The joy of fatherhood: Helpful tips for fathers and men who want to become fathers
by Morris Turner III
In today’s America, it is common to hear statements like “post racial” or that we’ve moved past color to a society that has evolved beyond one’s physical characteristics. This is a beautiful concept that I hope one day may grow closer to reality, but for now, it is total mythology.
However, what is fact is that an ever growing number of folks are finding love with partners outside their race and raising children of blended cultures. At the same time, there is also an increase in the number of families and individuals adopting children of color who have no actual knowledge or involvement with their cultures.
Regardless of the culture or ethnic background of the adults, it is critical that certain realities be kept in mind. Most important, in my mind, is to remember that children of color have distinct cultural histories and mores that should be acknowledged and consistently reinforced. Children should not have to wonder about who they are. Their physical and social environments should reflect the essence of who they are, not who the parents wish them to adapt or morph into.
Parents must be aware of not only the overt social and psychological conditions facing their child but, more so, the subtle comments and social beliefs perpetuated by the American culture. For instance, African American boys and men are to be feared and too often associated with criminal behavior. Young girls or women may be characterized as having anger management or attitude issues.
Children of color have distinct cultural histories and mores that should be acknowledged and consistently reinforced. Children should not have to wonder about who they are.
When dealing with schools and other social structures, it is incumbent upon the adult to recognize and flesh out any attacks upon their child, no matter how unintended they may be in nature. Often these cheap shots, as I call them, come in the form of humor – an off-hand joke of sorts, maybe about one’s hair or other physical characteristic. All of this contributes to the erosion of a child’s self-concept.
Parents don’t have to know everything about the culture of their child, but they do have to be serious detectives in their search to find out what children need and why they need it. Children of color are not just a darker skinned version of Caucasians. They are different in every way imaginable and beyond.
From hygiene, including hair care, to how they see the world, every aspect of child rearing is significant and not to be taken lightly. I must stress, however, that despite their best efforts and well-meaning intentions, parents must understand that they cannot “love away” racism. Get involved in the community of your child and become familiar with the essential resources available to you and your family.
Morris Turner, the father of two sons, ages 39 and 35, was a community worker with the Black Panther Party. Over the past 45 years he has worked with children and young people in a variety of settings, including as preschool teacher, career counselor, family mentor and sports coach. He is also an author and recognized researcher in the area of African American settlement in the United States, but his greatest pleasure today is learning to be a good grandpa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.