Can we have a quick “family conversation?” Good. I was making my usual rounds on social media when I came across a couple of IGs featuring young Black fathers with their daughters. Needless to say, the girls were super cute. But the posts, like the one below, went slightly off track in their description.
I might have written a caption that said, “Big up Daddy!” Or, “A father and his princesses.” But to be totally honest, this one left me feeling like I was on the receiving end of propaganda, as it was written.
It was a feeling similar to the one you had in college, when one of the “conscious” brothers tried to flatter you by calling you a “Nubian Queen.” Or some other kind of royalty. Can we all agree that most Black people in North America are likely to be descended from the Ashanti, Igbo, and other West African tribes, and not the Nubian region? And also that the first wave of African slaves who came to regions like Louisiana (cough: ‘Look it up, Raven. No excuses!’) were not all snatched from their royal courts by malevolent European slavers.
The intentions are noble, and the sentiment is sweet, but scenes like this don’t dominate Black life. When looking at the state of Black men in America, the shockingly high rates of kids being raised by single parents (mostly mothers), and the state of children and of Black families, it’s clear that this is an aspirational representation of Black fatherhood. Many more fall short of this ideal. Of course this doesn’t mean we should never publish heartwarming and positive images of committed Black fathers when we find them. The Huxtables are alive and well in many enclaves of Black affluence. But we need to be realistic, and acknowledge that the markers of well-being that would get Black men to that photo are not being met in big numbers. I also want to be fair and point out that the fact sheet linked above indicates that blatant racism and economic disenfranchisement is still an obstacle for solid, stand up Black men.
Let me also point out that nobody beats up on Black men in my house. Despite what misogynist trolls tell themselves and their delusional lemmings about Black women dating out, I didn’t get into this relationship because I was running away from Black men, or had given up on them. Or that none of them would have me. This has never been about bashing Black men.
And it didn’t take a recent rash of unjustified, brutal and cold-blooded killings of unarmed Black men to bring out my respect for Black men. I’ve always regarded Black men as grown adults who should be able to take criticism as well as praise. I’m not pitying or coddling Black men, because the good ones don’t need pandering, hovering mama types to give the world the impression that Black men do no wrong.
Either way you look at it, we have flaws that need to be fixed, not sugar coated. I agree with seeing positive images like this in the media, but be authentic about it. We need to take a step back, and with an attitude of love and goodwill, endeavor to get the vast majority of Black men back to this level. The Huxtables haven’t gone away. They’re just a little harder to reach than they’ve been in the past.