In Defense of Fatherhood

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Last week, actor Terry Crews caused a stir on The View with his statements (made online and also during the show) about fatherhood.  His basic point was that every child needs a father because there are certain things that only a father can provide; he went on to describe, in detail, what he meant by that and what specific things that fathers provide.  Additionally, on the show he made an interesting quote, “In this day and age, people care more about organic food than they do organic families.”  While watching the show, I reflected on this quote, realizing that people will argue someone down in defense of their gluten-free and/or organic diets, but often fail to see the value of fathers within the household.

As I reflected on the response that Crews received, both on the internet and also on the show, I was confronted with the reality that in American society, and more specifically in the African-American community, everything seems to be geared towards the mother. There are examples of this everywhere in American society.

Except in extreme cases (a la the recent Halle Berry court case/decision) courts tend to favor the mothers in custody hearings. Also, Mother’s Day is generally more widely celebrated than Father’s Day.  The disparity in the celebration of mothers versus that of fathers is quite possibly most often witnessed with athletes, actors, and other performers in giving their acceptance speeches when receiving specific awards or honors.

One of the most recent examples of this is the now viral MVP acceptance speech by Kevin Durant, where he pays homage to his mother with a long and passionate narrative, ending with the now equally famous quote, “You’re the real MVP.”  Durant does mention his father, but neither with the same length nor emotion that he mentions his mother. This may be because of the relationship with his father coupled by the impact, or lack thereof, that his father had in his life. Such may also be the case for most people who show huge disparities in how they praise their mothers versus their fathers. That is easily understandable.

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The damaging part of this super mom narrative (which was not created by Durant nor by other entertainers but by the American media), however, is that it has painted a picture in the American psyche, and more specifically within the African American community, whereby fathers are valued on a much lower level, if at all. In short, the role of a mother is valued at the expense of valuing that of a father. It is for this specific reason that Terry Crew’s comments about fatherhood can cause such a huge uproar, whereas Kevin Durant’s speech earns him greater respect and praise.

Don’t get me wrong, it is quite understandable for anyone, including KD, to give more praise to the parent who spent the most time and exhibited the greater amount of influence. I do wonder, however, if his speech would have been received as well or praised to the extent that it was had the roles of the parents switched, with him heaping the praise largely on his father and only a mere honorable mention for his mother. I wonder, in America and (more specifically) within the African American community, are we more programmed to accept and respect the narrative of the absentee or less involved father and the super mom?

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The story of Russell Wilson also helps add to my suspicions.  With Russell Wilson, the most recent NFL Superbowl championship quarterback, his story, and countless interviews show him paying the most homage to his father in helping him to become the man that he is today, even though he was raised in a two-parent home.  In researching Wilson, I found that his father did exercise considerable influence (positively) over Russell, as well as the rest of his siblings.

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His mother, however, was also an active parent but isn’t mentioned nearly as much as his father in interviews.  In short, Wilson honors his father in the same manner that Durant honors his mother.  The interesting part of this is that even though Wilson is a superstar athlete who has reached a level that most athletes (or anyone for that matter) will never accomplish, the story of his father (who is now deceased) has never received anywhere near the acclaim as that of Kevin Durant’s mother, even though Wilson is a championship quarterback, while Durant has yet to receive a championship ring.  Clearly the issue is not about the success of Durant over that of Wilson.

One must then ask the question of why Durant’s message and story is so compelling with the American public, and that of the African American community, compared with that of Wilson’s.  Have we truly bought into the narrative of the absentee father and that of the supermom to the extent that we are unwilling to even notice or esteem additional stories that don’t exist within that narrative?  In short, is it impossible for us to accept stories that include fathers into the scenario because we’ve been programmed not to see that as an alternative?

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