Black fathers need to play a greater role in their children's lives

David Lammy, currently Minister of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and MP for Tottenham gave a speech at the Runnymede Trust today highlighting the importance of black fathers in the lives of their children.

MP, David Lammy gave a speech today at the Runnymede Trust about the role black fathers should be playing in the lives of their children. In an event where  actor and playright Kwame Kwei Armah and Sir Trevor McDonald gave their views on the role of fathers and spoke about their own father’s impact on their lives this will hopefully provide some impetus for discussion and reflection within the black community.

The family unit has always been the backbone of a strong and stable society and strong and stable communities, from this perspective the black community do have problems.

According to Lammy figures show that 59 percent of Black Caribbean and 44 percent of Black African children are raised in single parent households. (Lammy: Independent: March 15: 2010)

He added that the evidence shows children who grow up without a strong relationship with their fathers tend to suffer from lower self esteem and less life chances.

Lammy spent nine months documenting  a video containing the views of fathers supported by the Runnymede Trust, and the overall picture coming from these fathers was clear. Young black men were turning to gang culture because of a lack of positive male father role models in their own lives and young black women grew up without a positive affirmation of men that did not involve sex. Listen to black fathers discussing fatherhood in extracts from the video

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report titled, “Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System” (2006-2007) highlights the growing trend between young black people and a bleak future within the criminal justice system.

Overall, between 1997 and 2003, black male prisoners of British nationality increased by a massive 21% compared to a 5% increase for white British males. According to the report, “Baroness Scotland confirmed that three-quarters of the young black male population will soon be on the DNA database”.

Lammy pointed out the incredible strain that his own mother and many single black mothers have had to endure due to absent fathers and the research given indicates a destructive pattern which will continue unless the black community begin to address these issues and practically apply solutions.

The ‘bad boy’ image and its effects on the black family

While black men are reminded of their responsibility to their children and families often lacking in these reports or research is a balanced view on how it has reached this point.

The burden of the black family’s collapse has been placed on the shoulders of black men alone and perhaps this is where there is a lack of progress on the issues. The ‘bad boy’ image which is promoted by many black music artists and in many black films have done black families no favours. Young black females are encouraged to believe that the ‘bad boys’ are exciting and desirable leading to disaster after disaster after their bad choices of partners leaves them with babies and no partner and father to their children.

Artists like X Factor winner Alexandra Burke, do not do any favours for young black males or females when she promotes songs such as “Bad Boys”. Some of the lyrics from the song goes,  “Some people call them players But I’m far from terrified somehow I’m drawn to danger And have been all of my life It feels my heart divided Half way between wrong and right I know I’m playing with fire But I don’t know why. Yeah the bad boys are always catching my eye. I said the bad boys are always spinning my mind. Even though I know they’re no good for me It’s the risk I take for the chemistry With the bad boys always catching my eye.”

When black music artists promote these types of black thug imagery is it any wonder that a generation of young black males emulate gangsters? Is it also any surprise that young black females choose bad partners based on these stereotypes of the black male?

With the promotion of the thug type black male the situation can leave many young decent black males facing rejection which leads to further misunderstanding as these males find it hard to attract mates within their own circle and seek solace in other races, leading to further bitterness and misunderstanding.

There are two sides to the story of the black family and arguably the black males often shoulder the burdens for most of the problems when really on reflection there needs to be a more balanced approach.

These are some of the tough and unnerving questions that the black community must ask themselves when discussing the breakdown of the black family.

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