Excerpt from the photo essay 'Fathering While Black'
Black fathers continue to be profiled in the media, and not just by the usual suspects. Why a broader perspective on representations of Black fatherhood remains largely outside of the public realm and what role visual storytelling could play to change that.
Black father absence is a contentiously debated social issue in the US and other countries. Too many Black men, so the argument goes, are missing, irresponsible, selfish, not stepping up to the plate. Visuals of deadbeat, absent Black fathers abound in mainstream media, often intended to sensationalize and ridicule rather than to raise awareness.
For example, consider this nugget of a “newsworthy” story - Orlando Shaw of Nashville, TN, father of 22 children by 14 women, sued for unpaid child support. This local blurb was featured in the week leading up to Father’s Day 2013, and went viral nationally in the US. A month later, there was even talk of the possibility of Mr. Shaw getting his own reality TV show.
The number of inspirational stories of everyday Black fatherhood receiving equal national attention around the same time period: zero. And just to reiterate, we’re talking about Father’s Day coverage!
In fact, research suggests that among non-cohabitating, unmarried fathers, Black men are more engaged (and stay engaged longer) in their children’s parenting than men of other ethnic groups.