Los Angeles, CA–“This reinforces the notion that a man’s value as a father only goes as far as his ability to earn money. ‘What’s important to black men in a society that has a fair amount of racism is a notion of manhood,’ says Mark Anthony Neal, an associate professor of black popular culture at Duke University. ‘Manhood is all they have, and what that usually means in our culture is the ability to provide for your family financially.’
“This role is easy to fill when you’re Snoop Dogg, the millionaire rapper who stars in his own family reality show. But for low-income, low-skilled black men, keeping consistent employment isn’t always easy. A 2007 study noted that a black father’s ability to financially contribute is one of the biggest determinants of whether he stays in the home.
“‘There’s a host of evidence noting that men who cannot fulfill the breadwinner role often experience distress and interruptions in positive engagement in family life,’ says Boston University professor Rebekah Levine Coley, who worked on the study.
“Low-income, low-skilled men are culturally expected not to care about being good fathers, and those who do care feel like failures when they cannot meet a definition of successful fatherhood in which being the breadwinner is the sole metric. This conundrum gives rise to the absentee father, the lion who would rather be proud than lead his pride.”–Josh Alston, Newsweek
Excellent article on black fathers by Josh Alston of Newsweek, and I thank Josh for being kind enough to send it to me. I have long argued that our popular perception of black fathers is distorted and unfair–they (and fathers in general) certainly bear some of the blame for broken families, but only some.
Alston’s full article is O Father, Where Art Thou? Statistics show disturbing rates of absent black fathers, but a new book depicts the nuance behind the numbers (Newsweek, 5/10/08).
To write a Letter to the Editor of Newsweek, click on Letters@newsweek.com.
To learn more about the challenges faced by black fathers, see my co-authored columns Leonard Pitts” Column Unfair to Black Fathers, Ignores Reasons for Father Absence (The Southern Illinoisan & others, 3/6/08) and Tyler Perry”s Daddy”s Little Girls Tells an Important Truth About African-American Fathers (Los Angeles Watts Times, 6/14/07)