As the emotional impact of the George Zimmerman murder acquittal begins to settle, the focus has once again returned to the importance of having healthy men in the lives of young Black boys. This has been the same focus since the 1980s. Rightfully so, as Black males are being targeted and victimized at alarming rates.
This is true. However, I believe it is incumbent upon us, as Black folks, to not forget about Black girls as well. If the absences of a father handicaps little boys, what happens to little girls? What role does a father play in the development of his daughter(s)?
Black females are just as victimized and vulnerable without having healthy fathers in place as Black males are. Ask Black females that you know that were missing their father — they will share the pain with you.
It may have even been you that felt the traumatic pain of abandonment. This has significant mental, emotional, and even sometimes physical ramifications to little Black girls who are missing the presences of healthy Black fathers in their lives.
Author Jonetta Rose-Barras speaks on the traumatic effects of being fatherless in her book Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl? The Impact of Fatherlessness on Black Women.
Jones-Barras states, “A girl abandoned by the first man in her life forever entertains the powerful feelings of being unworthy or incapable of receiving any man’s love. Even when she receives love from another, she is constantly and intensely fearful of losing it. This is the anxiety, the pain, of losing one’s father.”
This highlights the health and wellness concerns of being fatherless. One may develop psychological symptoms of depression or anxiety from hopelessness, grief and self-hatred. Some may develop emotional issues with anger, shame, fear, frustration and confusion.
Some individuals even develop physical issues like hair loss, high blood pressure, and excessive weight gain. There is even some research that suggests suicidal ideation, drug and alcohol addiction, as well as risky sexual behavior may stem from being fatherless.
If the proverb that we love to quote so much is true, it takes a village to raise a child. We must not forget that Black female children are in just as much pain as Black males in the absence of a father, which is just as detrimental to the Black females as it is to the Black male.
What can Black fathers do? We can start to be present, spending more quality time than money. Providing moral support, structure, and encouragement are essential for our children, both boys and girls.
What can we do as a community? We can start to be honest about our current state in society, understand where the pain is coming from, then attempt to counter it. Everything is not all good in the hood!
What can Black females do who are negatively impacted? 1) Seek healing, which also starts with being honest. 2) Seek skills to create a healthy balance in your life. 3) Make constructive choices that will lead you to a place of peace.
It’s time for us to begin scaling back on the rhetoric that we have been using for several decades. On a collective level, things are getting worse for Black people. Black boys are dying all over the streets. Black girls are not too far behind them. If we are going to focus on the wellness and the plight of the future of the Black community, we must include Black females in this discussion.
Brandon Jones M.A. is a mental health practitioner. He welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter@UniversalJones.