I remember the first time I learned that people, children specifically, “didn’t have fathers.” My first grade tormentor Derek taught me that lesson. Derek, the bully, the pest, the agitator, who rarely spoke kindly or honestly, told me, matter of factly, that he didn’t have a father. Being that my father has always been a constant physical and emotional presence in my life, I really didn’t understand what he meant by that. How could someone not have a father? I took the question to my mother and she told me, “Everyone has a father. Some people just don’t know their fathers or their fathers aren’t around them that often.” I didn’t fully grasp what “not having a father” might mean to someone but I did sympathize with people like that, even Derek.
Today, I still don’t completely understand but as I’ve gotten older and been around more and more people who know this story, I’ve seen just how hurtful it can be. I’ve been around men who referred to their fathers as “sperm donors.” I’ve known women who sought the love they lacked from their fathers in other unworthy men and I’ve even come across a few people who’ve said not having a father in their lives didn’t affect them one way or the other.
A couple of years ago, I got into a pretty intense debate with an associate who used Father’s Day to broadcast his grievances with black men in general. I was enraged. Sure, there are deadbeat dads in our community, maybe even more than other communities, but don’t attack all black men when there are also numerous examples of black men doing the right thing when it comes to their children.
In recent years I’ve come to realize that my associate wasn’t the only one.
How many of our leaders, black leaders, take the time to celebrate black fathers? How many black clergymen use Father’s Day as another day to bash black men instead of dedicating the day to celebrating the fathers who are taking care of their children? I know the Pastor of my home church hasn’t always celebrated black men on Father’s Day. Not surprisingly, he grew up without a father. Even President Obama, who writes and speaks candidly about his father’s absence, spent a majority of his now famous Father’s Day speech at the Apostolic Church of God in 2008 telling black men to step up.
It wasn’t until later, like earlier today, that I realized that they, my associate, my pastor and even President Obama, were speaking from a place of hurt. They were projecting their experiences, their pain onto the entire community.
And I don’t completely disagree with them. There are some…a lot of black men who do need to step up and have a more effective role in their children’s lives. What I don’t agree with, is the attack on all black men. Society does that everyday of the year. The brothas who are trying and succeeding at being good fathers to their children deserve some recognition. Why can’t they get that on Father’s Day? After all, I don’t see deadbeat or absentee mothers being derided on Mother’s Day. And we all know those women exist…
Since I’m calling for the celebration of good black fathers it’s only right that I take a little time to thank my own father for his guidance, his wisdom, his humor, his provision, his encouragement and his presence. I hope that on Father’s Day and everyday you, and all the fathers like you, receive the recognition you deserve for a [tough] job well done.
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