The picture was supposed to be proof that Doyin Richards was a man of his word, helping his wife, who was late for work, care for the couple’s children.
Instead, the snapshot of this African-American dad brushing his young daughter’s hair with another infant daughter strapped to his chest in a baby carrier has sparked yet another debate about fatherhood and race. Some media accounts have dubbed Richards, who writes the blog Daddy Doin’ Work from Los Angeles, as “Super Dad.”
But a recent survey by the National Center of Health Statistics found that Richards is not a superhero or an anomaly. Richards, like many black fathers living with their young children across America, are very involved in taking care of them. The report, which is based on a federal survey of almost 4,000 fathers between 2006 and 2010, also found that black fathers are more involved than their white or Latino counterparts in some cases.
According to the Dec. 20 report released by the National Center for Health Statistics, 70 percent of black fathers said they bathed, diapered, or dressed their young children (under age 5) that they lived with on a daily basis, compared with 60 percent of white dads and 45 percent of Latino dads.
While researchers told the Los Angeles Times that in many cases the differences between black fathers and those of other races in terms of their involvement in parenting were not significant, the mere fact that there were few differences is of note.
Some Americans have long held the stereotype that black dads are absent or are a bad influence on their children’s lives. They don’t accept that Richards taking care of his daughters is the norm. For some, Bill Cosby’s portrayal of the faithfully involved Cliff Huxtable was an anomaly of black fatherhood—not reality.
After Richards’ picture and story made the rounds on the Internet, most comments were supportive. Fathers across the nation shared pictures of themselves proudly brushing their own daughters’ hair. But a few negative comments continued to perpetuate the ugly stereotype: “A black man actually taking care of his kids? Next you will tell me pigs can fly.” (This comment was posted on Good Morning America’s Yahoo News!)
“People think they don’t care, but we know they do,” Joseph Jones, president of the Baltimore-based Center for Urban Families, told the Los Angeles Times. The advocacy center works with black fathers. “We see how dads are fighting against the odds to be engaged in the lives of their children.”
For his part, Richards, who has appeared on the “Today Show” and “Katie” this month, is embracing the spotlight while acknowledging that he is doing what fathers of all races are supposed to do.
“Until we can get to the point where men and women can complete the same parenting tasks and the reactions are the same, we will have problems,” Richards wrote in a recent blog post, which has received more than 460,000 likes on Facebook.
Like Richards, my husband, who is African American, isn’t a superhero either. He changed my sons’ diapers and cut their hair when they were younger. He’ll play basketball with them one minute and then draw funny characters on the sidewalk in chalk to make them laugh. I have to twist his arm to leave the boys with a babysitter to go see a movie. (We had to cut date night short this month because he was worried that my 9-year-old, “wasn’t himself” before we left.)
It’s time for more Americans to face reality. Richards and my husband are fathers. They are involved in their kids’ lives. Their race is irrelevant.
A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.