Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Invisible Institution

As I sat last Wednesday night with my boys at home, I became sad and exceptionally proud at the same time. There I was, young, black, and a present father in my children's lives. I thought about the times I longed for affection from my own father; I thought about the countless lies that he told me and I became angry. I got angry because I started thinking about the lies the world tells each of us daily concerning black fatherhood. Mainly, I'm disgusted because the masses would have us believe that black fatherhood is a myth, or some historical reference point. We exist! The media does not show us, but we are here. Our presence is not reflected in many movies or television shows that often, but we are here. We are here, all around in full color nurturing, guiding, guarding, protecting, instilling, and praying God's blessing on and over our families.

When I thought of fatherhood, until recently, some white guy popped in my head. This was the first sign of a major problem for me. Why is the face of fatherhood white for me and so many other children of color? I have spoken to many close friends on the subject, and all of us agreed that we, black men, have some work to do to change the face of fatherhood to include hues representative of us.

Many of us are doing the right things. We share pick-up and drop-off duty with our spouses. We make professional decisions based on how they will effect our family dynamic and not on our own professional aspirations. Most importantly, we lead the way into church on Sunday mornings, and provide the financial support that allows no doors to be closed to our children based on socio-economic accessibility.

I remember going to my wife's office party towards the beginning of our courtship and feeling like I was the pink elephant in the room. Afterwards, she informed me that at work the next day everyone was so impressed because I was articulate, well dressed, held stimulating conversation, and was still able to throw a couple of beers back with the fellas. Though I appreciated the sentiment, I was a little insulted. Who did they suspect I would be, or act like? How did they suspect I would speak?

I am not an anomaly. There are so many educated brothers in the world who carry themselves well and manage to sustain and maintain beautiful families and lasting legacies. I am not an anomaly. I can not begin to count the positive, God-fearing, family-oriented brothers in my network alone, not to mention the ones I am completely unaware of in this world.

Excellence has always been a cultural standard when we discuss fatherhood in the black community. We do not spend our time patting each other on the back for our achievements, or our children's achievements, it is expected. Shock does not consume the body when a handsome, intelligent, professional brother walks in the room and commands respect with simply his presence because it is the standard. His swagger does not intimidate, it heightens and invites others to celebrate manhood and the promise of fatherhood.

It is incumbent upon the African American men to stand up to be seen and heard. We must do it for our sons and daughters. We must do it for the continuation of hope for our people. The next time someone asks any of you fathers whether you are indeed a father, tell them not only are you a father, but you are "POP". You are "POP" because you Parent to create Opportunity and with Purpose.