Steven Stephens: A 20th Century Bigger Thomas? (Black America’s Native Son)

Experience has taught me to expect the inquiry regardless of the venue or situation. Whether while being interviewed or in the aftermath of an exhilarating lecture regarding the dilemmas facing African-American males, someone will ask “What is the greatest issue confronting the black male today?” To the chagrin of interviewers and audience members, my answer to this poignant query is never singular as the foremost problems facing African-American males revolves around mutually reinforcing issues of mental illness and their adoption, due to both socialization and their environs, of what can only be termed a toxic manhood that possesses the ability destroy all that they contact.

The wicked cocktail of mental illness and toxic manhood is the only explanation for the actions of Steven Stephens, the African-American male who not only murdered Robert Goodwin Sr. (74), a defenseless elderly black male on a Cleveland, Ohio, street, but also uploaded his heinous crime onto Facebook. Although Black America reacted with horror to Stephens’ diabolical actions, the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of us know several black males whose existence mirrors that of Steven Stephens; a personable individual, who on the surface fails to exhibit the wear-and-tear of being black in America publicly, yet is privately straining under the weight of being a have not in the land of plenty. The alluded to frustrations feeds directly into the dawning of a daunting query of “Is life worth living?” Such internal strife has reverberating repercussions for all around them. Unfortunately, it appears that the appropriate motto for disassembled black communities in every inner-city may very well be “A place where life is not worth living.”

Considering the mantra that “you cannot change what you do not acknowledge,” it is past time Black America shed their thread-bare lie of being shocked by regarding the actions and activities of the Steven Stephens found within their environs. If we were serious about improving our community, we would stop feigning ignorance and acknowledge that we have normalized public indecency and uncivilized behavior toward within the black community. It is not accidental that Steven Stephens murdered another black man as a means of expressing his frustrations at the two black women to whom he was closest, his mother and a former fiancé.

It is imperative that we not miss this opportunity to at least examine, if not address the cause of the development of angry, brash, illogical, directionless, socially inappropriate African-American males whose moral compass is a toxic manhood possessing more power to destroy themselves and their community than Hurricane Katrina. We must face facts that figures such as Steven Stephens are a reflection of who we have become as a community; cold, distant, foreign to one another, combustible, and dangerous to ourselves. When considered in this light, it is clear that today’s troubled African-American male is a modern-day Bigger Thomas, meaning Black America’s Native Son. Such individuals reflect the frustrations, contradictions, and sadness that has been comfortably situated in our hearts for so long that we no longer notice its presence. For better or for worse, it is who we have become to each other.

And for that reason, we should all weep.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2017.

4 thoughts on “Steven Stephens: A 20th Century Bigger Thomas? (Black America’s Native Son)”

  1. If he was mentally ill i feel as if someone in his family would’ve noticed and gotten him help as soon as they could. Mental illness is just an excuse to cover the fact of this man killing innocent people.

  2. This report shows how males have a mental illness. I feel sad how many people think about living and starts to ask themselves :is life worth living for”. It isn’t normal for people to think that unless they are mentally having problems. I wish that Steven Stephan could have resolve an issue in a better way instead of taking someone else’s life. That just goes to show that you never how people react when they are going through a challenging moment. I do agree that we should make a change to atlest address the mental illness of males towards themselves and others.

  3. I believe it is important that we address the mental health in black communities because for far too long we rely on gossip and barbershops to be our form of therapy. However in this particular situation i feel as if there is another problem that we are lacking to address which is the disconnect between the black man and the black boy. Where is this man’s moral support? Why was his girlfriend that big of an emotional strong hold? And did he have a guidance father figure or mentor in his life? These questions play a role in the outcome of this brutal murder for the black community.

  4. I totally agree you can not change what you do not acknowledge. How could he had received help if he did not admit that he was mentally ill.

Manhood, Race, and Culture greatly appreciates your participation on this site. We would love to receive your feedback regarding the site. We are dedicated to working toward the uplift of the Race 'by any means necessary' including, but not limited to education.