In honor of Father’s Day this month, I can’t help but think about the men in my family and how they help raise my son. Their dedication, love and guidance is often overshadowed by negative stereotypes, bias and negative characterization in our society. I feel compelled to shine a light on how much of an impact these Black men have on my own ambition to be a better person and in turn, a loving mother and wife.
Black men do not get enough recognition for how they have to practically wear a suit of armor to survive their day against the discrimination and unfair treatment that they often witness and experience on a daily basis. After surviving each day, often on the defense, they come home to be teachers, lovers and motivators to their children. I love being a first-hand witness to seeing how much my son benefits from having these men as part of our village as we do our best to raise him to be the best person he can be.
If anyone knows my husband, he leaves an impression on any room he enters. He is outgoing, gregarious, inquisitive, a natural performer and social connector. (Pretty much the opposite of me) He is often one of the only Black men in the room, professionally and socially, and manages this with a sense of ease. He goes out of his way to make others feel comfortable and is very aware of his presence in every situation. His ability to connect with others is something that I’ve seen him model and encourage my son to do – even at the tender age of 3. There can be a lot of unspoken burden in feeling like he has to prove himself against stereotypes, but I never hear him complain about it. It warms my heart to see my son mimic his warmth and social graces while learning how to enjoy the company of other kids and adults.
I don’t know that I’d be able to teach my son these characteristics that come so naturally to my husband. He is the most boastful, proud and doting father that I know. He has an amazing model of a father himself and I know that he takes pride in being able to continue that tradition in our family. I’m so lucky to have him.
Growing up, I never remember my Dad coming home from work and complaining about anything. I now understand how racist the corporate world was in the 80s & 90s, and what he probably dealt with. Nevertheless, my Dad always was ready to help with homework, attend a sporting event or concert and check in to make sure that we were maintaining an excellent academic standing. He never told us directly that we would inevitably face unfair limits in the world as people of color, but ruthlessly encouraged us to be successful by working better, faster and smarter.
I thank my Dad for always expecting excellence – even at times when I’m sure he didn’t see that his own achievement and success wasn’t being acknowledged in the way that it should have been. So much of the resilience and ambition in me comes from my Dad. That ambition drives me to be a better wife and parent despite any challenges or limitations that are set in front of me.
I want all of the Black fathers out there to know that I see and love the way they take care of their children. I want to encourage them to continue to brag about their children, post cute pictures, and defy the stereotypes that are often assumed about them. I’m confident that my sons will be wonderful people and amazing fathers, because they’ve had Black men in their lives that have modeled how to do it. I hope that we will all take a moment to note the unique and sometimes difficult walk that Black men take on as fathers. May we acknowledge them, learn from them and encourage them.