It was one of those “I remember where I was at when _______” moments that rocks you to the core. On this particular momentous occasion I was in my dorm room on November 7, 1991, when my best friend came in and announced, “Man, Magic Johnson just announced that he has Aids.” Although we had all heard of the disease, I had already had a close family member die from the disease after contracting it from intravenous drug use. However, in the early 90s, there was an unspoken belief in the African-American community that the disease was one that only gay men contracted through sex.
In the early-nineties, Aids was little more than an urban legend to many of my contemporaries. Not even Magic Johnson’s announcement that he was ending his professional basketball career as a result of contracting something called HIV changed that fact. Apparently little has changed during the twenty-six years since Magic Johnson’s announcement. Magic Johnson was so affable and engaging that many of us felt that we actually knew him. One would logically expect this unprecedented moment to have changed Black America in unconscionable ways, unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Center for Disease Control relates that African-Americans are currently the group, above all others I must emphasize, most affected by HIV. As of 2010, African-Americans were acquiring HIV at a rate eight-times greater than the white population based on population size. “Gay and bisexual men account for most new infections among African-Americans; young gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 are the most affected of this group.” (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/racialEthnic/aa/facts/index.html)
According to the Center for Disease Control the following facts are true:
Unfortunately, the numbers do not lie. The greater question facing the African-American population, I use the word population and not community intentionally, because a community bonds together to aid one another and solve common problems, I am personally unsure if we are a community, is a simple one of ‘how long will you act as if this issue, and a host of others that pivot upon matters of personal responsibility, should not be at the forefront of issues on our collective agenda. Maybe it is time that we lay the cross of victimization down in regards to repeated reactionary responses to racism and begin with a stern movement toward socially responsible individualism.
On this date, the twenty-third anniversary of Magic Johnson’s announcement that he had contracted HIV, I think that it may be imperative that we each take a moment to recognize those that have fallen victim to this horrendous disease, but also take proactive steps on an individual and collective basis to address the matter. As a college professor, I am constantly bombarded with the issues of unprotected sex among collegians, I hear male students, hetero- and homosexual, bragging about their sexual conquests; rarely do I hear any mention of safe sex or any type of protection being used. I am almost certain that similar conversations occur among my female students. Regardless of if we want to admit it or not, we are each inextricably linked with one another and my Lord, what a tangled weave have we created?
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017
“I am an invisible man. No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe: Nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.”
(Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man)
I recently had the pleasure of serving as the moderator for a community panel discussion at the African-American Library in the 4th Ward of Houston, Texas. As a writer, I do my best to stay keenly aware of discussions as they provide the basis for much of what I write about regarding Race in America, hence, I was particularly attentive to a panel composed of prodigious scholars and intellectuals such as Dr. Kaarin Perkins, Dr. James Conyers, Dr. Ronald Goodwin, Dr. Derrick Wilson, and Dr. Jasmine D. Parker. I intuitively realized that this group would provide innumerable moments of brilliance that I would do my best to first seize and then expound on in this space.
I am quite confident that if you have sat at the foot of those mentioned above that you already realize the depth and breadth of their insight regarding being black in America. While listening to riveting comments by the esteemed Dr. Kaarin Perkins, a sister who carries her passion on her sleeve, it dawned on me that a recent construct that I borrowed from the great writer Ralph Ellison was woefully incomplete.
In an earlier post, I posited that today’s progressive black man is an “Invisible Man” whose existence mirrors that of the figure that Ellison wrote about sixty-five years ago. Although I maintain that my analysis is spot on, it was Dr. Perkins whose poignant comments pointed out that my construct was a far too abbreviated idea as African-American men have much company in being rendered “Invisible” by an outside world that refuses to see them. Most disconcerting is Perkins’ contention that she could care less about the viewpoints of the outside world, her indictment was aimed at black men who render her invisible.
According to Perkins, progressive-minded black women whose entire being is aimed at uplifting the black community and those that call it home are routinely grouped with others whose entire existence has nothing to do with being politically astute, pillars of their community, and savvy enough to battle those seeking to destroy our community on their turf. Instead of seeing these women, far too often black men only see a figure onto which they are able to project their insecurities, hatred, and disdain. “Instead of seeing their sister who is here to aid them, they see a hoe, a bitch, or a slut.” This matter reminds me of an observation that W.E.B. Du Bois made in his classic text The Souls of Black Folk regarding it being a “peculiar sensation to view oneself through the lens of another.”
