The Black Male Initiative Program at York College Aims to Cover Polemical Topics

By Asar John

York College’s Black Male Initiative program hosted a talk series to discuss the negative media representation of black fathers in the U.S. The program plans to discuss more topics surrounding misconceptions about racial and sexual inequality.

The “Let’s Talk” series takes place on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the African American Research Center at York College.

On Sept. 27, the series held its first discussion of the semester based upon a video called “The Myth of The Absent Black Father” produced by AJ+, an online news channel run by Al Jazeera, which provided information that debunked the myth of most black children stereotypically growing up without a father figure.

The series is coordinated by the Men’s Center and headed by Jonathan Quash, the director of the center. The “Let’s Talk” series is hosted by Kevin Caraballo, a senior majoring in Social Work, and Charles Clink, also a senior majoring in Social Work, who goes by “Prince.”

“This program is perfect for York College because it helps give the underrepresented population fair game, and that support we need in order to succeed,” said Caraballo.

Sana Saeed, a reporter for AJ+, presented data in the video from the LA Times that showed black fathers in fact spend more time engaging in activities and duties such as bathing, feeding, and playing with their kids on a daily basis, opposed to white and Hispanic fathers.

According to the video, 70 percent of black fathers either bathed, diapered or dressed children daily compared to 45 percent of Latino fathers and 60 percent of white fathers.

Black fathers were also more likely than Latino and white fathers to both feed their children and play with them daily.

“I happened to stumble into a news clip last month while I was watching television, and  once I saw how a black father was poorly portrayed in the media even when his actions were justified, it moved me,” said Caraballo. “I knew that I was going to bring this up eventually in form of an essay or oral presentation.”

“My goal for the program is to continue to have a space where student scholars can come together and have an exchange of ideas that will benefit us in many ways possible,” said Clink.

The video also showcased a 1965 study called “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” from former Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The study meant to explain why the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration focused more towards racial equality rather than passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Moynihan originally stated that to achieve racial equality the government must comprehend why black communities were in the state that they were. The study ended up going down the wrong path and only focusing on the black family. Moynihan stated that the reason for the large gap in wealth between black and white families was the “crumbling family structure” in black communities, and that the lack of presence from black fathers was the main contributor.

Moynihan also viewed out of wedlock birth rates and fathers who did not reside in the same household as their children, which resulted in him making several inaccurate assumptions of black fathers and their relationships with their children. He did not take into account generational wealth and/or fathers that worked jobs far away just to support the family.

“It is important for us to have these discussions, and this is the beginning of a much larger and longer and detailed discussions that we need to have,” said Ebony Jackson, director of the Women’s Center.  

This report done by Moynihan represents just one of the many ways the media portrays black families. A 2017 study conducted by the non-profit civil rights advocacy group Color of Change showed that black families tend to be portrayed as dependent on welfare and with an absent father figure when in fact black families represent just 27 percent of the poor of the general population in the U.S., and white families represent 66 percent of the poor in the whole country.

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