This Father’s Day, Let’s Shatter the Myth About the Absent Black Father

Fact: More young black fathers are raising their children at home than are not. If you’re surprised, keep reading.

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Black men are present and engaged fathers who love their children.

Black men are present and engaged fathers who love their children.

I needed to write that twice, in hopes that it cuts through the racist and patently false narrative amplified by mainstream media that the majority of black fathers are scurrilous beings who are locked up and tuned out, low on education and high on weed—too busy getting busy to get a business of their own.

That’s what we’re supposed to believe, right? But the lie detector test determined … that was a lie.

A recent New York Times study led with the sobering headline, “1.5 Million Missing Black Men.” It included such findings as this: “Of the 1.5 million missing black men from 25 to 54—which demographers call the prime-age years—higher imprisonment rates account for almost 600,000. Almost 1 in 12 black men in this age group are behind bars.” This massive incarceration, compounded by substandard health care and fragile mortality rates, results in a fact that leaped from the study:

More than one out of every six black men who today should be between 25 and 54 years old have disappeared from daily life.

Here’s the thing, though: Many of them aren’t “missing.” They haven’t “disappeared.” Many of them have been stolen, ripped from their families to feed bloated prison cells, then regurgitated back out into society, more than likely unable to vote or find a job that enables them to care for their families. There is a direct line from slavery straight to the prison-industrial complex, a devastating continuum that first dehumanizes, then enslaves and criminalizes black bodies for profit, ultimately rendering them killable in the eyes of society. And because patriarchy is the poison of choice in a heteronormative society that places value on the “traditional” family and its central role in community building, there has always been a very concentrated effort to subjugate and oppress black men.

Still … black men are present and engaged fathers who love their children.

“People think they don’t care, but we know they do,” said Joseph Jones, president of the Center for Urban Families, an organization that works to support African-American fathers, to the Los Angeles Times. “We see how dads are fighting against the odds to be engaged in the lives of their children.”

In 2013 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study that I’ve cited often over the years, “Fathers’ Involvement With Their Children: United States, 2006-2010” (pdf). It does a great job shattering some pervasive myths about African-American fathers. The findings include the following:

* More African-American fathers live with their children (2.5 million) than live apart from their children (1.7 million).

Of African-American fathers surveyed who live with their children,

* 78.2 percent fed or ate meals with their children daily, compared with 73.9 percent of white fathers;

* 70.4 percent bathed, diapered or dressed their children daily, compared with 60.0 percent of white fathers;

* 82.2 percent played with their children daily, compared with 82.7 percent of white fathers;

* 34.9 percent read to their children daily, compared with 24.9 percent of white fathers;

* 40.6 percent helped their children with their homework or checked to make sure that they finished it daily, compared with 29.3 percent of white fathers.

* Of the fathers who live away from their children, African-American fathers outperformed white and Latino fathers on nearly all measures surveyed, including reading to their children daily, helping them with homework and changing their diapers.

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