Dwayne Wade’s Custody Battle Breaks Black Father Stereotypes

March 14, 2011

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action

This week, a judge in Chicago gave NBA star Dwayne Wade sole custody of his two sons. The decision was made after a prolonged legal battle between Wade and his ex-wife, Siohvaughn. The boys are currently 8 and 3 years old. Wade has argued that his ex-wife has become violent toward him and falsely accused him of abusing his sons. A court-appointed representative for the boys made the recommendation that Wade be given full custody and that his ex-wife receive a mental evaluation.
I happened to be in Chicago when I heard about Wade’s custody decision (which took place in a Chicago courtroom). What’s even more ironic is that I heard about the decision shortly after having an opportunity to watch an episode of the television show, “Basketball Wives.” During the show, I thought about the “interesting” custody battle between another baller, Dwight Howard and his ex-girlfriend Royce Reed, who is a member of the show’s cast.

Let’s be clear: the women on the “Basketball Wives” appear to be borderline crazy. They seem to feed off of drama, deceit and the kind of animosity that makes you feel sorry for any man who has chosen to associate with them. I’ve also can’t understand how being married to a famous person somehow gives you the illusion that you’ve actually accomplished something yourself.

With that said, shows like “Basketball Wives” are (admittedly skewed) reminders that not every black male athlete is working overtime to abandon his family. Some of these athletes are dealing with women who can be just as evil, ferocious and destructive as any man we know. I know quite a few people who watched Dwight Howard grow up, and the overwhelming reaction I’ve received from those who know him is that he works very hard to be a good person. This is in contrast to the public’s perception of black male athletes as nasty, irresponsible and arrogant human beings.

What I also find interesting about the custody battles of both Wade and Howard is that we should not be shocked that a man wants and receives full custody of his own children. Mothers get custody on a regular basis and it doesn’t become a news flash. Men like Eric Legette spend all of their time working with fathers to help them to secure rights to see their kids, with some mothers (not all) using the negative image of the black male to their advantage by presenting the father as a pathetic, immoral slob who chooses to live a reckless life. Additionally, what might otherwise be seen as a standard variation in parenting approaches can be chastised by a mother who’s become convinced that she made the baby all by herself and has authoritarian rights to control every aspect of the father-child relationship (Why did you have my baby up past 10 o’clock? Why was my child in the car with that girlfriend of yours?). In order for the black family to regain its strength as a formal institution within our community, we must regain respect for the rights of fathers who are seeking to do the right thing.

It’s good to see high profile cases about black men fighting for their children. This is in contrast to other stories that feature athletes who take pride in being seen as blinged-out drunkards who chase women and get arrested at night clubs. The truth is that the black male is just as human as everyone else and we love our children too. Congrats to Dwayne Wade for standing up for his parental rights, and I encourage other brothers to follow his lead.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.


25 Responses to “Dwayne Wade’s Custody Battle Breaks Black Father Stereotypes”

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  4. WizardG Says:

    Every individual comes with his/her own baggage.

    All of the variables that were introduced from DNA through nurture, or lack thereof, come into play. When a racial context is thrown into the mix, plus a history of family destruction from slavery, discrimination and “racial” abuse, it is against all odds that a ‘black’ individual (let alone a black family), can be cohesive and progressive.

    We cannot ever judge anyone properly in their group structure or as an individual profile relative to a group, but we can try to understand that the variables that compile one’s life are complex to say the least.

    As we try to maintain our individual sanity and comfort in an ever changing society we must remember that we should judge each individual as they relate to us (you).

    It is not by accident that the ‘Americanization’ of the people in the U.S., calls for all kinds of negative human traits and notions.

    A corrupt media is trained to disrupt the proper thinking of the people and cause them to copy instead of think for themselves. Education is supposed to teach this alongside proper parenting but in most cases neither exists for the masses. Some improper guidance programs even goes so far as to block clarity of thought.

    We can refuse to watch the insane actions of others but of course there is always something to learn from everything our minds can comprehend if we can place it in its proper context or perspective.

    So when we start saluting or denigrating one certain individual’s life and choices we are rarely doing so with a clear picture of that individual’s life. Yet there are individuals who have done such damage to mankind that he/she should be ostracized and punished, but as it is what one person can clearly see, another cannot.

