Fathers consistently get a bad rap… and black fathers in particularly are constantly maligned.
As we approach the first-year acknowledgement of the murder of George Floyd, we see his young daughter Gianna’s presence in all of his memorial acknowledgements and recognitions. By all accounts he was a father who adored her, and she loved him. His absence will forever impact her. I hope that her uncles and other men surrounding her will do their best to “stand in the gap.”
From what we’ve heard, George Floyd, like most fathers, was present in his daughter’s life. These fathers show their love and care in a variety of ways. Sometimes they go to work and see their role as making sure that their children are well cared for financially. Other fathers are simply committed to prioritizing their time with their children. I love seeing a father on the bus with his toddler holding their hand, playing and entertaining them. Some see loving the children’s mother as being a demonstration of their love.
From my personal observations, many fathers or father figures prioritize spending time with their children/staying in their children’s lives if mothers will allow it, even if they do not live with their children. I have sat in child support court on behalf of and in support of children or fathers (which can feel like a shaming and dehumanizing process) and heard fathers plead for more time with their children. It is rare to meet a mentally and physically well man who does not value work, love, caring for, providing, and protecting his children.
In the African American community, we have a history of fathers who have loved and cared for children who are not their own and loved them like their own children. Most of us know of grandfathers, brothers, uncles, and cousins who have “stood up” when biological fathers have not had the ability or capacity to parent their own children. These men have mentored, coached, taught, led, and nurtured their children, other people’s children, and children in their communities out of a genuine sense of care and concern for the well-being of children, families, and their communities.
Let me be clear, I have seen loving and caring fathers across the social and economic continuum, from those who have been formerly incarcerated to business leaders. Good fathering happens in every community, where “regular guys” engage in generous acts of love and care every single day in every single neighborhood. These fathers and father figures show up and make a difference in the lives of children, families and communities. They are, unfortunately, under-celebrated!
This lack of acknowledgement of fathers and fathering creates and feeds into a narrative about our woundedness. As human beings, we all need to feel seen and heard. We also need to know that our contributions matter. From a behavioral perspective if we want to see more good behavior we should acknowledge and celebrate the behaviors we want to see—and stop magnifying the “bad behaviors.” In the case of fathers/fathering, imagine if we spent more time acknowledging all the demonstrations of good fathering rather than constantly focusing on retelling the stories about men who have been unable or did not have the capacity to be fathers.
In Indianapolis, there are several organizations that help support fathers, celebrate fathers, and equip fathers to be more effective. Check out: The Indiana Father Coalition, a network of individuals and organizations that promote fathers and fathering. They have resources and events. https://indianafatherhoodcoalition.com/. Fathers and Families, is another incredible organization that provides a full range of supports and services for fathers who want to be more meaningfully involved in their children’s lives and/or who need additional resources and supports (school, job training, skills) to help them be successful. https://fathersandfamiliescenter.org/. National Fatherhood Initiative: https://www.fatherhood.org/ and https://www.fatherhood.gov/ are national organizations devoted to fathers and fatherhood.