As Black fathers, we are all too familiar with the harsh reality of urban nightmares. We are the ones who are constantly tossing and turning, sleeping with one eye open, as we navigate the harsh realities of systemic discrimination and bias in every aspect of our lives.
From losing affordable housing to becoming the butt of jokes in family probate court, with biases that are unjustly stacked against us in child support battles, we are constantly fighting an uphill battle. The child support orders that are placed against us are often in default, as courts barely consider our low-income wage earnings, leading many of us to avoid attending court hearings altogether.
But it's not just the court system that is working against us. Politicians play chess with tax brackets and single fathers’ paychecks, leaving us struggling to find jobs because of past felonies, with no "Cori-friendly" options available in our cities. We are given minimal parenting time or custody, thanks to broken family court systems that label us as "angry" and "unfit" simply because of the color of our skin.
It's a cruel irony that child protective services often mistake a father's passion for aggression, handing out restraining orders like candy, without realizing that over 2.4 million children in the US currently have a father in prison. Black men are disproportionately represented in this statistic, with ages 20-30 being the most populated in prison, all while the criminal justice system and the prison-industrial complex thrive as a multi-billion dollar business built on racial profiling and capitalism.
But it's not just the systemic barriers that we face that keep us up at night. It's the emotional famine that we suffer, waking up in the middle of the night, dialing 911 in search of our absent fathers, because we missed out on hugs and kisses. We suffer from depression and anxiety, losing our sanity as we run and hide from the mass incarceration that is chasing after us.
Welfare regulations also play a role in our struggles, generating financial incentives for mothers to remain single and leaving fathers with no support. But we know that it takes two to tango, and we are constantly fighting to remain engaged and reconnect with our children, to create new legacies and give birth to a new narrative.
But even as we fight these battles, we are met with a lack of support and understanding. Father's Day is an underrated holiday, and often all we are given is a card and a call for the remainder of the day. We struggle to trust mental health clinics, afraid of misdiagnosis and racial and cultural bias, as the United States mental health system struggles to provide adequate services to people of color and ethnic minorities due to a lack of training in cultural competency.
But through it all, we remain strong, with God as our armor, as we fight to protect our sanity and the future of our children. As Black fathers, we will not be broken by these urban nightmares. We will rise above them and pave the way for a brighter future for our families and our communities.