For this Father’s Day, the division of Hallmark that targets the African American audience, Mahogany, sold a line of cards targeting single black mothers, as it has since introducing it in 2011. This year, it is creating controversy again.
No one can doubt that there is a market and some women who have to do twice as much work as a two-parent household may appreciate the sentiment.
After all 2 out of 3 African-American children live in homes where a father is not present, compared to 1 out of 3 nationally. Pew Research Center
data states that about 44% of black fathers were living apart from at least one child 18 years old or younger, citing data from 2008, compared to 35% of Hispanic fathers and 21% of white fathers. An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found
that 72 % of black American children rely on a single parent.
It is a reality. Go to a drug store in an urban inner city neighborhood on Mother’s Day for a card and you’d be out of luck, but go there on Father’s Day and you’d find plenty left over to choose from so there is a market. Can you blame Mahogany?
|Hallmark’s card in its general line
“We were sent two styles of the Father’s Day cards for mothers, and we sold out almost immediately,” a store owner told The Grio about the demand. “In fact, they were all gone nearly two weeks before the holiday occurred, which is pretty good considering most people wait until last minute to buy gifts for their dad.”
So what’s the big deal?
But some have said the initiative is an insult. Radio show host and award-winning journalist Wil LaVeist wrote
in Urban Faith.com
on this issue a few years back, stating:
Being a dedicated black father of three grown children who looks forward to this one day that celebrates what I willingly do every day, I find this offensive and even dangerous, particularly for the black community. By marketing ‘some love’ to single moms on Father’s Day, the role of dads is devalued, especially in a community that badly needs fathers to step up and be real parents. It’s also capitalizing on a self-inflicted wound. Society should be lifting men who are honoring their role.
Valid point, and the study suggests that despite the absentee Black father stereotype, when the father is present and living in the home with his child, they provide a critical role and ARE indeed active.
A national study released in December
2013 found that black fathers who live with their children are just as involved in parenting as other dads — or even more so. In the group studied by the National Center for Health Statistics
, more black fathers reported reading to their children daily, feeding or eating meals with them daily and bathing or dressing them than Hispanic or white fathers.
But that’s just it, they have to be living in the home for it to count, but that also bolsters the suggestion that a father’s role is supplementary and complementary and not necessarily something that can be duplicated by mom. Mom can be a provider, a nurturer, and fix things that break around the home but she cannot be the same kind or level of disciplinarian a father can be neither show a son how to care for and be a partner to his future wife or treat women he dates later in life. A father can show, by example, his a daughter how to expect to be treated by a man and to demand only the best treatment.
Some single moms and those who support them and are against single black mother shaming may see this issue as an attack on them and their choices, or circumstances created by absentee fathers who abandon the children they help create after no longer romantically involved with the mothers. As an aside, some will also point to dysfunction among married couples or the high divorce rate.
All fair in the debate, though La Veist’s point about the cards part being part of the normalization of single parenthood in the African American community is a valid one as well. No doubt, if possible, a child is better served by having two sources of income to meet its needs, two sources to go to for homework help, two sources of accountability for health, security, consistent care and presence.
In an online discussion about this topic, one person asked if those passionate about this topic have a less visceral response to those who are single parents because of death of a spouse than because of a relationship that soured.
What do you think?