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Help Wanted Black Fathers

By on June 19, 2011

Dad. Daddy. Papa. Father. Sir. Pop.

Whatever you call your father; children fortunate enough to have healthy relationships with their father are believed to be a  minority in the African American community. It’s estimated that at some point from birth to adulthood, 80% of black offspring will be without their dad at some point for some reason. This is yet another preventable epidemic that disproportionately affects black children and families, right up there with HIV/AIDS, poverty, and violence.

The role of black fathers to black children cannot be under estimated. Single mothers are often playing dual roles, some with success, and too many without. Children from single-family households are more vulnerable to lots of bad things; Poor academic performance, sexual promiscuity, substance use, gang activity, and even depression. Father’s matter. Even divorced parents have incentive to keep parental connections intact. Many will tell you this is especially true for the benefits of black boys.
An impressionable black boy growing up without a father or father figure can develop poor self-image, have a disconnect with peer relationships, feel pressured to take on adult roles at an early age. Black boys need male figures like all of us need air to breathe. By any means necessary, children deserve to have access to healthy parents and guardians.

This Father’s Day is an opportunity to recognize those dads who are present and active in the lives of their children. I’d also like to take this moment to encourage us all to think about fatherhood, especially of minority children differently. Chris Rock famously joked about being a dad “that if your daughter ended up on the stripper pole, you did something wrong.” I cannot help but think of famous father Laurence Fishburne and his daughter Montana who recently did a pornographic video.

Absentee fathers are everywhere, from actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to former presidential hopeful, John Edwards. But it’s somehow different for black men and black families. The stakes are higher. And at the core of the African American male, he knows it’s wrong. To sire a child and then to abandon that child is wrong. Children need healthy parents and/or guardians. We need the damn village!

The epidemic has become such a national embarrassment that everyone from Bill Cosby to our nation’s first black president has called on dads to step up and be consistent in their children’s lives. If you are the friend of someone so reckless and irresponsible they are biological fathers of multiple children but have no or very little role in raising them—ASK YOURSELF—Is this the type of friend, I want in my life? All of us have a role to help our brothers be better dads, sometimes we can be subtle but sometimes we need to be blunt and action-oriented.

So this Father’s Day I’d like to acknowledge the mothers, single mothers, grandparents, aunts, foster parents, etc. who work hard to make a good life for children. Raising children is never easy but when it’s done well, your child can leave your protection to positively contribute to the world. Consider President Obama who didn’t have the benefit of a traditional two-parent household, or Oprah Winfrey, shuttled from parent-to-parent, or even the late Richard Pryor who was partially raised in a brothel where is mother worked. Children are resilient and can live amazing lives without the benefit of a hands on dad, but why would any real man want to put his kids through that?

Commentary on the role of African American men, fatherhood, and the impact of absentee dads on black kids. Written by Walker Tisdale III, Healthyblackmen.org publisher.


  1. Preston

    June 19, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Thank you, what an excellent article. Although this is fathers day, I am glad you acknowledged the moms who have had to fill the role of both parents in the absence of the dad.
    Again, thanks for sharing.

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