Khaya Dlanga

Pathetic state of black fathers

2010-06-08 09:13

Many young black South Africans carry around much bitterness towards their fathers for a variety of reasons. However, one of the major reasons for the bitterness is because fathers have been fathers in name only, not in action. The only thing they seem expert in is making babies - and then abandoning them. I have heard many people simply call them sperm donors. There is so much resentment that I have heard people refer to their fathers as “that thing”.

A large chunk of black fathers should be ashamed of themselves. They have not taken responsibilities after enjoying some hanky panky. One of the reasons we experience such high levels of crime is precisely because fathers have abdicated their duties as men. In fact, I don’t know if a large section of black fathers deserves the honour of being called men at all. Boys would be more appropriate considering the behaviour of many of our fathers.

When I was in high school I noticed that a large portion of black children in my school had absent fathers. In one of my classes I noticed that over 70% of the black children had fathers but they were not around. They were there but were missing. Not in the “let’s file a missing person’s report” manner. Most of these children might as well have been raised by single parents, their mothers. The determination and strength of the black woman has never been applauded as well is it ought to have.

What absent fathers fail to realise is that children who grow up without fathers are five times more likely to live in poverty and twenty times more likely to commit crime. They are more likely to be teen parents. They are more likely to end up jail. When fathers abandon their children, they don’t simply abandon them; they might as well be taking a bright future away from them.

Don't live in the past

Fathers have a responsibility not to simply raise children. When they perform their responsibilities they are not simply raising children - raising a child is raising a nation. It is this realisation that needs to planted in our heads. No one is saying that fatherhood is easy. It isn’t. But a real man is the one who takes responsibility for his actions and for his loved one. A man will do what he must do to be a father.

Many young women are afraid of marriage because of what they have seen their fathers do. They have never been great examples. This is understandable because they have not been the fathers that their daughters need them to be.

Many young men have not been disciplined nor taught by their fathers. These young men without fathers think that being a man means being macho, aggressive and physically tough because they have not seen one long enough to know how a father, a man, should behave.

All my life my father has been absent, but his absence was not of his own choosing. To a certain degree I was fortunate in that my father never disappointed me. He never had the chance to. Mainly because he passed away before I’d had my fifth birthday. Now this begs the question, would he have behaved the same as other fathers had he lived longer? Would he have abandoned his offspring as most black fathers seemed to?

We have to acknowledge that there is a problem with black fathers. This is not to say that all black fathers are problematic. There are many excellent black fathers. Nor am I saying that this is an exclusively black problem. However, in my experience I have noticed that is it is largely a black problem.

We can’t simply pass this off as a legacy of the past. It is true, we do have something to blame, apartheid. There is no future in living in the past. We can only make our future by looking forward while recognising that we were short-changed in the past. We cannot keep using the past as an excuse. We have to do something about it.

Fears and hopes

As young men, we ought to try not to be like our fathers. We should be better than them - even if one had a good father, aiming to be a better than him is a noble pursuit. Our parents and generations ahead of us want us to be better than them; they don’t want us to set the bar lower. They set it high because they want us to clear it and set it even higher for generations that come after us.

My greatest fear is being a bad husband or a bad father. My greatest fear also happens to give rise to my greatest hope - that I will be a great husband and father. As young men we need to hope for this.

I hope that every single man my age and younger resolves not to be the father he had if he had an absent one. If there is anything we should learn from our fathers, it is not to treat our families as a majority of our fathers have. We should strive to be great fathers and husbands. If we do that we would have gone a long way in building a great nation. Building the nation isn’t simply what we contribute as individuals, but what we imparted upon those we are responsible for, the offspring we will surely leave when we die.

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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