Experts challenge the notion that Black men have abandoned their children

caines | 6/13/2013, 5:30 a.m.

If you listen to the evening news or read any of the mainline publications in the U.S., reports on the status of Black fathers will often be grim. The reports will indicate that the majority, if not all Black dads, are missing in action. The stories will suggest that these men are nothing more than deadbeat fathers that are enthusiastic about making babies but have little interest in helping to raise them. Recent data compiled by the National Fatherhood Initiative and the U.S. Census Bureau supports the notion that while a growing number of Black men are capable baby makers many do not participate in the caregiving duties. For example, in 1960, 11 percent of children in the U.S. lived in father-absent homes. By 2011, that number had risen to 33 percent for Black children the number was 64 percent as compared to 25 percent for whites. With such alarming data and given the images of single-mothers raising children that now dominate the media, one has to wonder if Black fathers are indeed an endangered species if Black dads that are active in their childrens lives are the exception rather than the rule. To address this issue and as we approach yet another Fathers Day, we spoke with some of the nations leading Black educators and activists and asked them to assess the state of Black fathers in the U.S.

Obamas man on fatherhood and mentoring

Kenneth Braswell, 51, is the executive director of Fathers, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that promotes responsible fatherhood and mentoring. Since 2004, the agencys main focus has been on the development of support and services for fathers. In 2010, Fathers, Inc. launched its Ties Never Broken campaign after being inspired by President Barack Obamas efforts to connect fathers to local resources that will help build strong families and communities through their most trusted advisors: their barbers. Our organization has done its own surveys and we found that 97 percent of fathers want to be good dads, Braswell said. It all depends on whose barometer youre using. Fathers may not be contributing at the level needed but theyre around. The question is: What are they doing? Society tends to judge a man based on how much he financially contributes to his children. Black men have bought into that notion and so when they cant provide for their children they feel like they are of no value to them. Black male unemployment in urban cities is sometimes double that of whites. For young Black men, the rate can easily be upwards of 50 to 60 percent. Unemployed or not, these men are still needed in their communities and in their childrens lives. Braswell says he has already taken the Fatherhood Buzz movement into 150 barbershops nationwide. Black men see the barbershops as a safe place where they can freely share their feelings, he added. As for the data thats out here about Black fathers, conspiracy or not, it is a fact that public schools are not a conducive learning environment for young, Black boys. It is a fact that our young men are over-incarcerated, that we face institutionalized racism and that our families are broken. We have some serious issues to address.