Fathers play a vital role in the healthy development of children and families. Research demonstrates how active Black fathers are in their children’s lives as supportive, caretaking, and nurturing parents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that Black fathers were more involved in their children’s daily lives than other fathers from various racial groups (Jones & Mosher, 2013). Yet, these men still face unique challenges due to structural and systemic barriers.
“The…CDC found that Black fathers were more involved in their children’s daily lives than other fathers from various racial groups.”
One of the systemic barriers that Black men face is the misrepresentation of who they are as fathers and the impact on their children’s lives. The mainstream societal deficit-based portrayal that has been invented and amplified through television, radio, films, and some scholarly research perpetuates challenges that Black fathers face. For instance, Dovin Richards, the author of Daddy Doin’ Work shared on NBCBLK (an extension of an online NBC source that elevates America’s conversation about Black identity, politics, and culture) interview said, “Being a Black dad in 2015 is complicated. In addition, to managing toddler tantrums, diaper changes, and play dates, I can’t help but notice society’s perception of me.”
Richards responded in a way that suggests that in addition to his typical fathering responsibilities, he is faced with the stereotypical dilemmas of being a Black father. Recently, there has been a slight narrative shift as a result of individual platforms such as social media accounts, blogs, publications, and organizations on a mission to redefine the narrative of Black fatherhood and families. Organizations such as The Dad Gang, Dope Black Dads, and others serve as a powerful dynamic to dispel many societal myths about Black fathers, yet more work must be done.
Black men report that televised media portrays an incomplete picture of Black fatherhood that continues to be harmful to their role (Wilson, 2018). They felt the media only portrayed a positive image of Black fathers when they were being sold on something. For instance, when shown a picture of a Black father vacuuming the carpet with his toddler under his legs, one father replied, “You might see Larry on a Cheetos or a Cheerios commercial.” Sharing the feeling of only seeing positive Black fathers televised when corporations attach them to a consumer marketing or sales pitch.
Communities of color recognize that Black men have so much more to offer as fathers than how corporations capture their image and amplify them in the media. Many fathers have identified particular areas they want to see amplified about who they are in this role.
The second half of this article will highlight three specific aspects that Black fathers named as missing from mainstream depictions of them.
Black men are firm in their roles as fathers and have expressed a desire for the media to depict them as more stable both within their fatherly roles and homes. Such images would capture how humble Black fathers are and their tremendous love and respect for their mothers, wives, and children. Also, these fathers conveyed the need for the media to share the fear surrounding the thought of possibly failing their families and, most importantly, the intentional relationship that Black fathers have with God.
Black fathers continue to have a significant positive presence in their communities, and share their desire for the media to capture how involved in communities they genuinely are. Whether it be supporting local businesses, community marches, or engaging in social fathering activities, Black fathers are front and center.
Fathers shared that the educated Black man is rarely depicted on television, and they should be shown more often engaging in educational activities with their child. Additionally, Black fathers report that their sacrifices to be a part of their children’s lives are not always represented, especially given the unique challenges Black men experience due to institutionalized racism. These men also shared some of the unique obstacles they have had to overcome to be a part of every aspect of their child’s life, including school functions and doctor appointments.
Despite the negative narrative often told about Black fathers, they are very active in their children’s lives and take pride in being a parent. In this article, I, the author, made the intentional effort not to name any of the stereotypical myths to reduce the perpetuation of associating such inaccurate and deficit-based images with Black fathers.
We must continue to amplify who these men truly are by challenging inaccurate descriptions and images of Black fathers and encouraging positive portrayals that are more in alignment with who we know as our fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, and friends. Here are a few ways to counter the current narrative and encourage positive portrayals of Black fathers:
- Follow social media accounts, blogs, publications, and organizations on a mission to redefine the narrative of Black fatherhood and families.
- Reshare publications and magazines that capture accurate depictions of Black fathers and families.
- Support positive imagery of Black fathers such as artwork or books.
- Amplify positive characteristics about these men.
- Ask your local library, bookstore, and school to stock their inventory with positive representations of Black fathers; listed are a few books that capture a true depiction of Black fathers. “My Daddy Did it!” “Girl Dad,” “Daddy’s Arms,” or “Just Like Your Daddy.”
Dr. Lindsey Wilson
Dr. Lindsey Wilson is a highly sought equity educator, trainer, published author, and speaker on the topics of race, socioeconomic status, social change, and counter-narratives.
She approaches her work from a unique position as both a licensed professional counselor and social science doctor.
She is committed to her calling of addressing racial inequities and helping others, like you, identify your role in the change that the world urgently needs.
Dr. Wilson is also the author of “My Daddy Did It!“