If This Father-Son Photo Makes You Uncomfortable, You’re the Problem


Kirsten West Savali

I have no idea why this photo posted eight months ago of Eric Owens and his son is going viral now, but it is—and some of the comments are disturbing. While Owens has received a lot of love and support, some people seem to think that this is too intimate and “emasculating” a pose for two men to share, even father and son.

In other words, some people are homophobic and insecure about their own toxic masculinity and/or appreciation for toxic men—or maybe their self-righteous religiosity has distorted their vision.

So, since we’re here, let’s discuss a few things:

It is heartbreaking and dangerous that this racist, patriarchal and hyper-masculine society has black men so terrified of appearing “soft” that an intimate photo between father and son translates as sexual.

These are beautiful images of a father not only loving his son and being loved in return, but evidence that that love has been present since birth–not in the big “look, I’m here being a father” moments, but the quiet, everyday moments that show a deep-abiding trust and comfort that cannot be faked or posed.

Black people are constantly fighting back against the stereotype that black fathers are absent. Read here for how we combat that lie at The Root. The fact that homophobia is so entrenched, and gender norms so rigid, that an image of an adult father and son is remarked upon with anything other than some variation of “awwwww” is pathetic.

Toxic masculinity is killing people, especially black women. This idea that men have to be hard is killing people. This notion that black men in particular are incapable of emotion, allowing them to be demonized and criminalized in the common imagination, is killing people.

If this had been two men in a romantic relationship, and you found it disturbing, you are homophobic. You not only have a problem, you are the problem.

Parenting is difficult. It is rewarding. It is fear and love and joy all rolled into one. And there are few things more sacred than the ability to touch your child, to be near your child and to know your child is safe. To feel your child’s heartbeat and his or her skin on your skin is one of the greatest gifts in the world.

All children, such as Eric Owens’ son deserve this everyday love, a love that is found in the quiet moments under your parent’s arm—yes, even if that child is a young man leaning against his father.

This moment is life; it is black love. And it’s exactly as it should be.

Tweet us your pictures with your father at #Root4BlackFathers.


Kirsten West Savali is a cultural critic and an associate editor at The Root. She was named to Ebony magazine’s 2015 “Power 100” list and awarded a 2015 Harry Frank Guggenheim Fellowship. Her provocative commentary explores the intersections of race, social justice, religion, feminism, politics and pop culture. Follow her on Twitter. 

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