There is no doubt that everyone has an opinion regarding what the actual solution is to the voluminous African-American male problem. Although I believe that the vast majority of people proposing solutions are well-intentioned, they are failing to realize that they are in many ways their worst enemies.
I recently came across a story regarding a sign outside of Birmingham, Alabama’s, New Era Baptist Church that succinctly delivered what I am certain both church leaders and others in position of authority would deem a key component in reversing the current downward trajectory of African-American males. The sign was a brief quip that read, “Young black males must respect authority.”
New Era Baptist Church Pastor Michael R. Jordan relates that the sign is not only dealing with law enforcement officers, but also extends to other authority figures such as parents, pastors, and school principals.
I have always found it amazing that persons in positions of authority who are apparently lacking the level of respect that they desire, rarely take a moment to question why those that they interact with have very little, if any, respect for them. Apparently, they have forgotten that respect is not given; rather it is earned through one’s actions, deeds, and character.
It seems to me that there are so many persons in positions of authority within our community (teachers, pastors, principals, law enforcement officers) who have instead of presenting themselves as ‘servants of the people’, taken a domineering position that dictates to those whose lives and futures they have been entrusted with that ‘it is either my way or the highway.’
In effect, such individuals’ sense of superiority is not only noted, but also stringently resisted by those that they consider so disrespectful to them and their status. Although their arrogance routinely prevents them from realizing it, many of these aforementioned individuals are the primary cause of the disrespect that they receive; particularly when it comes to their interactions with an African-American male population that their lack of a relationship does not preclude them from chastising them regarding their errant ways on a routine basis.
I learned long ago that in my role as a Professor, although I may have the best intentions, it is impossible for me to chastise, discipline, or offer constructive criticism to anyone that I do not have a significant relationship with. Maybe, just maybe, if the so-called authority figures in our community took a few moments to build a relationship with what they are considering wayward African-American males, their message, whatever that message may be, will at least be considered.
Those seeking the respect of African-American males must remember that such a relationship is a two-way street that requires both parties to not only forge a real relationship, but also work toward addressing and solving the myriad problems affecting not only African-American males, but also the entire African-American community.
So I would suggest that the sign hanging outside of the New Era Baptist Church be altered to read “You must give respect to receive respect.”
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.