By T. Nicollette
Dead silence. Awkward silence. Resistance.
I attended an Iyanla Vanzant conference at the 2013 Essence Festival where she spoke on various topics affecting the black community. A key message in her speech was that our community is “out of order” and that we women need to “get it together.” Her delivery was punctuated by continual, affirmative replies of “uh-huh” and “that’s right” from the audience, which not only served to fill the spaces between her words, but also advanced the momentum of her caring admonishment. Then Iyanla addressed the men:
“Brothas, go back and get your children.”
The women erupted in applause. The men largely remained silent.
Their silence was profound because it was the first time since Iyanla arrived that there wasn’t unanimous applause, laughter, or praise. Perhaps this represented nothing more than a simple lack of enthusiasm. But somewhere in the silence, I detected the distinct presence of resistance.
This was the same resistance a famous NFL player displayed when he appeared on a national television talk show to rationalize why he refused to support his four children—all by four different mothers—emotionally, mentally or financially.
It was the same resistance my mother encountered when she asked my father if he would continue to support his children after their divorce and he flat-out told her “no.”
It was also the same resistance Bill Cosby encountered when he had the “audacity” to plainly state that blacks can no longer blame whites or anyone else for the overabundance of single-parent households, achievement gaps, etc., within our community.
To me, the silence exposed a resistance to taking responsibility.
Iyanla made it clear that she was not blaming us for the problems that exist. But if conditions continue to decline, at some point we as a people WILL be to blame. Why? Because when you know better, you do better. This adage is built upon the principle that with knowledge comes great responsibility. We know better. Therefore, it is our responsibility to do better in order to advance ourselves, our children, and our people as a whole. Getting back in order is going to take a lot of work, and for some, the first step in this process will be to move beyond resistance to change. Our children are counting on us.
The topic of absent fathers is trending in black media across various platforms, including on the OWN network
. This is a great opportunity for would-be supportive, responsible fathers to become engaged in the conversation and get started on a path of understanding, growth and change. I just hope resistance doesn’t get in the way.