Black Fathers Matter

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Thursday, September 8, 2016

Black Fathers Matter

No one should be insensitive to the deep emotions and, often, personal trauma behind much of the #blacklivesmatter movement. Even well-meaning people who wanted to change it to #alllivesmatter risked diminishing many of the very real grievances and concerns of black Americans.

Racism is real, and so is injustice.

There has been much good that has come from it. I was particularly cheered by a #blacklivesmatter protest march that turned into a cookout with police. 

There can be little doubt that a recent editorial in Christianity Today magazine was right in noting that the church is at a racial turning point. The author outlined several critical steps the church can take, such as: 1) learning about the experiences of ethnic minorities; 2) imagining our church as sites for cross-racial engagement; 3) embracing the “r” word (racism); 4) speaking out against contemporary forms of racism; and 5) fostering dialogue between minority community and law enforcement officials.

So yes, black lives matter.

Racism must be denounced.

Racial reconciliation must remain within the vanguard of the church’s engagement with society.

But with equal vigor, we must address what is arguably the most pressing social problem plaguing the black community – and the white and Hispanic communities as well.

The absence of fathers.

When Kweisi Mfume, former president of the NAACP, was asked what posed the bigger threat to the black community - the presence of white racism or the absence of black fathers - he didn’t hesitate to answer, “The absence of black fathers.”

In a five-minute video titled “Black Fathers Matter,” now watched more than 1.5 million times, Larry Elder expands on this sentiment in a compelling way. You may disagree with his proposed causes of the breakdown in fathering (he puts much blame on the “welfare state”), but the effects of the absence of fathers are without doubt.

So while we uphold the full-throated sentiments behind #blacklivesmatter, the church is also at a turning point with the black family. Black lives matter,

...but we must not forget how much black fathers matter to each and every one of those black lives.

James Emery White


“Black Lives Matter protest changed to a cookout with police,” The Charlotte Observer, July 18, 2016, read online.

Daniel Victor, “Why ‘All Lives Matter’ Is Such a Perilous Phrase,” The New York Times, July 15, 2016, read online.

Larry Elder, “Black Fathers Matter,” PragerU, June 13, 2016, watch the video.

Theon E. Hill, “The Church at Its Racial Turning Point,” Christianity Today, July 12, 2016, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite

Black Fathers Matter