What Modern Black Fathers Need to Change the Narrative

I just read a report called: “The Blueprint: Re-imagining the Black Father”. It called attention to the current issues affecting black families and sought to unpack the narrow stereotypical images and stories attributed to black men. These are phenomena I term,‘immaculate perceptions’.

The problem with immaculate perceptions, fabricated imagery and stereotypes, is that not only are they difficult to counter or erase from either the semi-or full conscious awareness, no one can pinpoint the origins of these narratives. Most folks do not know how or why these tropes dominated their worldviews. However, yes, here I go again, these answers are found steeped in our national history. These stories emerged only but as a result of freedom after enslavement. It was out of the refusal to accept blacks in freedom, as equally entitled citizens, who happened to have displayed so much strength, talent, skill, courage and resilience while in bondage. They were rapidly becoming upwardly mobile and building their own familial wealth.

The argument that the black man is a lazy person emerged both during enslavement, when they were made, frequently beaten, to toil from sun to sun in the treacherous heat of the south, and fatigue was an intolerable condition. There were no lunch breaks, as characterizes the work environment today, even with 4 or 8-hour shifts. After the abolition of slavery, at a time when blacks were now able to work for themselves, for their own good, a work law was enacted whereby blacks were expected to work for the same people who once held them in bondage.

Many black people refused to work for former masters, if for no other reason but that they remember, and reminded by bodily scars, of the torture they had endured. Would you? This refusal to return to the site of trauma, family separation, being bought and sold, their women and children violated at the whim of white men, any white man, whether he or she was married or an adult, created an opportunity for white men to begin to fashion a new narrative of laziness. For many blacks, men and women, this new mandate represented a new form of enslavement.

The view of the black man, and we see too frequently today, young under-age youth, as having a threatening presence, and criminal-like nature is another immaculate perception borne out of slavery-directly out of that era. First, with the knowledge of history, as it should be taught in our national school system, these conversations would not be had. Nor would the need to re-hash this awful reality exist. When black people were slaves, the strategy of whites were to choose the biggest, strongest men to own. They were seen as the best workers and were worth a lot of money to white people.

We are aware that almost everyone has a conscience, and when wrongs are committed, we can be bothered by our conscience. When black people, men in particular, tried to escape, or showed some resistance to the ‘assumed authority’ of whites, the strengths they displayed was indeed threatening. As white men beat and maimed and degraded them, although the anger of blacks was as hidden as possible, white men could still feel it. It was truly frightening. When black men were made to watch as their women, sisters, children were raped and violated by white men, there was true anger.

The way they were beaten, starved and treated as though inhuman and animalistic, there was legitimate anger. Deep inside of themselves, white men had to feel afraid. They were afraid that these black people would rise up and revolt, kill them in their sleep, and ravage their women, as well. They had to devise more ways to control what they thought were their anger, urges and desire for their white women. If you knew your country’s full history, as the facts prove true and indisputable, you would be able to recount it in story-like form as here. It becomes easy to understand when the picture is full-from all sides as they and how they occurred.

So, here we are with this new report that aims to positively impact the trajectory of the lives of black families. The blueprint aims to promote responsible fatherhood and improve and eliminate stereotypes associated with fathers, low-income black fathers.

It addresses family structure, the media, legacy and wealth, economic opportunity and entrepreneurship, technology, and hope. The Blueprint ends with recommendations- personal and structural recommendations and policy-oriented changes. Rather than focusing on policies that impact only one aspect of inequality, it is suggested that policies must reduce black-white gaps in youth outcomes that are impacted by parental income. Reducing this inequality gap would potentially lift black fathers and families out of poverty.

Unemployment directly impacts black fathers’ ability to provide for themselves and their families. The U.S. Department of Labor unemployment statistics show that 14.7% of all Americans are currently out of work, increasing 10.3 percent for April 2020. 14.2% of whites  are unemployed, while black and Hispanic unemployment is 16.7 and 18.9%. Prior to COVID 19, black unemployment was at least twice as high as whites, nationally and across 12 states plus D.C.

Communities of color have been areas in cities and towns across the country where white businesses have divested and left little to no employment opportunities for economic growth for residents. This has been a problem for generations and has created an ‘opportunity gap’. The existing ‘wealth gap’ places white families with 10 times the wealth of the average black family and 7 times that of Hispanics.

Policymakers should create targeted opportunities for economic investment in black communities that will translate into jobs. Additionally, banks and private lenders should abandon the tradition of denying business ownership opportunities to black entrepreneurs. An important pathway towards reducing and potentially eliminating the wealth and opportunity gaps are through business ventures-black owned businesses. With an existing wealth gap, black entrepreneurs typically don’t have access to friends or family for capital[money] to help them launch their business. Minority ownership opportunities should be increased and decision-makers should seek to capture the entrepreneurial spirit of black men(women, too).

That entrepreneurial spirit has been evidenced and unfortunately channeled into micro businesses such as illicit drug sales, and selling ‘loosies'[loose cigarettes] in and about their community. That spirit is seen on street corners, where many sell goods from tables and booths, even trunks of cars. That is the entrepreneurial spirit-without an outlet or opportunity for a legitimate tax-paying storefront business.

Even as the legalization of marijuana has created legitimate business opportunities, ownership in a legalized marijuana dispensary is denied to black and brown men. Among the most obvious reasons, this is also because many have criminal records. [A substantial percentage of those with arrest records were low-level and non-violent offenses, like marijuana possession-a sad irony] Once again, the very businesses that gave them a bad name in the eyes of the law, and for which they have criminal records, are also denied to them legally and legitimately. 

The Blueprint supports this recommendation for increasing opportunities for black entrepreneurs by highlighting the ‘Black Wall Street’ area of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the 1920’s, the community was thriving, rich in both culture and wealth. There were banks, movie theaters, and homes with indoor plumbing, a luxury at that time. That  community was certainly evidence of the creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and economic growth potential for all black people.

Business ownership is  extremely important to uplift black fathers and raise black families out of poverty, particularly the returning citizens who are denied full rights, employment and often experience discrimination.



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