  5. Elaine Says:

    I do not see how Dwayne Wade’s case relates to Dwight Howard’s case. First, Dwayne Wade was married to his children’s mother. Good guy Dwight Howard as you refer to him had an affair, got a girl pregnanent and has moved on to the next girl. This is our definition of a fit black father?

  6. Mona Says:

    Some you think this is about the welfare of his children. please…. if that were the case the same hee hee time he spent with Gabreille Union he should have been spenting that time maintaining a hee hee time at the house with his family talkabout I knew you when. Well you definitely know you now

  7. aziza nangoma Says:

    I also am fed up with the “Dead Beat Dad “using men of Afrikan descent as the poster child. Even though my sun’s father was not involved in his life,i still do not group or characterize all of them az no good. I have a Father,six brothers,nephews and they make me sooo proud for their role in their children’s lives. I absolutely hate that NBA Wives show it is just a forum for Black Male Bashing…

  8. Charles McGee Says:

    Momma’s baby, daddy’s maybe. I think someone has missed the point of biology. In some cultures biological legacy is traced through the mother, the only legitimate way. The national dialogue being fostered is about ‘after-the-fact’ stuff. When cultural Blacks began talking about rights of passage on a public scale in the 1970s, or there abouts, those who were not culturally Black slammed the notion and talked about some stuff that represented the misconception of an ancient
    way of life they called Christianity, this anomaly that is not really about the message of a historical figure, but the product of feudalism. If you disagree with my statements look up the historical record of organized religion of the flavor that populates America. We need to have a diaogue about a real situation called social organization and cultural features. The alternative cultural Black voices have been calling for this for more than 40 years, as I know it. That would include child-rearing and parenting.

  9. Terry Williams Says:

    It’s amazing that you would use the word crazy drama for women and yet you have never ask the quest WHY Dr. Boyce. All of us that have comments to do not know what went on behind close doors between this man and woman that may have cause this type of behavior and for the Basketball Wives, be for real Dr. Boyce drama on that particular show bring ratings and a big paycheck, which maybe in the case of these two men maybe it’s more about not paying child support than being a parent I do not know, because personally I do not know either of these men are their personality around their children are the ex-wives/girlfriend. The one thing I do know as a ex-wife is that everything that you see on the outside is not what happens on the inside, one thing to remember daddy told me was “believe half what you see none of what hear”, because by time you receive the message it’s not the way it started out and sometime what you see is not always the way it was presented. All I know right now is that God is good and he will be the final judge in all of the scheme of life. Everyone have a continues bless day and week.

  10. Don Saxton Says:

    Even without pro-sports, the Black community is in chaos, fighting over table scraps, rather than anything that will stabilize or support economic advancement. Wade shows the spirit exists and that it is very, very hard given a court tilted away from the goal.

    Dr. B, Thanks for your voice. Please fix this website/blog so that it is easier to read and share and join to the conversation that will end the disrespec t of men, their families,children and those that love them.

  11. Eric Says:

    I am a black male, who was raised by his father, after my mother died; I was nine years old when she died. I went on to later single-parent 4 children of my own, after their mother left. These children are now grown. There were 3 girls and a boy. The youngest, a girl was only three when her mother left. The mother died in 2006, and the youngest child never knew her.

    My single male drew the ire of many in my community, who objected to me raising my family alone. Most of the objections came from females, who actively sought to impugn my reputation as a child abuser. A rumor was even started that I molested one of my daughters.

    As someone earlier wrote, many black women are insane. Many come from homes where the father was absent and maybe there is a bitterness against men from some of them for this reason.

    My father was 17 years older than my mother. Interestingly, I married a younger women in my second marriage, whom I am 13 years older than. We are entering a custody battle as well. Yet, this lady has done every thing possible to undermine my relationship with my older children,
    in order to have them support her in this custody battle.

    While none of these children gave me a day of trouble when I was raising them, she has sought to cause one of them, with whom I had a dispute, to believe I was abusive.

    In conclusion, I am a black man who came from a stable home. My father worked for Bethlehem Steel 42 years and my mother didn’t have to work. The father of my second wife was an alcoholic and I can’t imagine what life was like in her home. But I don’t believe it was good.

    Pray for me. I have a 21 month old son from this 2nd marriage and his mother has tried to keep me playing a significant role in his life, after we were divorced nearly 3 years ago.

    I remarried

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