Okay, so who is my gripe toward? My arguement is against Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant’s special about “Fatherless Son’s”. There is an unspoken notion that something is inherently wrong with Black men. Throughout the segment, not once did I hear any reference about the systemic complexity which impact Black men and their role as fathers. Not once did either of them mention the traumatizing and fatal effect of the Vietnam war on Black fathers, the incarceration rate and the fake “War on Crime” by the Republican party, or the effects of economic deprivation and child support injustices upon the Black family unit. Conversely, they highlight the “alarming epidemic” of absintee Black fathers in the community, discussed the psychological importance of fathers in the son’s life, and profile the “good” fathers who stayed.
The current “state” of Black men is the residual effect of these factors and bares a similar quality to the trauma caused by previous systems of control.
There is no doubt. We know there was/is a lack of presence of Black fathers at any given time. However, I question whether the rate is as disproportional as some claim. The compounded historical factors discussed in part 1 left a rift within Black families, more evident between the 70’s and 80’s. The current “state” of Black men is the residual effect of these factors and bares a similar quality to the trauma caused by previous systems of control. A consistent theme of “inadequacy” surfaced several times during the show. Vanzant referenced the inadequacy “within” fathers who abandon their child. Chiming in later, Oprah also highlighted the inadequacy that arises in children impacted by “fatherlessness.” T.D. Jakes on segment 2 echoed the same point, emphasizing that men can feel inadequate when they grow up without fathers and perpetuate the cycle. Now get this. Feelings of inadequacy is shaped by experiences from our socialization and our functionality. It surprises me that neither of the pundits discussed the inadequacy developed by Black men generated from the social formations of American exploitation and degradation. Various writers in history have discussed the complex struggle to exist as Black men under a repressive ideology designed to deconstruct their manhood. “To find value and adequacy in a society that deems and subject your exist to a meaningless aberration”, as Ralph Ellison articulates. What’s interesting is we have not arrived at an appropriate frame to view Black fatherhood from the lens of a social dilemma and understand that feelings of “inadequacy” is part of the mental space that Black people (men in particular for discussion) strive against. In effect, the blame remains to be cast upon the Black man himself.
I’m convinced that more men are moving themselves into fatherhood and facing the challenge.
Let me reiterate from the previous article, I will not make excuses for Black absentee fathers. If you produced a child or more, you must stand up to the plate and bat for the next few decades. However, I want to make sure that we cast the proper stage for what Oprah has called an “epidemic in the African American community.” I will go on a limb and claim that the cauldron exploded in the mid to late 70’s well into the early 90s. During this period, we have witnessed more children born and “abandoned” by fathers than any other era in the Black experience. As I argued earlier, this period overlaps with many factors that effect Black men in the community.
My challenge for readers is to observe whether this absentee fathers phenomena is as common today as it once were 15 to 20 years ago. I’m convinced that more men are moving themselves into fatherhood and facing the challenge. This generation refused to repeat what their fathers couldn’t do. They are in their late 20’s and 30’s and have an average child dependency 1 and 3 children. Now I’m speaking in the generality. Recently, a Minneapolis father has been facing criticism and slander because his 9 -year old son wandered off to Las Vegas. Of course many questions have risen dealing with his fathering skills, occupation, morals etc., and I admit I share in the disappointment. However, I want to highlight the fact that it was a “Black father” that came forward publicly. Fifteen years ago this rare incident would have more likely centered around a single Black mother. The fact that it was a Black man speaks volumes about the state of this current generation.
…we must began to tell the story of Black fathers that did stay and remain functional.
I will rest my case on this point. Black fatherhood has been the soar spot of the community for more than a century culminating to an alarming dilemma over the past two decades. Through commitment, every generation can either repeat the pattern or challenge the social and economic inheritance from their parents. Absentee fathers isn’t a problem in a vacuum and has to be framed in the context of larger society and systemic factors. Lastly, we must began to tell the story of Black fathers that did stay and remain functional. It has become the sub-alternative perspective that isn’t discussed. BET will soon air an anthology, “Bet on Black: African-American Women Celebrate Fatherhood in the Age of Barack Obama”, discussing the stories and perspective of single fathers that stayed the course. My hopes is that documentary offer an alternative perspective to view this issue and challenge the common myth that Black fathers are not involved.
I’m encouraged when I drive or ride down Broadway avenue and witness Black men, young and old, pushing strollers up the street, usually alone. I find strength in my circle of men who are committed to their families regardless of the nature of their relationship with the mother. In every way, this post is for them, about them, hoping to shed light on the reality of them, despite what society tends perpetuate about their existence.