By Shannon Roxborough
Much has been written and discussed about Black men in America being absentee and deadbeat parents. Some of this is rooted in racism, while some is based on fact.
Here are a few statistics to consider:
For starters, for every 100 black women, there are only 83 black men.
Incarceration and early death add to this naturally existing gap.
In the United States, some 1.5 million Black men in their prime – between the ages of 25 and 54 – are in jail or prison. And one in four black children can expect to have their father locked up before they reach the age of 14.
Making matters worse, homicide is the leading cause of death for young African-American men.
The result: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows that 69 percent of Black children are born to households run by single mothers.
Then, there are the promiscuous and irresponsible “serial impregnators” or “sperm donors,” as some have referred to them — Black men who are selfish, incapable or intentionally uninvolved as parents.
Back in 2008, while running for president, then-Senator Barack Obama addressed the congregation at Apostolic Church of God on Chicago’s South Side, one of the city’s largest black churches, alluding to his own absent father during childhood, saying: “We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. Too many fathers are M.I.A, too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”
Whatever the reasons, Black fatherhood — or the absence of it — remains one of the most politically controversial, socially sensitive and seriously problematic issues in the African-American community.
But despite the harsh truths, are most Black fathers really missing or invisible?
The statistics and everyday realities say no.
For every Black man who shows up for sex but vanishes when the reality of pregnancy or fatherly obligation hits home, there are countless others who step up to take on parental responsibility — with both their biological children and kids they didn’t father.
In fact, one CDC report found that Black fathers are actually actively very involved with their children, spending more time than men of all other races feeding, dressing, reading to and playing with them daily — whether or not they live under the same roof as the kids.
One Black dad whose actions and attitude flies in the face of the stereotype is Lavonne Richards Jr., the Rochester-based co-host of ROC Voices The Hot Seat, who says being a father not only saved his life, but gave him purpose.
Anything but a fatherless child, his daughter, Autumn Rose Richards, is being prepared for adulthood by a conscientious Black man equipped to steer her in the right direction. Like many other responsible men and good fathers out there, he is passing along his school-of-hard-knocks experience as a positive influence in her everyday life.
“As a father and parent, my job is to make sure my daughter has the right tools to become a successfully functional adult,” he said. “I think people forget that when you have children that you’re obligated to them. Key word being obligated.”
Richards points out, “your children are and will always be your responsibility.”
As a Black father, that means more than just caring for children’s material needs. It involves taking responsibility for everything from their education to potentially life-changing choices they make along the journey of life.
Thankfully, there are many Black men like Richards across the country who do just that: take fatherhood seriously and make a real difference in their children’s lives.
So, with Father’s Day approaching, rather than focusing on derelict men not doing the right thing, it’s time to let the Black men who are there for their children (and their mothers) know just how appreciated they truly are.
These men, are indeed, kings!
Shannon Roxborough, Black Women’s Voices Chief Content and Creative Officer, has been a freelance writer and journalist for more than 30 years, with his writing, commentary and research published in GQ, Money, Barron’s and The New York Times, among many others.