Failing to Answer when Opportunity Comes

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have dedicated my life to addressing the myriad pernicious issues that afflict African-American males. Many have charged that this preoccupation or as some call it an obsession with uplifting African-American males flows from my having an African-American son that I am forecasting phenomenal things for. In reality, it matters little why this has become my ‘life’s work’, what really matters is that it is a conscious decision that I made long ago. This decision frames how I view the world and is with me each moment that I breathe.

So when I was recently invited to attend a middle-school symphony performance, being held at a recently constructed high school in a suburb of Houston, Texas, as usual I arrived extremely early for the event, a decision that permitted me time to wander around the Collegecampus prior to the performance. I must relate that this state-of-the-art educational institution was awe-inspiring. Considering that I was raised in a working-class community and attended a public school for the majority of my academic career, I marveled at the facilities and privately mused, so this is what they have been withholding from us all these years.

Most amazing was the fact that there was literally a club for any and every interest that an inquisitive high school student could have: Theater, English Club, Spanish Club, Political Science Club, French Club, Math Club, Astronomy Club, Symphonic Orchestra, Jazz Band, Video Game Designers Club, etc. I was informed by one of the parents that there were over one-hundred clubs/activities for the students. Color me impressed.

Unfortunately, these feelings slowly evaporated as I perused the school’s trophy case. Now I must state that I found it encouraging that the school prominently JACKIE 1displayed both its academic and athletic achievements in an unbiased manner with an accompanying photo of the individual(s) that brought home the trophy/honor. It was then that I noticed that there were very few, if any, Black males engaging in any clubs or activities other than athletics; particularly track, football, and basketball.

This reality was a bit shocking and saddening for what it actually tells us about many African-American males. During the Civil Rights Movement, our ancestors who fought for equal opportunity/access to academic materials believed that African-American children lagged behind others because of the lack of school materials that whites hoarded for themselves. In fact, it is this alluded to imbalance of materials that was the crux of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that integrated this nation’s schools and laid the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision to rest. Many of the plaintiffs in the former case were hoping that American schools would remain separate, yet truly become equal in regards to funding and facilities.

This is the lens through which I viewed this racially diverse suburban school with state-of-the-art facilities and an unconscionable number of non-athletic extracurricular activities. This is the type of facility that Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall fought for Black children to gain thaccess to during the Brown case. Prior to reaching the trophy case and seeing the dearth of Black male participation in non-athletic extracurricular activities, I was comforted that we had finally accessed the educational resources that whites have historically monopolized. The entire scene left me harboring  what I considered a logical question; ‘Why do so many Black males refuse to engage unprecedented educational opportunities?’

After pondering this situation, I have concluded that there is only one explanation, that suburban Black males have accepted a dysfunctional cultural pattern that Richard Majors terms ‘The Cool Pose.’ According to Majors, the “Cool Pose” is a set of language, mannerisms, gestures and movements that “exaggerate or ritualize masculinity. The EssenceSteve 7 of cool is to appear in control, whether through a fearless style of walking, an aloof facial expression, the clothes you wear, a haircut, your gestures or the way you talk. The cool pose shows the dominant culture that you are strong and proud, despite your status in American society…Much of cool pose is ritualistic imitation of peers. If you’re not seen as cool, you’re an outsider. It’s a way to be included.” Unfortunately for Black males, their inclusion in this club leads to their willfully avoiding academic and professional opportunities that their predecessors, most recently their parents and grandparents, have dedicated their lives to providing.

All signs point to African-American males accepting a pervasive lie that the surest means of expressing authentic ‘blackness’ is foregoing scholastic opportunities and focusing upon either athletics or rapping with a vigor that relates that they truly believe that they have little to offer the world beyond their athletic prowess. The alluded to worldview replicates itself with unbelievable inefficiency.

If provided the opportunity I would take every Black male afflicted by ‘the cool pose’ and expose them to the likes of James Baldwin, Huey P. Newton, W.E.B. Du Bois, Walter Mosley, August Wilson, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., William Raspberry, and the list could go on forever as these individuals are but a small sampling of who they truly are.

Now this is in no way intended to dissuade African-American males from participating in athletic contests; Lord knows if we do not represent this nation in the Olympics, it wouldcollege 4 be dominated by others in an unprecedented manner. Rather it is a simple reminder to Black males that the contributions of their predecessors occurred in so many diverse areas that one would be challenged to pinpoint our greatest strength: intellectual, athletic, spiritual, literary, theatrical, or political. Young brothers, opportunity is most certainly knocking, now the question is will you answer with eagerness and a desire to uplift the race in a manner that would make our ancestors proud?

James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D.


©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015.

3 thoughts on “Failing to Answer when Opportunity Comes”

  1. Eye reviewed your great thoughts/interpretation of the Black males’ dilemas (3×) and as Eye analyse every word it brings to heart and mind my own former activities in this continuous dysfunctional culture. The majority of our brothers, as I did not, have NO knowledge or even an idea of who our ancestors or predecessors that you speak of are nor what they did for us. We’ve heard of Huey P. Newton, vaguely. For our predecessors of the 60s, you all witnessed the fight/struggle by Your parents and other leaders for our Ppls education, so you understood it’s importance. There wasn’t many other options to be successful. It was known and understood that a good education was/is the key to TRUE success. Fast forward to the next generations: 70s on. Intergation(our greatest mistake). Our minds were turned over to our enemy again. They white-washed us. Feed us the illusion of manhood through brothers – Larry Hoover and others – who pattern themselves after Al Capone and other gangsters/mobsters. This gave us the illusion of Power, Toughness, Manliness. We thought we were men. Being dys-functional, hell we never knew what functional was. Foreign language to us so we didn’t care. Eye didn’t understand the sacrifices that we’re made for us until Eye went to prison. Today, white-amerikkka presents so many illusions for Black males to be successful without being book smart that we think – why should we care about education when We can make another way. It’s sad but it’s true my brother. We weren’t ready for integration back then and now we’re gone to the point if almost NO return to you alls era of wanting an education or even listening to someone teach us.

  2. As Eye absorb and analyse your great thoughts Eye reflect on my own participation in gangsterism as a former gangster di

  3. This entry is a great one. Profound to say the least. I must say though.. I believe slowly but surely we are awakening to the fact that we are not limited to any particular area. For instance, Chamillionaire and his endeavor into Silicon Valley. Or the two brothers who are phenomenal violinist. I agree that the gaps are tremendous but it’s just a matter of time. Not a long time either.

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