By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
Take a moment over the next few days to bid HAPPY FATHERS DAY to every Black dad, grandfather and responsible parental surrogate. Give credit where it is due!
This weekend should be a time of celebrating all the incredible Black fathers across the country. Instead, it is often used to indict brothers. To subscribe to racist scapegoating that points blame for Black societal ills to the African American father, is to perpetuate the most socially debilitating stereotype in history.
Bigotry and discrimination rely on the notion that the oppressed are unworthy of respect. Making that case requires emphasis on the most negative perceptions and conjectures possible. Eventually, lies repeated enough are accepted as truth – forcing the maligned into constantly striving to dispel myths.
Here are some facts from a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics: Its findings for fathers of children under five revealed:
- 78.2 percent of Black fathers fed or ate meals with their children daily compared to 73.9 percent of white dads and 63.9 percent Latino
- 70.4 percent of Black fathers bathe, diaper or dress their children each day, compared to 60 percent of whites and 45 percent of Latino male parents
- When it comes to playing with children each day, 82.7 percent of white fathers fall into that category compared to 82.2 Blacks and 74.1 Latino
- The survey showed 34.9 percent of Black fathers read to their children daily while 30.2 percent white and 21.9 Latino do the same.
Moving up to older children, the study offered the following results for fathers with children 5 to 18 years of age:
- 71.1 of Latino dads ate with children in this age group daily compared to 64.2 percent of whites and 61.7 percent of Blacks
- When it came to taking children to and from activities daily, 27.1 percent of Black fathers assumed the responsibility compared to 22.8 percent Latino and 19.5 percent white
- 67.4 percent of Black fathers, 67 percent of whites and 63.5 percent Latinos talk to their children about their day’s activities
- And when it comes to helping children with homework or making sure that they finish it, 40.6 percent Black fathers surveyed indicated they assumed that responsibility compared to 29.3 percent of Latino dads questioned and 28.1 percent of whites
The National Center for Health Statistics study concluded that Black fathers are just as involved as any other race – in some areas, more involved. While 72 percent of African American children are raised in single-family households (usually by mothers), father involvement remains prevalent.
Similar facts revealed in data collected by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that even though Black men were statistically found to be more “absent” from the household in terms of conventional family structure, they were still “more involved with their kids on a daily basis than fathers from other racial groups.”
A third report conducted by the Pew Research Center concluded that “there are no significant differences in the parenting styles of Black and white fathers despite the myth that Black fatherhood is in a prolonged state of crisis.”
Though the three reports offer validation, it really shouldn’t take all that. Most of you know far more dedicated, loving, thoughtful and responsible Black fathers today than so-called “deadbeat dads.” This is one of those situations where the woes of the misdeeds and inactivity of the few blur the clear commitment of many.
Yes, you should say HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to every father – even those who are not living up to their obligations. Why? Because they are more likely to consider their shortcomings as a need for self-improvement, if they are challenged lovingly. Conversely, confrontation breeds confrontation, distance and discouragement.
Don’t you love seeing a brother pushing a stroller, chasing his toddler around a park, trying to hold up a young one wobbling on the training wheels of a bicycle, hoisting a shorty on his shoulders to see over the crowd at the parade, arm wrestling and letting the little one win? There are dads who dry eyes and offer shoulders to lean on.
And, no, a brother doesn’t look for medals or trophies for doing what he is supposed to do. After all, fatherhood is an obligation that morphs into unbridled joy. While he is not looking for extra credit, he is deserving of respect, acknowledgement, love and recognition of his contribution.
So to every Black man out there stepping up to the plate daily – sometimes hitting homeruns and other times striking out – God bless you for swinging. When you contribute to a boy or girl becoming a real man or woman, you are a winner! Happy Father’s Day!
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].