Destroying the myth of the missing Black father

Kush Azrael | 6/11/2014, 9:59 a.m.
Black fathers are important and active in their children’s lives, despite negative images and stereotypes

When it comes to Black fathers, they don’t pay child support and never spend time with their children. Well, this is what the mainstream media would have you believe. However, a study released in December of last year revealed that Black fathers are more active in their children’s lives than any other race. Out of Black fathers who live with their children, 75 percent of Black fathers, compared to 60 percent White and 45 percent Latino, would help with tasks such as bathing and diapering. Thirty-five percent of Black fathers who live with their children read to them daily, compared to 30 percent of White dads and 22 percent of Latino dads. Black dads who live outside of the house were at least as involved as other dads who didn’t live with their children. More than half of Black fathers said that several times a week or more, they talked to their kids about their day – a higher percentage than Whites and Latino’s living separately from their children according to the report.

Black fathers are important and active in their children’s lives, despite negative images and stereotypes. The mainstream media’s images of Black Fathers make up a minority.

An unlikely advocate for Black fathers is Dr. Roberta Coles who is a White college professor. Her most popular works on Black fathers are “The Best Kept Secret: Single Fathers” and “The Myth of the Missing Black Father: The Persistence of Black Fatherhood in America.” Both books challenge negative stereotypes placed on Black fathers. In “The Myth of the Missing Black Father” Coles and co-editor Charles Green acknowledge that Black men are less likely to marry than other races, but they show that many continue to co-parent through cohabitation of informal caretaking if they are outside the home. Coles’ book “The Best Kept Secret” highlights single custodial fathers who have become single parents through divorce, are widowers, have adopted or cohabitation relationships have just gone bad.

Over a five-year period she interviewed many fathers who were raising their children alone. What she discovered is a lot of these men had the option of transferring legal custody to a relative or state custody, but chose to raise their children themselves.

More and more fathers have been stepping up to raise their children and Black fathers are in that group. Children living with only their father has hit a record high of 8 percent in the United States according to a Pew Research Center study.

The number of single father households has increased nine fold since 1960, from less than 300,000 to more than 2.6 million in 2012.

Single fathers in general are more likely to be White according to the study.

However, compared with married fathers, single fathers are also usually younger and less educated and more likely to be Black if under the age of 30.

The origins of Fathers Day, was actually to honor a single father. A woman named Sonora Dodd wanted to honor her father, a Civil War veteran who raised six children alone after his wife died in childbirth. In 1910, she and others celebrated the first informal Fathers Day in Spokane, Wash. and the movement spread quickly across the country. The holiday did not become officially recognized until 1966, When President Lyndon Johnson declared the third Sunday in June would be National Fathers Day.

According to Coles, Black fathers are destroying the myth of absenteeism in The United States and deserve to be celebrated for that.