This matter leads me to an interesting query. Is it a reasonable assertion that African-American males have allowed their negative interactions with what many would term “basic” black women to destroy their understanding that black women are not a monolithic population? Although I hate to say it, I know for a fact that the negative interactions with a few “basic” sisters is integral to black men grouping all “sisters” together and thereby making those who serve as pillars in our community as Ellison would term it, “Invisible (Wo)men.”
While listening to Dr. Perkins passionately explain this conundrum that affects nearly every black woman that I consider a friend, it dawned on me that this situation is tied to an oppressive white world supremacy that has ensnared far too many of us. Most unfortunate is the reality that until we are able to somehow free ourselves from the reverberating damage that being black in America has wrought on our souls, sisters like Dr. Kaarin Perkins will remain invisible to the vast majority of black men. And that is a shame!!!!!!
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017
The recent shooting by a white male, Devin Patrick Kelly (26) at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas highlights so much about this nation. Most notably it reminds us that America continues to exist with the same blood-stained hands that were initially bloodied with the extermination of indigenous populations and the African holocaust, two events that were pre-requisites to the founding of this nation.
Although rarely viewed through the correct lens, there is little room to debate that the vast majority of politico-economic and physical violence that has occurred on the North American continent is attributable to white males. Such a truth has failed to inform other segments of this nation that it is suicidal for them to sit unprotected against the physical, politico-economic, and cultural violence that has been a staple of a seemingly insatiable population of white males. It is not a stretch to assert that white males have historically operated from a mantra of “it’s either my way or the highway.” Hence, there is little room to debate that it has been this population that has a claim to the title of “menace to society”; strangely the moniker never attaches itself to this population of domestic terrorists in a significant manner. White males are evaluated in regards to their own merits, never does society view them as a monolithic population; black men have never been so fortunate.
As a highly-educated African-American male who has achieved a few positive things in his life, I will tell you that I have never been afforded this luxury. In the America that black men struggle to survive within, nothing, and I do mean nothing, not educational attainments, church membership, gainful employment, social responsibility, being a doting father over our children, separates us from being linked to what can be best termed the surliest elements within Black America. Rest assured that African-American men and women realize that if a terrorist attack of this type occurs at the hand of an African-American, the consequences for each of us would be colossal as it would be felt in the economic sector, the political arena, and an extreme escalation of cultural wars.
In many ways, it has been these wide strokes of a loosely held paintbrush that has painted all black men as derelicts and a negative on society. The alluded to falsity that all African-American men are a “menace to society” has been repeated so often that there is a segment of Black America that believes this fallacy.
Were I reckless in my thoughts and decided to mimic the routine pattern of whites painting all African-Americans — male and female — in a negative light, I could assert that I am deathly afraid to leave my home as white males are serial killers who strike without the slightest provocation. Rest assured that such fears could be supported by evidence shows that it was white males who have executed domestic terrorist attacks that have taken the lives of innocent Americans, regardless of their race/ethnicity, on a whim. This white male that I allude to has recently executed attacks against people enjoying themselves at a concert (Las Vegas — 58 dead and 489 wounded), praising the Lord in a church service (Sutherland Springs — 26 dead) or studying the Gospel (Charleston — 9 dead).
One thing is for certain, Devin Patrick Kelley is operating out of this nation’s grandest tradition of white males serving as self-appointed corrective agents eager to simultaneously express their personal angst and failings by issuing corrective action on a society that no longer caters exclusively to them. I am confident that you realize that they make their political statements via the most violent means available; an option made possible by the availability of assault rifles to citizens.
Although I doubt that anyone has the courage to state that Devin Patrick Kelley is only the latest reiteration of a long line of white terrorists. If we confine our analysis to the North American continent it is obvious that Kelley’s actions were no different than those performed by “paddy rollers” who were tasked with controlling the movements of stolen Africans, the Ku Klux Klan that dedicated their lives to terrorizing blacks for over a century, the 2nd Klan that demanded new immigrants “become white” in the post-WWI period, a moment where these same white males also lynched African-Americans in the streets during “the Red Summer”, or the recent string of terrorist attacks on American citizens that appear to have “no rhyme or reason.”
Even a cursory examination of the historical record of white males on the North American continent from the establishment of the Roanoke colony through this present moment shows them as not only terrorists but also an apex predator on the North American continent.
