By David C. Miller
Historically, black fathers continue to be marginalized and portrayed as absent, deadbeat, and emotionally disconnected from their children. In public discourse, these exaggerated portrayals have become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the hearts and minds of too many black fathers.
Fatherlessness remains a significant issue with profound generational implications. But imagine if we devoted more time and energy to supporting the strengths of black fathers and closing the opportunity gaps.
This Father’s Day, let’s 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 the lives of their children than any other ethnic group. The report highlights engagement as Black fathers spend quality time with their children, which translates into participating in fun activities, picking up afternoons from school, preparing meals and other fatherly activities.
The report reveals that many black fathers interviewed did not live in the house with their children; however, the fathers interviewed appreciate their role and responsibilities as a father. This data unveils what I see when I walk the streets of Baltimore – black fathers, young and old, with their children in tow. Black fathers with toddlers in strollers can be seen 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 rarely mentioned in daily accounts or on the 6 p.m. news.
When I date young black fathers with their children, I often chat with them and share inspiring words about my fatherhood journey. These impromptu conversations help emotionally support black fathers and paint beautiful stories about our collective experiences in raising children. As too many black fathers struggle with economic deprivation, legal support and access to quality mental health services, I see a ray of hope in the eyes of so many black fathers I meet in the living rooms of hairdressing, cultural events and throughout the community.
I hope we recognize the depth and breadth of Baltimore City’s black fathers and mobilize vital resources to support a population of forgotten citizens. If Baltimore truly wants to be a world-class city, better understanding the needs of Black fathers and providing safety nets to support these fathers and their families is essential.
David C. Miller is a West Baltimore native, father, husband, and author of “Dare to Be King: What if the Prince Lives?”