A letter to the woman who told me to stay in my daughter's life after seeing my skin.

'I'm not a shiny unicorn. There are plenty of black men like me who love fatherhood.'

To a stranger I met at a coffee shop a few years ago who introduced me to what my life as a parent would be like:

My "welcome to black fatherhood moment" happened five years ago, and I remember it like it happened yesterday.

I doubt you'll remember it, though — so let me refresh your memory.


It was a beautiful Saturday morning in Los Angeles in 2011, and I decided to walk my then 3-month-old daughter to the corner Starbucks. That's when I met you — a stylish older white woman who happened to be ahead of me in line.

You were very friendly and offered up many compliments about how cute my daughter was, and I agreed wholeheartedly with you. She's cute.

But after you picked up your drink, you delivered this parting shot:

"No offense, but it's not often that I see black guys out with their kids, but it's such a wonderful thing," she said. "No matter what happens, I hope you stay involved in her life."

And then you put on your designer sunglasses and left.

Meanwhile, I was like...

GIF from "Live with Kelly and Michael."

Here's the thing: I'm not angry with you, but I want you to understand the impact you had on my life.

Do I think you're a mean-spirited racist? No, I don't. Actually, I bet you're a really nice lady.

But let's be real for a second: Your view on black dads was tough for me to stomach, and I want you to know a few things about what it's really like to be me.

1. I want you to know that we have challenges that other dads don't experience.

I know what you're thinking: "Oh boy — let me brace myself while he 'blacksplains' how hard his life is while shaming me for ignoring my white privilege."

But that would be missing the point. We all have our challenges in life, and I'm not about to bring a big bottle of whine to a pity party.

Instead, as you probably know, today's dads are trying to shed the stigma of being clueless buffoons.

Kid, you're gonna love this! Wheeeee ... uh oh.

But black dads have an additional obstacle to hurdle in that we're often seen as completely disinterested in fatherhood. Trust me, it gets old when people automatically assume you're not good at something because of the color of your skin.

Our encounter was the first of many examples of this that I've witnessed, directly or indirectly, in my five and a half years of fatherhood, and I'm sure there will be more to come.

2. I want you to know that I'm not a shiny unicorn. There are plenty of black men just like me who love fatherhood.

During the months that followed our brief meeting, I felt a need to prove that you — a complete stranger — were wrong. I needed to prove there were plenty of black men just like me who loved being dads.

I knew a lot of these great men personally: My dad, my two brothers, and many others embraced fatherhood. But could any data back up how much black dads embraced fatherhood? Because the examples in mainstream media were few and far between.

Thankfully, the answer is yes.

A few years after I met you, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 70% of black dads are likely to engage in common child-rearing activities such as diaper changing, bathing, toilet training, etc., on a daily basis. That's a higher percentage than white or Hispanic fathers.

Full stop.

This isn't about black dads being "the best" because parenthood isn't a competition. It's about showing that we're not even remotely as bad as society makes us out to be.

And outside of the CDC study, I saw firsthand how hands-on black dads are when I was thrust into the public eye, too, because a lot of them reached out to me to tell their stories.

We nurture our kids.

Photo taken from the Daddy Doin' Work Instagram feed and used with permission.

We're affectionate with our kids.

Photo taken from the Daddy Doin' Work Instagram feed and used with permission.

And we do whatever our kids need us to do.

Photo taken from the Daddy Doin' Work Instagram feed and used with permission.

And none of that should come as a surprise to anyone.

3. I want you to know that I believe you meant well when you praised me for being involved in my daughter's life, but that's what I'm programmed to do.

I will always be there for her and her baby sister.

Princess dresses at Disneyland? You bet.

Even though I just described how black dads are different from many dads, I hope the takeaway you have from this is that we have a lot of similarities, too.

Please don't fall into the trap of saying that you want to live in a colorblind world because it makes it harder to identify with inequality when it happens. Instead, I hope you can recognize that we have the same hopes, dreams, and fears as other parents, but the roads we travel may not be the same.

And no, I don't want an apology.

But I hope when you pick up your next latte and see a dad who looks like me that you'll smile knowing he's the rule rather than the exception.

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Fathers Everywhere

A new Harriet Tubman statue sculpted by Emmy and Academy award-winner Wesley Wofford has been revealed, and its symbolism is moving to say the least.

Harriet Tubman was the best known "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses that helped thousands of enslaved black Americans make their way to freedom in the north in the early-to-mid 1800s. Tubman herself escaped slavery in 1849, then kept returning to the Underground Railroad, risking her life to help lead others to freedom. She worked as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, and after the war dedicated her life to helping formerly enslaved people try to escape poverty.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Kenneth Goldsmith / Twitter

The Hillary Clinton email scandal was a major right-wing talking point during the 2016 election that aimed to create an air of suspicion around the candidate.

The media played right into it turning Clinton — one of the most qualified candidates to ever run for the office — appear just as unworthy of the presidency as Trump, a vulgar, politically-inexperienced pathological liar.

The controversy surrounded Clinton's use of a private email account in which over 30,000 emails were sent during her time as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. An FBI interrogation found there were 110 confidential emails sent from her private account.

Clinton was never criminally charged, however FBI director James Comey said she was "extremely careless."

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
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Walgreens