There is probably no more hopeful phrase found in the lexicon of African-American men than “I am my Brother’s Keeper.” Within that short five words, declarative sentence lies an unyielding hope that has bolstered the hopes and aspirations of droves of African-American men at some low-point in their life.

Unfortunately for black men, in the 21st Century, this declaration of their commitment to being a solidified force against anything that threatens them or the millions of unknown African-American men that they have no tangible connection to has become little more than rhetorical phrase-mongering.

Let’s be honest about this matter, the vast majority of African-American males harbor some form of “beef” with one another for reasons that even they cannot articulate. The rage that so many black men express to their counterparts does not have its genesis in any particular offense, rather, it is the payoff of being raised within a society that maligns “blackness” at every turn. Put simply; black-on-black rage is a predictable by-product of being socialized to view “blackness” as an omnipotent negative and an omnipresent problem by an oppressive white media and non-representative educational school curriculum.

There is no room to debate that this socialization serves as the primary context for both the development of a toxic manhood and daunting view of all things black. It is this reality that makes the answering of the important question of “Am I my brother’s keeper?” a convoluted mess. I have found that those who answer this query with an unequivocal “YES!!!!” are completing what amounts to a socially appropriate ‘nicety’ that reveals their failure to analyze this matter correctly. Truthfully, a much better question is, “Do black men consider each other brothers?”

Despite our fervent desire to answer this question affirmatively, the truth of the matter is that it should only be answered on a case-by-case basis as our kind has been infiltrated by a host of individuals who maintain a single-minded priority to get ahead materially, even at the cost of compromising our collective well-being. Consider for a moment the sentiments of the late Tupac Amaru Shakur who cryptically foretold his demise at the hand of a “brother” in his classic track Only God Can Judge Me. Tupac asserted “And they say that it’s the white man that I should fear. But it’s my own kind doing all the killing here.” As you well know, Tupac is not the only “brother” who has looked down the barrel of a gun that his “brother” was holding for some unspecified reason.

In many ways, those, such as myself, who are holding on to an old collectivist racial construct are operating out of a make-believe black solidarity that has little grounding in either a mythical past or a frightening present. I am not ashamed to relate that my current interactions with African-American males are governed by an all too real caution and well-deserved skepticism; issues that an extremely vocal minority of black males has made necessary.

So although I would like to relate that “I am my brother’s keeper confidently,” I simply can’t. My resistance to fully embracing this rhetorical cliché is a result of my living long enough to realize that Chuck D’s admonishment that “Every brother ain’t a brother” carries significant weight. With the benefit of hindsight, I have begun to view tales of a universal brotherhood that glued black men together in past times as little more than a well-spun fable. In many ways, it does not matter if such times ever existed as the present is all that matters. And it is this present moment that leads me to the realization that I am not every black man’s keeper because very few of them have either behaved as or have the intention of ever being my brother. Unfortunately, the traditions that forged a collectivist racial identity is largely vanquished from Black America and within that ruin lays the reason that “every brother ain’t a brother.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017


  1. To answer your question does black men consider each other as a brother I would say no because 9 times out of 10 a black male doesn’t treat or call another black male a brother until they have proven to be trust worthy. I’ve seen many situations where black male will choose any other team besides his own because he doesn’t know if he could trust them or not. But then you think why would you trust your oppressor to do anything rather than your own kind?

  2. I love this article. I relate with the author on nearly every point. Engage the enemy where you meet him. This is a Spiritual battle and must be fought on that level first. Being angry is not an adequate response and neither is passive acceptance.

  3. Really good stuff Dr. Jones…I mean quite the synopsis! Where is the seam for us which can work then in spite of all you’ve just pointed out!? There is no hope then. I just spoke to a sister on g+ about taking a look at why she feels the way she does about the “brothers” with children and how the plan was to make sure she ends up feeling the way she does. May as well go ahead then and get that cheese, money and roof over head, etc., because that’s the plan for her. Not ragging on the black man for not making her happy, he’s under fire and have been for hundreds of years. She said she will not changer her mind, I told her that’s the plan! But back to what you’ve just pointed out I’ll send her the link, smh. Don’t know if it will be an awareness factor so she can support the black man so he can support her and theirs. I did say to her, there was a time that the black man and black woman had what she wants until the white man showed up! But that’s a stretch for her to envision a stark awareness for me…thx doc…

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