational wealth gap and the migration of Black fathers that left homes to provide for their families.
Subsequently, the Moynihan Report left in its wake, particularly among partisan political media pundits and their constituents, the myth that “there is no one to blame for the plight of Black families but themselves.” According to the CDC, they found that even though 72% of Non-Hispanic and Non-Caucasian women were not married, it did not mean that Black fathers were not involved in their children’s lives; the report went further to show that Black fathers are more likely than Caucasian and Hispanic fathers to not only be in the lives of their children in every way, but to bathe them, change diapers, dress them, provide meals, and take them to and from their activities. It is to this kind of father that over fifty years ago an executive order was signed to honor.
To that end, in roundtable discussions and forums in Baltimore City over a one- year period, many Black fathers said, “They were aware of the myths surrounding the statistics and media interpretations of their accountability and responsibilities to their families but that the media is only structured to capture targeted snapshots of “some” Black fathers’ lives and not the larger moments of “most” Black fathers.” In the forum, none of the fathers romanticized the notion that they “didn’t have problems and challenges navigating the multiple responsibilities of their lives including family, health, work, and the continued negative barrage of images of some Black males moving through the school to prison pipeline”, but these untelevised and awakened Black males were clear that “keeping it one hundred100” was still their mantra and branding.
They also celebrated the strength and tenacity of Black women through this process and realized that without them the Moynihan Report might have come true.
Lastly, despite the somewhat belittling lectures by Bill Cosby and former President Barack Obama concerning the negative conditions of Black fathers in America, particularly in the lives of their children, most Black fathers in the forums likened their experiences in America to the recent movie “Black Panther.” When it was time for T’Challa to assume the throne of his father, he then faced challenges externally and internally. He is given strength when his mother yells to him “show them who you are.”
On this Father’s Day, we honor all fathers but more specifically Black Fathers with the prophetic words of the sacred text, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none.” The rebuttal from Baltimore Black male forums and beyond would be, “We have found those honorable men.”
Dr. Kevin Daniels is the chair of the Civic Action Committee (Minister’s Conference) and an associate professor at Morgan State University in the School of Social Work.
Lawrence Jackson is the founder and host of the radio show “A Different Identity.”
Dr. Paul Archibald is the CEO and founder of Archibald Optimal Health Services in Baltimore.