Here at MyBrownBaby, we’re fully dedicated to countering the negative stereotypes that float across the atmosphere about black fathers like so much ragweed, so we don’t want to pass up any opportunity to throw a spotlight on others who have joined us in this campaign. Today’s spotlight shines on actor/rapper/activist Tray “Poot” Chaney.
Chaney, who shot to prominence with his memorable role on “The Wire,” was featured on MyBrownBaby a few years back when he released a catchy track with a powerful message called “Fatherhood.” The video for the song even featured a shot of me and my three kids. Now Chaney is back with “Dedicated Fathers,” a spicy cut with a banging beat and inspiring words that serve as a tribute to the many dedicated and involved fathers out there who don’t get the shine they deserve.
“Each and every day on your grind providing for your family at the drop of a dime”
This is one of the powerful messages from Chaney’s rap. On the video we are treated to the scenes of four generations of Chaneys—Tray and his son, along with Tray’s father and grandfather—playing and interacting, along with other dads and their children, some of them shot in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC, a fitting spot to celebrate strong father figures.
Chaney’s fatherhood tribute comes at an auspicious moment, just as the federal government released a survey of American parents revealing that black fathers who live with their children are just as involved as other dads who live with their kids, or more so.
This is an extremely strong statement that goes far in stomping the damning stereotypes of black fathers that dads like me have to contend with on a daily basis.
According to the federal report released just before Christmas by the National Center for Health Statistics, among fathers who lived with young children, 70% of black dads said they bathed, diapered or dressed their kids every day, compared with 60% of white fathers and 45% of Latino fathers.
(I will bury my cynicism about the release date, fed by my memories of my newspaper days, when the editors would pull out all the positive stories about the black community that had been languishing in the queue for months on the days surrounding Christmas when readership was especially low.)
In addition, according to the report, which was described in the Los Angeles Times, nearly 35% of black fathers who lived with their young children said they read to them daily, compared with 30% of white dads and 22% of Latino dads.
The results came from a fairly large sample of 3,900 fathers between 2006 and 2010 whose habits and attitudes are still being studied by researchers.
The Times talked to Gretchen Livingston, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center, who pointed out that there are many studies which counter the simple stereotypes characterizing black fathers as missing in action. When it comes to fathers who live with their kids, “blacks look a lot like everyone else,” which she said was “a story in itself” because of the prevalence of stereotypes.
It’s true that more than two-thirds of black children live with a single parent, in most cases their mom. But because that stat gets thrown around so often, it does a disservice to the other nearly one-third of black fathers who are in the home, getting the job done. That damning stat has come to blanket all of us, tainting every black father with a nasty brush.
Blogger Doyin Richards, 39, father of two and founder of the site daddydoinwork.com, got a blast of the stereotypes surrounding black dads when he had the nerve to post a picture on Facebook and Twitter of him doing his 2-year-old daughter’s hair. The picture was shared over 4,800 times, received over 3,000 comments, and was liked over 190,000 times. And while many of the comments were positive and supportive, there were also comments like these:
“He probably rented those kids. They don’t even look like him.”
“I would bet anything that you’re a deadbeat.”
“OK buddy, cute picture. Now why don’t you hand the children back to their mom so you can go back to selling drugs or your bootleg rap CDs?”
“So do you do this for all of your illegitimate kids?”
“The picture stirs emotion for a few reasons,” Richards told Yahoo Shine. “The media doesn’t portray fathers as caregivers. We’re seen as bumbling fools trying to figure out parenthood, or macho men pushing their kids into the NFL. The other issue is that there’s a stereotype that black fathers are deadbeats.”
Yes, that is our plight, our baggage. But we soldier on.
And thanks to guys like Tray Chaney and Doyin Richards, we look damn good doing it.
Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a New York Times bestselling author of 12 books, including the upcoming "The Rejected Stone: Al Sharpton and the Path To American Leadership," which he co-authored with Al Sharpton.