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