Being a Good Dad Isn’t Good Enough in 2023

Getty / Sam Armstrong sgtphoto Alessandro Biascioli Jamie Grill

I remember the summer of 2020 as if it happened yesterday. George Floyd was murdered by a police officer, and the Black community and others who supported us were revolting against hatred and racism by marching in the streets and demanding policy changes. On the other side, an equal amount of energy was focused on denouncing antiracism efforts to ensure the status quo – a system based in white supremacy – continued to flourish unimpeded. It was a mess, to put it mildly.

As bad as it was in that moment, what if I told you that things are worse now in 2023? It’s not just worse in America for Black people and other people of color; many marginalized people are facing greater barriers to simply living their lives.

I know that’s a depressing way to start a piece about Father’s Day, but stick with me.

As dads, we’re known to play catch with our kids in the backyard, help with algebra homework, start impromptu dance parties. Hell, we may even go viral for photos of us simultaneously baby-wearing and hair styling, like I did 10 years ago.

Showing up as a dad is incredibly important in terms of creating lifelong bonds with our tiny humans, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my fatherhood journey is that showing up isn’t enough. Being a good dad now means fighting to create a community, city, state, country, and world that you and your kids would be proud to live in.

“This Father’s Day, please step up your game in the fight for equity.”

This work isn’t for the faint of heart, though. It’s often confrontational, messy, and uncomfortable – but it’s also necessary to create an equitable world for our kids. In the interest of full disclosure, in the summer of 2020, I almost quit trying to convince people that my humanity, and the humanity of people who look like me, matters – because that in itself is soul-destroying. I shouldn’t have to do this work! In a moment of frustration, one of my mentors asked me something really powerful. “If this country becomes a dystopian wasteland filled with hatred and bigotry, would you be able to honestly tell your kids that you did everything in your power to stop it from happening?” At that point, my answer would be a resounding “no.” That certainly isn’t the case for me today.

As an antiracism facilitator for corporations and schools, I’ve trained over 90,000 people across the globe since George Floyd was murdered, ranging from Fortune 500 C-Suite employees to kindergartners and kids of all ages. If America goes sideways and becomes an unrecognizable dumpster fire, I can proudly look into my kids’ big brown eyes and say, “I did everything I could to make this country safe for you and other marginalized kids.”

What could doing more look like for you?

It could look like running for local office or a position on your kids’ school board. It could be taking a hard look at your own racial biases and doing the hard work to eradicate them. It could be cutting off your racist Uncle Johnny by not inviting him to any family gathering going forward. Whatever it is, just do something consistently. Juneteenth is also around the corner, and as a Black man, I feel that it would be incredibly disrespectful to my ancestors who were beaten, enslaved, and killed to sit back and do nothing. That’s why I show up to every speaking engagement and workshop with the energy as if my kids’ lives depended upon me creating an antiracist world. Quite honestly, they do.

Related: Samaria Rice on Tamir’s Legacy and Gun Violence: “Something Is Wrong With This Country”

This Father’s Day, please step up your game in the fight for equity. Oftentimes, it feels like I’m trying to empty the ocean with a spoon when I’m doing this work, because it’s absolutely exhausting. But I need everyone to roll up their sleeves, take a deep breath, grab a big-ass spoon, and get into this fight to create a safer world for everyone.

You may think you’re a good dad (or mom) by being quietly nonracist or nonbigoted – but if you’re silent in the face of oppression and inequity, how good actually are you? Because when your kids approach you to ask what you’ve done to save the world, I hope you can give them a good answer.

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