Reflecting this Father's Day on America's Black Men

Jun 15, 2012

By Linda Harris

At some point in their lives, most men will become a father. It's a point I've been thinking a lot about lately as a youth policy expert and as families across America get ready to celebrate Father's Day and how fathers contribute to not just our families, but our communities and our country. They teach life lessons to their kids and are caring partners to their spouses. They are valued community members who contribute to our political system and help decide the future of our country with their votes. Their work helps put food on the table and their taxes pay for paved roads and clean water. They help keep our economic engine running, strengthening our global position - and their service helps keep our borders safe.

And yet there are millions of strong, good black fathers who continue to struggle with a perilous labor market and gaps in earnings and education.  The unfortunate reality, especially after the Great Recession, is that many men in the black community are stymied in their ability to contribute their full potential. Much has been said and written on why disparities exist, and we could discuss at length how generational poverty, stereotypes and outright racism contribute to a lack of opportunity for black men as workers and providers for their families. These facts get played out time and again in new data, including the monthly unemployment numbers, which in May showed that the unemployment rate of black men was twice that of white men. 

It's worth taking a moment this Father's Day to reflect on the reality of so many black men's experience. More importantly, though, we should look forward to a new vision for young men and the fathers they are and will become.

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