Baby Sling Beef: Still Falling For Stereotypes About Black Fathers?

June 24, 2014  |  

“If Black men would step up, they wouldn’t be able to create this. Its based on fact.” – A Black Man on Facebook

Black fathers.

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s an interesting thing happened with Dr. Bill Cosby and the moves he made. The shows he cranked out, “The Cosby Show” and spin-off “A Different World” were catalysts higher enrollment rates at Black colleges. At the time, Cosby was also the subject of criticism from those that didn’t feel it was realistic for a Black family in Brooklyn to have a household run by a Black mother and lawyer and a Black father and doctor. These remarks were made by Black people, not racists.

The last couple of days yielded some weirdness, particularly for the year 2014.

Over the last few days, Twitter/Facebook conversation has flocked around a particular ad by Baby K’Tan, a company that makes Baby Slings. One of the ad images shows a happy, seemingly White couple in a baby sling uber happy as a family. Another ad has a single Black female, all alone with no man at all. I have to applaud Baby K’Tan for their sensitively and commitment to addressing the realities of living as a Black woman in America. Don’t want to cause emotional unrest in their own consumers, because of an absentee baby daddy. (Hopefully, you have a big bucket to catch the dripping sarcasm.)

Of course, there were cries of racism from the community, a natural response for anybody with a conscious bone in their body. But, what shocked me were the people that were in support of Baby K’Tan despite the overt stereotypes that their cover perpetuated. To them, the ad materials on the baby sling was justified, because the Black man, in fact, ain’t s**t and need to do better. If Black men do better, then there would be no need for such an ad. Right. Then there were others on Facebook and Twitter that maintained that Black people were just being far too sensitive and that it is just an ad, not a racist statement. One person said: “@babyktan ignore these fools in your mentions. One minute on your website shows you guys care about representing diverse moms.” Right.

Baby K’Tan caught on to the furor fast and responded in their own statement, which I wasn’t fully satisfied with. The absence of an apology made it clear that they have dismissed our cultural lens and really cannot see the error of their ways. They informed folks that the blissfully joyous White couple actually has a Hispanic father (diversity, ya’ll!) They concluded: “We here at Baby K’tan fully support exposing any unfair and inaccurate stereotypes, racism and/or discrimination wherever it may exist.” So, can we get you guys to tackle reality TV, commercialized Hip-Hop, corny R&B, stop-n-frisk practices, the KKK, systemic racism, socio-economic disparities, the African American baby mortality rate, and, last, but not least your company?

Back to Bill Cosby and “The Cosby Show.”

I firmly believe perception trumps reality in most instances. If you are told you can be an astronaut, you just may able to do that. So, when Cosby re-crafted reality through his television show, people followed suit. Obviously, there are deep problems with the notion I put forth – like racism. A Black kid that wants to travel in space will likely have a lot of difficulty even conceptualizing the possibilities simply because people have dramatically screwed with his reality. I’m not going to steer my child into being a nurse when she wants to be a doctor. Baby K’tan and their supporters attack both reality (as they see it) and the perception. What harm does it do to have a Black couple on their product packaging? These seemingly minor omissions or inclusions shape thinking.

The fact is: Black men ARE generally more attentive, loving and caring fathers than their racial counterparts. (Read “The Myth of the Absent Black Father”) And the truth is, we are our own worst enemy when we side with/forgive/empower those that marginalize our concerns.

They didn’t even say “our bad.”

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