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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.'

parenting, father’s day, respect, fairness
Doyin Richards

Dad and daughters take a walk through Disneyland.

True
Fathers Everywhere

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...

celebrity, racism, challenges, stigmas

That was unexpected.

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.

nurture, unicorn, mainstream media

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

Image from Giphy.

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.

dads, social norms, ethnicity, privilege

Getting close to the twins.

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

We're affectionate with our kids.

fatherhood, children, family, parenting

Love is universal.

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

And we do whatever our kids need us to do.

equality, community, gender roles

Dad takes a deserved nap.

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.

Disneyland, fathers, daughters, ethnicity

Princess dresses at Disneyland? You bet.

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

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

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.


This article originally appeared on 06.15.16

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


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Over or under? Surprisingly, there actually is a 'correct' way to hang a toilet paper roll.

Let's settle this silly-but-surprisingly-heated debate once and for all.

Elya/Wikimedia Commons

Should you hang the toilet paper roll over or under?


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