It really is tough being a black man in America.
The more year-round calendars I trash and birthday celebrations I avoid, the more privy I grow to the hate and belligerent ignorance aimed at me and men who look like me all because we are black.
The ongoing social campaign to dispel negative stereotypes about African-Americans continues, and that requires more education and diligence. It requires vigilance and personal responsibility to intercept and destroy stereotypes, no matter the occasion or environment.
With that said, there are few stereotypes, particularly about black men, that are more pervasive than the stereotype about black men being absentee fathers. The fact is, an insightful report released last year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that black men are fathers to their children – and more so than any other racial group. This may be hard for many to digest since this idea has frankly haunted black men for a long time – and I’m one of them.
As an adult black male, I’ve dealt with the unpleasant assumption that I’m probably a father to someone’s child and if I say that I’m not, it’s suspicious. Not suspicious that I would electively choose to not have kids (I’ve got a career and personal life to contend with every day, so I couldn’t fathom fatherhood) but that I am a father who probably is neglecting his responsibility … and of course lying. Yes, the woman I probably impregnated from year’s past has been raising our child all alone. Give me a break!
The stereotype that disproportionately paints black men as absentee fathers will take time to correct, but before this stereotype is defended based on analogic experiences, let’s establish at least one thing: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is under the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which releases tons of credible reports that journalists, such as myself, reference in articles. Therefore, I trust the information.
But if personal experiences are enough to deride an actual study, which was probably labored over, let me give it a whirl.
I am a 32-year-old black male (dancing his way to age 33) who was born and raised in Los Angeles. I didn’t grow up in a fatherless home. My father married my mother (there goes that other stereotype) and even after they separated when I was child, he was still trying to be a dad.
Before today, it never occurred to me that of all the black friends and family in my life, the number of them who didn’t have fathers in their lives are so low I had to really jog my memory to find the minority.
I have a feeling I’m not alone.
I challenge black America and #blacktwitter to rally memories of their fathers and the examples of fatherhood around them. I’m sure there’s plenty to share to highlight a more deserving perception of black men.
And to my father, I wish you a happy Father’s Day. You are no longer in this realm, but you are a staple in my life. Without you, I don’t think I would have ever learned what “unconditional love” really means.
Corey Arvin is a Contributing Editor for Black Voice News and a winner of the national Scripps Howard Award for Web Reporting. His column is published every week on blackvoicenews.com. He can be reached at Corey@Blackvoicenews.com and followed on Twitter at Twitter.com/CoreyArvin.