Yesterday, for those hidden under a rock, the President unveiled his latest initiative called My Brother’s Keeper. It amounts to what I believe to be a bold move by this administration to put a face on an issue that has long been the elephant in the room. While the initiative does take important steps towards supporting young men of color in America by creating a task force to track life indicators, funnel funds into programs supporting these individuals, etc, many argue that it doesn’t do enough. This, coupled with the recent release of American Promise and the verdict in the Jordan Davis murder case has kept me thinking for quite some time about the missing link in many of the conversations happening about young black men in America. We continue to point to education, systemic issues, blame “thug culture“, but where are the fathers in the conversation?
Last night while watching Don Lemon’s special on the President’s new initiative, a commentator made an important point. She said that some time ago,people used to call our young men sons. Now, who has taken on that parenting role? I’m all for everyone pitching in where help is needed, which is why I applaud our president for what he’s doing. However, at the root of the problem lies a fatherhood issue in my opinion.
The challenge with this issue is that black fatherhood absenteeism has cyclical, generational effects, rooted in a deep history of black men being separated from their children. Check out The Black Fatherhood Project for a historical overview of how black fatherhood has evolved in America. It’s hard for young men now to know how to be a father if they’ve never experienced having one in their life. And so the cycle continues, but it doesn’t have to. There are more than enough “father figures” who can help set the example. All it takes is one generation to change things and establish a new normal. I too come from a home where my mother had to raise us during my adolescent years. I had to learn the characteristics of manhood from role models, grandfathers, and mentors because my own father wasn’t present. It was something, but it was incomplete. This does something to the soul and the psyche of a young man. A portion of our identity comes from our father, and despite our best efforts, there’ll always be something missing without him in our lives.
That’s why it is my life’s work to empower fathers to become the leaders for their families they were destined to be. Every important childhood indicator of life outcomes has a strong correlation to fatherhood. New research from the CDC has shown that when black men do stick around and play an active role in parenting, they’re actually defying stereotypes. Now it’s time to change the narrative.