The idea that Black families move forward without involved fathers is a myth perpetuated by negative stereotypes about Black men. The truth could not be farther from such negative connotations. In fact, according to research by the National Institute of Health, “the majority of black fathers live with their children.” The same study also showed that black fathers are more likely to feed, bathe, diaper, dress and play with their children on a daily basis than their white counterparts.
Moreover, these stories of absent Black fathers are yet another referendum on modern American slavery; Black men are overrepresented in jails and prisons across the country. While Black men, women, and children make up less than 20% of the population of the United States, Black men make up over 34% of the population of incarcerated persons.
Police brutality unjustly affects Black men and women, and its impact on families cannot be overstated. Too many children are missing their fathers today due to systemic structural racism, yet another factor that promotes the narrative of single mothers raising children with absent fathers.
Even going back to chattel slavery, Black men who were enslaved often took on the task of helping rear the children of the plantations–children whose mothers were forced to care for their master’s family ahead of their own. Black men have been looking after children who weren’t even theirs for centuries.
Rather than examine systemic white supremacy, researchers regularly ignore that point. Too often studies skip the impact of systemic white supremacy on families and simply note the effects of absentee fathers on children, particularly when a father does not live in the home.
Thankfully, more and more recent studies show us what sociologist Pamela Braboy Jackson says, “it’s the quality of the relationship that matters, and the handling of communication and conflict, and the number of people in the household is not really the key” for the welfare of our kids.
Black fathers are involved in their families and with their children every day. They overcome myths, stereotypes, and the prying eyes of White families who often treat Black fathers with skepticism and mistrust. Black fathers matter. Today, the day after Juneteenth, Black fathers matter even more than ever.