For Democrats, Black fathers matter

OPINION: Democratic political strategist Antjuan Seawright argues that it's critical that the Democratic Party not take this most consequential bloc of voters for granted, especially as Republicans try to recruit and retain as many Black candidates as they can to hoodwink Black voters.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, I thought my father was Superman.

I thought he was the smartest, strongest and best guy that ever was. It didn’t matter that he was strict. It didn’t matter how mad I got that bedtime was non-negotiable. He was Albert Einstein, Santa Claus and the Hulk all rolled into one. 

I think most of us felt that way about our fathers growing up, and now, as my brothers are fathers as well, I see them all as Supermen.

Of course, when we got older, we realized that this wasn’t always the case. We found out that there were things our dads just didn’t know. We learned that our fathers made mistakes just like we do, that they lost hope sometimes just like we do and that they got scared just like we do. 

Looking back over the past 30-plus years, I didn’t realize how hard it must have been because, from the rise of mass incarceration to the dissolution of the middle class, the past few decades have been a tough time for fathers…particularly black fathers.

But I saw something recently that let me know that those hard times are starting to change, and a light is starting to shine brightly at the end of that tunnel.

You see, earlier this month, Joelle Gamble, chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor, pointed out some very encouraging news. It seems that not only has the economy added roughly 390,000 jobs over the past three months but Black male employment has also risen significantly

In fact, over the past four months, Black men have had faster year-over-year employment growth than either their white or Asian counterparts and, with only two exceptions, Black men have outpaced white and Asian men for more than a year.

Now consider that this trend dates back to March 2021, just two months after President Biden took office. That should tell you something.

It should tell you that this administration is taking the blessings of Black men seriously. It should tell you that, while unemployment is still higher for Black men and disproportionate incarceration keeps too many Black men out of the labor market entirely, the Biden administration has made righting those wrongs a true priority.

It should tell you that, for the first time in years, our voice is being heard…and that matters.

It matters not because it’s critical that my party not take this most consequential bloc of voters for granted, especially as Republicans try to recruit and retain as many Black candidates as they can to hoodwink us by paying hollow lip service to our issues.

It matters not just because we know that while less than 5 percent of Black men cast their ballots for Republicans in 2008, roughly 13 percent of Black men voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and 12 percent supported him in 2020.

It matters not just because we know that Glenn Youngkin won 13 percent of the Black vote as a whole in Virginia, and the Democratic push in Black precincts, while driving minority turnout, came too late to overcome the GOP’s rural surge.

It matters because last year nearly 45 percent of Black children were facing either eviction or foreclosure. It matters because 23 percent of Black children were routinely facing hunger and, in Black households with children, 73 percent of President Biden’s Child Tax Credit was spent on food.

It matters because, in 2019, more than 4 million Black children lived in households where their parents either didn’t have a job or had a job they couldn’t count on and nearly 6 million Black children live in single-parent households. 

You see, we’re talking about Father’s Day. But you don’t feel like much of a father if you can’t support your children, if you can’t give them the opportunities you didn’t have. 

Because you don’t feel like a father if you don’t ever see your kids, not because you don’t want to, but because when you’re working two or three jobs to keep a roof over their heads, that doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

But that’s changing, and we as Democrats have a story to tell, a story about Democratic leadership in Congress and the White House and how that leadership is driving historic change for Black men as well as Black women because it matters because it’s one voting bloc…one community…one family.

It matters because, when I was a little boy, I thought my parents were both superheroes…and the next generation deserves to feel that, too. 

Happy Father’s Day.


Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, and a CBS News political contributor. Follow him on Twitter @antjuansea.

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