Misleading Stereotypes About Black Dads
Kenrya Rankin Naasel

Kenrya Rankin Naasel, a journalist, is the editor of “Bet on Black: African-American Women Celebrate Fatherhood in the Age of Barack Obama.”

March 12, 2014

Obama is encouraging parents, specifically fathers, to do their part to help young black men excel. It’s a topic he tackles frequently, drawing on his own experience of growing up without his father, and it’s the driving force of President Obama’s Fatherhood Initiative, which gives fathers of all races the skills and support they need to do the important work of raising their children. It’s crucial work that I support with my own.

Black dads are actually more involved with their children than white and Latino dads are.

That said, I think it’s key to take every opportunity to expand the narrative about the black family beyond the confines of the “deadbeat dad” stereotypes that bind us. Yes, more than half of black households are headed by women, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that whether or not they live under the same roof, black dads are actually more involved with their children than their white and Latino counterparts, spending more time feeding, dressing, playing with and reading to their children.

That’s important because when fathers are involved in their children’s lives, they are less likely to experience cognitive delays, more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to experience success in their chosen careers and less likely to be involved in violent situations as teens. They also have increased empathy, self-esteem and self-control.

So the answer is clear: Dads do bring something unique to parenting not just sons, but all children. Everything tells me this is the case, from my personal story of being raised by a single father, to the hundreds of people I’ve connected with whose lives were shaped by their dads, to the lesser-known statistics and studies. And there’s nothing inherently masculine about promoting “strength, independence and leadership.” In fact, they are among the traits I seek to instill in my daughter. These values can only be a boon for young black men — and the rest of us, too.

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