There’s one thing I learned a long time ago that freed me from the burdens and pressures many people struggle with. In short, I quit worrying about stereotypes and trying to carry the weight of everyone else’s opinions of me, my people, and my culture on my shoulders.
Let me give an example. Many of my friends, family, and acquaintances find themselves struggling with not only trying to be good fathers to their children, but with also trying to change the perception that black men aren’t good fathers. This weight, this burden that so many carry like monkeys on their back is a constant drain. No matter what they do or how well they do it, there’s an unhappiness in their heart that permeates from the idea that their effort is unacceptable. There’s a feeling of being insulted by those who don’t appreciate what they do. There’s an anger, from constantly dragging these burdens and perceptions around their neck. There is also a deep rooted fear of failure due to the lack of father figures in their own lives. Add it all up, and it leads to so many falling short of their full potential and often becomes the things that prevent them from becoming the kind of fathers they could be.
To be clear, these were the demons I had to face when I had my first child. How did I get over it? I got over it by ignoring the perception of what others thought of me and working to just be the best father I could. By forgetting about being better than my father and striving to just be the best father I could. By not paying attention to all those people in society talking down about black men and putting in the work of just being the best father I could. I got over it by taking a load off.
Unfortunately, with so many other stereotypes and perceptions working to derail us, we, men and women, are faced with the reality that the negative stereotypes about parenting is just a tip of the iceberg. Constantly, we find ourselves trying to fight an uphill battle against the stereotypes of ignorance, being anti-social, lacking drive, violent tendencies, abandoning our kids, welfare recipients, and a host of other B.S. that gets thrown at us daily. It’s tough, but over time some of us develop an understanding of what it takes to overcome these ghosts and demons that haunt us.
Eventually some learn that we don’t have the time nor the energy to fight against all the stereotypes and perceptions while simultaneously reaching the pinnacle of who and what we were created to be… and when we do, we raise our middle finger in the air not to curse, but to declare our sovereignty and independence from the imperialism of our burdens. We raise our middle finger to say, forget you and what you think about us, because we’re focused on the business of being who we are. Focused on the business of just going out there and being great, and then reaching back and teaching someone else how to be great. At this stage, we understand that if we’re all working on being great and building one another up, the stereotypes are going to die a natural death. Death at the hands of proven greatness.
It would be wonderful if you embraced us, accepted us, encouraged us, but at the end of the day, what you think of us doesn’t matter. Our job is to take forward steps toward becoming who we were created to be and to leave the judgment of whether it was good enough to God.