Researcher Defends Missing Black Fathers

A University of Kentucky graduate student says there's more to the story than just irresponsibility.

Posted: 06/17/2011 10:44 AM EDT

The plight of the single Black mother in America is one we all know by now. It’s been depicted in song, cinema, on the nightly news and in print—and all for good reason. There are far too many single Black mothers in America today. In 2005 almost 70 percent of African-American children were born to single mothers. That is unacceptable, and we all know that. Often forgotten about, however, are the fathers in these scenarios.

 

Granted, in many cases the fathers are forgotten because they want to be forgotten. Many young dads leave simply because it’s the easiest thing to do. But many others are far less horrific than you might imagine. Enter University of Kentucky researcher Katrina Taylor Akende is now in the midst of researching that famously forgotten Black father.

 

A doctoral candidate, Akende and others from UK's Department of Family Sciences are doing an intensive look into the minds of Black fathers who don't live with their children. Akende is a divorced mother herself, but she says the portrayals of absent Black fathers in media have tended to give a distorted view of what many are actually thinking and how they behave. "Black men face different challenges," she says. "There are obstacles some fathers face that others may not."

 

Akende says that because many young Black fathers are unemployed or underemployed, they don't have the resources new dads of other ethnicities do. Beyond that, because Black men tend to have a disproportionate number of felony convictions, they also have less of a chance to make a good amount of money to support a child.

 

It's important to remember that these aren't excuses Akende is giving. They're mostly just ways of helping you understand why Black fathers might make the choices they make. People aren't perfect, and when faced with wildly stressful challenges, they may make poor choices. That doesn't make them bad, or even irregular, people. It just makes them young and foolish, and unfortunately their foolishness will have a major impact on their children. If they have more than one child, the problem gets even worse. Notes Akende, "When you factor in everyday stresses to dealing with a mother who may be hostile and multiple mothers, it all adds another level of complexity."

 

(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

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