James Walker: The parable of the absent Black father

Where are all the black fathers and why are so many black children growing up without a father figure in the house?

These are the questions that inevitably come up when the conversation turns to black men.

These are reasonable questions when you consider that approximately 1.7 million black children in America grow up in a household where the father is absent. And study after study, their absence is the leading cause of myriad problems, including crime, obesity, and school dropout rates.

These are serious problems making life difficult for black youth that I talked about in my podcast with Dr. David Lee Asbery spoke to.

Asbery is the founder of Fixing Fathers, Inc., a Hamden-based start-up that aims to fix dads – one father at a time.

He said the absence of black fathers was annoying.

“That means the child is on their own,” Asbery said. “The child only has to do with mom. And for me that’s problematic. If you’re a mother-only son and you don’t have the image of a father … some kind of male role model … if that piece is completely missing, then I really believe that many of our children will have problems . ”

But the notion that black fathers are completely absent from their children’s lives is a myth – one perpetuated by political rhetoric and media coverage that has centered on black fathers behind bars for decades.

But there is another black dad out there who is completely overlooked.

The truth is, while the nation focuses on the absent black father, it fails to realize that the majority of black fathers are actually living with their children – even if the marriage is out of the picture.

In fact, it may come as a surprise to many readers that studies show that not only do these 2.5 million black men excel as fathers, but can also outperform their peers when it comes to caring for their children.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black “fathers were most involved with children, whether they lived with them or not. A larger percentage of black fathers, compared to white and Hispanic fathers, fed or ate daily with children, bathed, changed or dressed daily, played with children daily, and read to the children daily. The study also showed that American fathers are more involved in childcare overall than in previous years. “

But while Asbery has his eye on bringing absent dads back to their knees, it was a stressful divorce and what he thought was a total disregard for the court system for fathers that led him to start his company.

He said he got angry and depressed during his divorce proceedings because while there were an abundance of resources for mothers but few resources for fathers struggling to remain an important part of their children’s lives.

And he decided to do something about it.

“I went back to school for a PhD and wrote my dissertation on how African American fathers maintain their roles as fathers while dealing with stereotypes and ambiguities surrounding fatherhood,” Asbery said. “I interviewed 12 men and only talked to them about what they went through. the problems they go through as fathers. So this was kind of like the birth of Fixing Fathers. “

And he found that men were not only concerned with custody issues and child support, but most importantly that they were not treated with the same respect as mothers.

“There are a lot of fathers out there who are involved and want to be involved,” Asbery said. “All fathers face this, but I mainly focus on black men because I get it. I’m black and I’ve been through it. I know what it feels like to be in a room and have to prove yourself first. I think when white men walk into a room they are automatically assumed to be a good father … but black men, we have to put our résumé out there somehow … “

But his message that black fathers strengthen their bond with their children and become the force they should be resonates with many men.

Asbery said more men – some recently divorced and others just out of jail – are asking for help because they are determined to be better fathers.

“… Our goal at Fixing Fathers Inc. is to teach all fathers that regardless of their marital status, their presence and their involvement in their child’s life, there is an urgent need for their child,” explains Asbery on its website.

Women have undoubtedly proven that they can do it on their own, but the absence of a father at home or outside of their children’s lives is reflected long after the founding years.

I have written many times about my father and what an abusive monster he was. I hated him growing up and my emotions weren’t eased by time.

Whether I thought he was great or not, I knew who my father was, and over the years I realized that just being at home with my mother gave me the foundation and tools to do it ultimately enables a successful place in society.

“We’re not all perfect fathers,” said Asbery. “I’m far from a perfect father. I study with my little ones every day. You don’t have to be perfect. “

But you have to be there because if you don’t have a father at home, it’s about more than her absence.

It’s about a weak link that needs to be strengthened and strengthened – and for

Asbery is about the mission of “Bringing Fathers Back to Their Children’s Lives”.

And this mission has never been so important.

Fatherhood? Repair fathers one by one.

James Walker is the host of the Real Talk, Real People podcast. Listen on He can be reached at 203-605-1859 or at [email protected]. @thelieonroars on Twitter

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