Black Father Syndrome …

Why is that so many of the issues that are faced by black society boil down to a defective fatherhood? Like a switch that flips somewhere in early adulthood, a black man has such a high chance of getting derailed, from what can be deemed a decent path, that it has become a norm for him malfunction at some point.

I have touched on this before but a recent chat with George of Marvin reminded me that it is still the white elephant in the room and an address is overdue. I want to say this from the get go; I am not writing this as some expert-wanna-be-intellectual, sitting in some coffee shop sipping a latte and – lick finger – flipping through an iPad, while observing from a distance. This is from the trenches. This is also not just a careless generalisation to say that ALL black men are like this, but the numbers are higher than they should be.

In high school a friend of mine coined the phrase “Black Father Syndrome” and said it is the core root of many problems we face. Allow me to demonstrate how well you know this condition. Say you are walking through a mall. You bump into Sophie. You haven’t seen her in 3 years. She is visibly pregnant or, even better; she’s walking with her toddler. After the initial ooh and aahs, hands up all those who will – straight faced – ask Sophie who the father is, or how the couple is doing? I’ll wait. Yes, the fact that Sophie and baby daddy may not be on good terms doesn’t automatically imply fault on the guy’s part. My point is the presence of an active father in a child’s life in black society is not a guarantee, and this is increasingly becoming the rule more than the exception.

Throughout my childhood up until today, I can honestly say that only about 20% of those I’ve called friends have had some kind of positive father figure throughout their lives. You are more likely to know about a person’s mother than their father. Conversations amongst guys rarely get to “my father”. It’s almost an unspoken rule. There are a number of ways in which this Black Father Syndrome manifests itself. The Zombie – present only in the physical but vacant mentally and emotionally. The Volcano – constantly, incessantly angry, blowing up every so often. Violent and abusive. The Ghost – is only spoken of in hushed whispers, you’ve only seen glimpses of him throughout your life. The Enigma – you cannot, for the life of you, figure him out. You don’t know where you stand with him, or what he wants or what matters to him.

We were raised by broken men, fam. The scars run so deep that they cut through generations and you are born with them. Clubs packed with daughters looking for affection from erect penises. Hood corners lined with 15-year-old men, armed with branded clothing, plotting for your pocket. You see some kind of report on the state of “these kids today” and a mother’s tears are never far off. Rarely will you see a father lamenting about the lost youth.

Here is my question; where did it all go wrong? In my limited experience, most black men approach fatherhood with one core premise; I will not be like my father. We grow up fantasising about what cool fathers we are going to be. Yet, here we sit, with 2 million children in South Africa growing up without fathers right now. In some respects, those are the lucky ones. From those pavement chats, feet dusty after a game of soccer. What happened to those resolutions we made? Are we becoming the very thing we vowed to fight against? If the cause of the condition cannot be identified, then can we look at solutions? Will making sure a child is born within wedlock help? How about having kids only when you have proper employment? Or making sure your baby mama is well taken care so that the child does not suffer? Do you sacrifice chasing money to rather just being with your child, poor and all? What can we, as this generation start making right?

The image above is a scene from the movie Pursuit of Happyness. It depicts the character and his son having to find shelter in a public toilet because, well, he had lost everything. I won’t front. Tears ran during this scene. If not for the pain in depicts, then for how rare it is to hear of a black father going all out for his children.

Many hurt women will read this and throw up their hands, nodding at how inherently bad black men are. But as a black man, I wish it were that simple. ” The sins of the father shall be visited upon son…” says the scripture. Generations of our fathers have been on a sin spending spree. If you look at what is happening now you realise, guess what, you have visitors. It’s time to pay.

Writer: Vus Ngxande