Unfortunately for sane and well-adjusted Americans, including white males, this nation has resisted the logical step of “calling a spade, a spade.” And it is for that reason that we should all expect that this latest act of domestic terrorism will have no impact at all on either gun laws, mental health services, or the way we view white males. And for that reason, all Americans will remain in a state of peril.
May God bless this nation, we most certainly need it.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017
Any opportunity to spend time with my sons is the highlight of my day. As an African-American male, I refuse to believe the lies and half-truths surrounding black men not wanting to be with their children that many segments of Black America repeat as if it is a religious chant. I know that I am not alone in this position. Trust me when I say that I have found much joy in merely watching my son perform on the gridiron from the safe confines of stadium stairs. I am confident that most fathers understand the indescribable joy of viewing their son’s football practice, listening to him as he meticulously describes the newest video game feature, watching a new superhero movie together, or listening to what is on his mind at the present moment. I enjoy it all.
Considering this reliable pattern of joy, I am confident that you will understand how strange it was to exit a recent football practice carrying what seemed like a lifetime of sadness and disappointment. Fortunately, the alluded to feelings had nothing to do with my son. Let me explain.
While sitting in the stands with my oldest son, practice concluded in the standard way with the head coach calling the entire team together for final instructions and closing remarks. It was at this moment that things went awry with the head football coach yelling at the top of his lungs at a single player. This shocking episode culminated with the player being ordered to go to an adjacent field and “bear crawl” for two hundred yards. The harsh punishment was followed by a venomous indictment of “You know what you did!!!!!!!” I learned from an assistant coach that this young man’s crime was a horrific attack that he executed on a school bus driver. Apparently, the attack was so significant that law enforcement officers were summoned to the scene of the crime. To my chagrin, the head coach had only begun pointing out the transgressions of the youth sitting in front of him.
In a matter of moments, the attacker of the bus driver was accompanied by approximately twenty other black and brown males on the far practice field for one transgression or another. I listened as the head coach cited these young males transgressions: failing grades, disrespect shown to coaches or teachers, tardiness, refusal to display sportsmanship by supporting teammates, and failure to exhibit the necessary discipline to listen to his closing remarks; I was shocked that many of the African-American males paid absolutely no attention to the coach. They were engrossed in side conversations. No amount of yelling and screaming from the coach dissuaded them from their disrespectful activity.
Recognizing that the head coach had reached the apex of his frustration, an assistant coach admonished a portion of the team by relating that “It has only been 6 weeks of school and y’all have managed to convince your teachers that you have absolutely no interest in passing. That is inexcusable.” I breathed a sigh of relief as my son was not one of those taken to task for academic dereliction.
Yet, the coach was not done as he was also forced to interrupt his speech at 30-second intervals to admonish random black and brown males who for some inexplicable reason began their own conversation while the coach was speaking. His vociferous denunciation of their behavior had no impact on these youth. Not to be undone, each of these youth not only took their time rising from their seated position but also had the audacity to hurl insults at the coach. Recognizing the shock on my face, another assistant coach remarked, “It happens all of the time. They have no respect for anyone or anything.”
Although I resist the urge to generalize, I am convinced that segments of contemporary youth could be appropriately termed an unruly generation. I am confident that most educators and coaches would agree with that assertion. As an educator, I can attest that those working with today’s African-American males will invariably encounter anti-social behavior, a blatant resistance to and disrespect for authority figures, and a hostile reaction to what most would agree are traditional paths of self-improvement such as earning an education.
It is this recognition that there is a population of black boys that will most likely never become upstanding pillars of our community. Considering such realities, it is critical that Black America address this malady via well-conceived programmatic offerings and mentorship. It is past time that we seriously investigate how these angry young men were made; and once that question is answered, we must work toward correcting them and preventing the creation of future generations of angry black males.
I am quite certain that the investigation will point us toward a gumbo of socioeconomic issues such as poverty, inferior schools, unemployment, and single-parent households. However, we must begin this inglorious work immediately because as the great social critic James Baldwin put it, “not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
I am absolutely certain that the behavior that I have witnessed on collegiate campuses and now at a Middle School football practice is considered acceptable by a phalanx of maladjusted black males. However, it is well past time that such questionable viewpoints be countered in a definitive way as we make the uplifting the next generation of black men our foremost priority.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017