Debunking the “Absent Father” Myth with ASCI Operations Director LeVelle Alexander

Not only are Black fathers more involved in their children’s lives, but they also want to be engaged despite the barriers our nation’s systems have built up against them. Yet, American society continues to perpetuate the myth of the “absent Black father,” leaving Black fathers silenced, ignored and often overlooked. While fatherhood may look different for different men, the unique experience of being a Black father in America must be acknowledged, and the best way to advocate for Black fathers is to engage them and recognize the positive contributions they make in ensuring their children grow, thrive and succeed. By doing this, we can better ensure their truth is told: Black fathers are present in their children’s lives. Period. ASCI spoke with one of the dedicated birth fathers we serve to gain insight on his experiences within the child welfare system and how we can best advocate for and support Black fathers.

ASCI: How can we begin to debunk the myth of the “absent Black father” as a society?

LeVelle Alexander: We can debunk the myth just by opening our eyes. Have you ever [ridden] down the street in an urban area during school time? When driving, look at elementary and middle schools, and see who’s walking their children to school: Black fathers. Have you been in a barbershop lately and seen little Black boys? Most of the boys there are taken by their fathers. Sports events, school plays and even shopping you will see a heavy presence of Black fathers. Open your eyes and you will see that we’re here.

ASCI: In what ways have the voices of Black fathers been ignored or silenced in child welfare?

LA: When children come into the foster care system, the system will seek out anyone before they seek out the Black father. The system views Black fathers as “fourth-class” citizens. The system will reach out to the maternal side, family friends, foster parents, all before reaching out to Black fathers or even the paternal side. Black fathers are viewed as obsolete in the system, if you ask me. It is painfully obvious, the disregard for Black fathers. Black fathers have to jump through hoops to even get visits in the system and it’s unfair.

ASCI: What changes need to be made to elevate the voices of Black fathers and ensure they are being engaged when decisions are made for their children and families?

LA: I believe that Black fathers’ voices need to be heard in every step of the process in child welfare. The system needs to understand that Black fathers are just as important as the mothers. The Black father is capable and willing to care for his child(ren) when given the opportunity to do so. The Black father needs to be appreciated and understood. The system needs to understand the power that the Black father has, especially when it comes to raising our Black children. The system overlooks the effect that absent fathers have on children. My thoughts are that the child welfare system was set up to keep the Black father out of the home in order to raise a generation of dependent children. Black fathers can teach our children how to be strong and independent. The Black father can teach our young boys how to be strong and loving at the same time. Without Black fathers in the system, our boys will grow up not seeing positive father figures and our girls will continue to be taught that Black fathers are nonexistent. The Black father is crucial to the development of our children.

ASCI: How can caseworkers best advocate for Black fathers?

LA: Caseworkers can advocate for Black fathers by ensuring that they make contact with them. Don’t stop at the maternal family, and listen to what is being told about the Black father. The caseworker needs to reach out and engage the Black father to understand where they are in their child’s life. Caseworkers have to understand the dynamics of the home and understand the role of a Black father. Caseworkers don’t need to solely go off of what was told to them [secondhand]. Caseworkers need to dare to be different and do things differently by engaging Black fathers.  

ASCI: Reflecting on your own personal experience, what have you found to be challenging about being a Black father in America – especially in current times in the wake of George Floyd?

LA: Personally, I have no challenges being a Black father because I’m the primary parent. I do everything with my children, from doctor’s appointments to report card conferences, to sports events, to hair dresser appointments. I’ve learned to be a great Black father from having a great Black father. My friends are great Black fathers, as are my family members. I am surrounded by amazing Black fathers and I’m proud of them all.

However, being a Black man [in America] is different. Even though I don’t get into any trouble, I am fearful of cops. I am afraid that the police will kill me based on my skin color. Black father, no worries; Black man, terrified.

ASCI: How do you remain hopeful during such times?

LA: I know that Black fathers will prevail due to Black fathers being everywhere you turn. You can’t go outside without seeing Black fathers with their children. If Black fathers keep up the great work, the myth of “absent Black fathers” will be dispelled.

Now, being a Black man, that’s a conversation for another day.

ASCI: What positive lessons have you been able to glean from your lived experience to be able to teach your children to help them remain hopeful?

LA: I teach my children to love themselves and to love others, however, also not take any mess. As a Black father of a young Black boy, I teach him to be strong-willed, respectful and responsible. I teach my youngin to take mess from no one and stand up for what he believes in. I teach him to not turn the other cheek, however, to bruise the other cheek if needed. As Black fathers and young Black boys, we will not be disrespected, overrun or overlooked any further. I teach my children to be great in life and with that will come great things. It takes a community, and we’re raising a new community of young Black children, which gives me and them hope for the future.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of A Second Chance, Inc.

4 thoughts on “Debunking the “Absent Father” Myth with ASCI Operations Director LeVelle Alexander

  • This is a powerful piece. I know all too well the challenges my son is going through to be in his daughter’s life. The feeling of defeat when the system allows the “mother” because she’s the “mother” to have so much control.
    You are so on point (The Black father is crucial to the development of our children) However, his power can be stripped away from the candidate(s) who experienced The Black Father not being in the home. A vicious cycle!

  • I believe that Mr. Alexander has some very good points . I also believe that he is teaching his children and the youth to be respectful and kind and loving. However, you don’t have to take the mess.

  • Great interview with a Great Father and Man. Knowing Mr Alexander for over 25 years, I feel fortunate to witness firsthand how much he has excelled, and the quality of human being he is👌🏽♦️

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