Facebook never did much for me except for expand my over thinking into what I saw as people’s otherwise already irrational, simple behavior. Now, I’m in the mood to delete every Black male father on my timeline in an effort to excuse myself from the idiotic phrases of their mainly female fan base that goes a little something like this:
“I’m so proud of you. You are such a good father.”
Which elicits something like:
“Thanks______. I have to do for mines.”
In full disclosure, not only do I have a Black father but I live with a Black father. We share a bed, rent payments, and our hearts for a pretty consistent basis now. And people, without knowing if he is a child abuser, emotional manipulator, or a poor role model, continue to sing unsolicited praises for him in the comments section of his social media accounts. Why?
I don’t see this celebrity treatment spread across the races. What instead I am forced to witness is the presence of Black male bodies in children’s lives being equated to good fatherhood. Just the mere presence. Without taking away from amazing displays of black fatherhood, can we be critical of how we treat black fathers because of this fascinating premise that they are somehow extinct. See, when you make something extinct in pop culture, the mere presence of it begins to take on a supernatural, mythological encounter. It becomes fascinating. It becomes…good.
But often times, what I’m seeing from a few (by no means all or a lot) Black fathers is a piss poor display of personhood let alone a complete, stellar father hood performance. When I see some of these men, I am forced to witness an inability to be emotionally supportive without being physically abusive. I am forced to witness men who don’t understand that their every move with be imitated and internalized whether their children are allowed to be fully expressive of that or not. I am forced to witness some fathers who find it an extension of their manhood to behave in a patriarchal and oppressive manner to women who they deem worthy of verbal harassment, misogyny, adultery, and abuse. What I am forced to witness is the display of bags of Nike shoes and Ralph Lauren coats as shows of affection rather than too many hugs, too many kisses, and infinite time reading, going to the zoo, and going on vacations. I witness an inability to teach boys how to be productive citizens, energetic, and creative without calling them names like ‘bad.’ What I am witnessing is an inability to teach girls how to also be productive citizens, energetic, and creative without filling their head with stereotypes on what girls should and shouldn’t do.
The reality is, is that the ability to purchase designer clothes, fancy jackets, and making weekend trips to visit children while they are playing violent video games has been the benchmark for success of Black fatherhood. This has got to end. It is not helpful to anyone.
The very best of Black fatherhood is something that I get to witness all the time and I am proud that this is the norm and not the exception. I am happy that I get to see Black men who are consistently in their children’s lives providing as much or at times more support mentally and emotionally to their children’s well being than anyone else. I am happy that I know wonderfully well adjusted Black children who get to see dedicated Black fathers who wash dishes, do laundry, go to work, read them stories at night, and pick them up when they fall regardless of their age and their gender. I am proud that I get to see Black men who are deeply invested in the quality of the children’s school and are sitting up at night thinking about what college their children will get in to. I am proud that I get to hear Black men speak to their children fair and diplomatically. I am equally as excited to see Black men teaching their children how to have a sense of agency as I am to see them teach their children patience. I am glad I get to see Black men who let their children see them vulnerable, and in loving, healthy relationship and do not subscribe to this substandard of Black fatherhood.
What I believe will be praised in Black fatherhood is that which should be praised in humanity. Good will and deep commitment to that which is seen and not seen. We have to do more than give the gold to anybody. We have to give the gold to those who finish the race, compelled to be the very best whose ever done it.