Radio 101: Understanding My Grandfather's Absence

Radio 101: Understanding My Grandfather's Absence

9:00pm Oct 14, 2016
Radio 101 reporter, Vivian McAllister, talks about her grandfather's absence and the history behind absentee fathers in African American families. Credit: Lopa Shah

Radio 101 reporter, Vivian McAllister, talks about how her grandfather’s absence is part of a larger societal problem. Radio 101 is WFDD’s educational program for high school students.

Vivian McAllister’s grandfather, Ernest Grimes, left his wife and their three children shortly after the birth of Vivian’s mother. He is one of an increasing number of African American men who don’t live with their families.

Vivian says the affects of her grandfather’s absence became clear to her when he called a few days before her sixteenth birthday and didn't know the ages of his grandchildren.

Vivian’s mother, Tracy McAllister, remembers struggling financially as her mother, Vivian Grimes, took care of her family's needs single-handedly. She imagines how her life would be different if her father hadn't left.

One of the things I think I would’ve done totally different is I would have dated different types of guys. I didn’t have a role model, so I didn’t know what to look for.

University of North Carolina at Greensboro professor of Human and Family Development, Stephanie Coard, tells Vivian that women who have struggled with fatherhood issues “tend to gravitate toward either people who are not necessarily in their best interests or people who are lost themselves.”

Coard shares that the problem of absentee fathers in African American families goes back generations.

History has basically emasculated many African American males. During slavery, oftentimes you did not have control over your wife or your children. That mentality has impacted African American males today.

Coard stresses to Vivian that black absentee fathers is not an African American problem but rather a societal problem.

Vivian now realizes her grandfather’s decision “has as much to do with history” as it does with his own circumstances. Although her grandfather's absence has affected her life, Vivian reflects on the women in her family who were present through it all.

I would love to have a relationship with my grandfather. But if that doesn’t happen, I’m still proud to be related to women of such resilience.