It’s been a minute since I’ve had to explain the mission of MyBrownBaby. When I started this blog back in 2008, it seemed like I was doing it every other week, particularly when white moms would stomp onto the site questioning why I was always writing about race. I thought it awfully bold of them to use the comments section on MY site to tell me what they thought of my mothering in general, and the way black moms examine motherhood in particular. In every instance, I made the point that MyBrownBaby was created to give voice to mothers of color who, for so long, have been left out of the national conversation on parenting and motherhood called upon only when that conversation focuses on pathology. Crime. Drop-out rates. Poverty. Fatherlessness the list goes on.
Fast forward to last Friday. It seems that my post, A Special MyBrownBaby Love Letter To Black Fathers Getting It Right, made quite a few black moms feel some kinda way. Readers took to the comment section to go off on my suggestion that on Father’s Day one day out of the year we shut down the accusations on what some black dads aren’t doing and focus on honoring and celebrating good black dads who are raising, supporting and loving their children. Most offensive was the suggestion that because I grew up with a dedicated black father in my home and am married to an African American man who is an incredible father to our children, I neither can identify with fatherlessness nor have the right to add my voice to the discussion.
Seeing as the (e)boxing match in the comment section makes it very hard to understand where I’m coming from on the issue, let me make my position crystal. Contrary to popular belief:
- I am a fan of President Obama. Stan hard for him, actually on both his politics and his persona. There is nothing more beautiful than the example he sets not only as the leader of the free world, but as a black man in a committed relationship with Michelle Obama, a beautiful, intelligent, thoughtful African American woman, working with her to raise two incredible little girls. It’s an image that, until the Obamas came onto the scene, we simply had not seen since, like, The Cosby Show. I can’t be mad at him for that.
- I was not and am not mad at President Obama for leading a healthy discussion on the need for more black fathers to step up to the plate and take care of their kids. He’s spot on and I agree with him 1,000 percent support every initiative he’s created to get to the heart of the matter, to help change the awesome absentee father tsunami that’s overrun our community. What I did not like in his speech in 2008 and still do not like today is that he used a day meant to honor dads to, in my humble opinion, bash the deadbeats. I’m not going to rehash the politics of it all the speech was given three years ago, for goodness sake. But if you want some context on why the more politically astute among us should have raised our eyebrows over the speech, check out this Michael Eric Dyson essay on TIME.com.
- Though I am did not and do not suffer directly from the effects of fatherlessness, I am affected by it personally and professionally. None of us lives in a bubble. When the ex’s and fathers of my friends leave their children to fend for themselves, it hurts me to the core. When my daughters’ friends cling to my husband because they can’t depend on their own fathers for emotional support and physical father/child connections, it affects me deeply. When politicians use my tax money to make the case for dismantling and unraveling the fragile support system for African American single moms and their children, it affects ALL OF US. So yeah, I have something to say about it.
Here’s the thing, though: I’m going to remind faithful MyBrownBaby readers the same way I did the white moms back in the day. I created this blog not to rehash pathology, not to wallow in stereotype, not to pile onto the same storyline mainstream media consistently advances anytime black folk are the subject, but to show the beauty of us, in all of our manifestations and advance the conversation beyond fingerpointing, blame and a focus on the ugly. We are not a monolith, sisters. I am you. You are me. But we have a myriad of experiences experiences that deserve dissection and discussion. And, in some cases, highlighting. Because dammit, no one else is doing it.
In the case of my celebration of black dads, as a journalist and author, I’ve always focused on trying to get to the truth particularly African American truth. And the truth is that not all black fathers abandon their children. My personal truth is that I’m surrounded by strong, supportive, positive black men black fathers. I have been my entire life. My husband has spent his entire career writing about them, friending them and commiserating with them, too. So when I see the wave of negativity constantly flowing at black dads, it’s my job to fight against it. No matter how unpopular that sentiment may be in some quarters of our community, this is still an African American truth: There ARE many strong, committed black fathers in our midst. And it is a danger to all of us, especially our children, to not acknowledge and applaud them and celebrate them every moment we can. Because that is not the predominance of reaction that they get from the rest of the world. Out of anyone, black women should appreciate an effort to give people credit when they’re doing the right thing certainly something that we complain about 24/7. The lack of credit. I’m returning the favor. Maybe even making a few brothers feel good in the process. It’s not complicated. It’s my site—my life.
Is this the only truth in our community? Absolutely not. And to suggest that I neither understand nor care about the challenges we face as a collective is not only ridiculous, it’s insulting. But on this, I’ve staked my entire career and certainly this website: We have the right to define ourselves. The duty to, really. Because the moment we let others—and especially ourselves—drown out the myriad of stories in our community and embrace just one storyline, then we contribute to the stereotyping of our ENTIRE community. And I refuse to participate in that. The internet is littered with sites, some of them run by black folk, that seem to wallow in the negative imaging of black folk suck it up with a straw, spit it out and invite all of us to swim in it with them. That’s not my game.
Instead, here on MyBrownBaby, my site, I choose to focus on THE GOOD in us. THE BEAUTY of us. THE GOD in us.
And for this, I will not apologize.