While fathers being absent within black communities is a real issue, the conversation can’t simply begin and end there. Stereotypes, perpetuated by widely believed notions, are often invalid and can lead to misinformed discussions and beliefs.
The narrative of the black father needs to be discussed on a much wider, more inclusive level, and should not ignore those dads who are playing an active role in their children’s lives.
Andile Mayisela is one such attentive father, and says he’s always found it quite interesting when people praise him on social media platforms for spending time with his child whenever he posts a picture of an activity.
“I once asked one of the people who had commented why they’d praise me for something I should naturally be doing,” he says. “It’s not like I’m doing something extraordinary – this is my child and I should be raising them.”
He feels this sort of reaction is the result of the perpetuation of the idea that black fathers are never there for their kids – and that when one is, it’s a remarkable phenomenon, when in fact it’s not and shouldn’t be seen as such.
Another dad, Hlumi Shelle, says that what gets to him is the fact that all black fathers are often painted with the same brush.
“Not all of us make babies and then run away,” he says. “Yes, there are fathers who don’t care about their children, but this shouldn’t be accepted as a universal fact.”
With these sentiments in mind, here are three misconceptions about black fathers that society tends to perpetuate:
Black fathers aren’t involved in their children’s lives
The comments of the fathers we spoke to clearly show that this idea is not entirely true. The Centre for Disease Control in America conducted a study that found that African-American fathers spent more time with their children, more so than any other racial group in the country – which many may find shocking, if assumed beliefs about blacks dads are anything to go by.
In line with the findings of the Centre for Disease Control, the Pew Research Centre, also in America, found that 67% of black fathers who don’t live in the same house as their children saw them at least once a month, while only 59% of white dads saw their kids for the same amount of time.
Single-parent households are a problem within black communities
This is a set-up often associated with black communities, sometimes exclusively so. This is a huge misconception. While black communities may make up the majority of the numbers, they don’t make up all of them. It’s also important to consider that many single-parent households are being run by fathers. In America, the number of single-parent households has tripled in the past five decades, and there’s been a sharp rise in single-father households.
Men who grew up without fathers don’t make good fathers
The role of the father has a huge impact on a child’s life. Research has shown that children who have grown up in a home where the father is absent are four times more likely to be poor compared to those who grew up with both parents. There have also been links to teenage pregnancy. But to assume that growing up without a father means that one can’t become a good dad is an unfair assumption, and one that is often made about young black boys.