Category Archives: African-American Men

Twenty-Six Years After Magic Johnson’s Announcement that he was HIV+, Black Men Remain at the Forefront of this Unfortunate Club

It was one of those “I remember where I was at when _______” moments that rocks you to the core. On this particular momentous occasion I was in my dorm room on November 7, 1991, when my best friend came in and announced, “Man, Magic Johnson just announced that magiche has Aids.” Although we had all heard of the disease, I had already had a close family member die from the disease after contracting it from intravenous drug use. However, in the early 90s, there was an unspoken belief in the African-American community that the disease was one that only gay men contracted through sex.

In the early-nineties, Aids was little more than an urban legend to many of my contemporaries. Not even Magic Johnson’s announcement that he was ending his professional basketball career as a result of contracting something called HIV changed that fact. Apparently little has changed during the twenty-six black aids 2years since Magic Johnson’s announcement. Magic Johnson was so affable and engaging that many of us felt that we actually knew him. One would logically expect this unprecedented moment to have changed Black America in unconscionable ways, unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Center for Disease Control relates that African-Americans are currently the group, above all others I must emphasize, most affected by HIV. As of 2010, African-Americans were acquiring HIV gayat a rate eight-times greater than the white population based on population size. “Gay and bisexual men account for most new infections among African-Americans; young gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 are the most affected of this group.” (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/racialEthnic/aa/facts/index.html)

According to the Center for Disease Control the following facts are true:

  • African Americans accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years orblack love older) in 2010, despite representing only 12% of the US population; considering the smaller size of the African American population in the United States, this represents a population rate that is 8 times that of whites overall.
  • In 2010, men accounted for 70% (14,700) of the estimated 20,900 new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American men (103.6/JL King100,000 population) was 7 times that of white men, twice that of Latino men, and nearly 3 times   that of African American women.
  • In 2010, African American gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men**brepresented an estimated 72% (10,600) of new infections among all African American men and 36% of an estimated 29,800 new HIV infections among all gay and bisexual men. More new HIV infections (4,800) occurred among young African American gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24) than any other subgroup of gay and bisexual men.
  • In 2010, African American women accounted for 6,100 (29%) of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. This number represents a mimidecrease of 21% since 2008. Most new   HIV infections among African American women (87%; 5,300) are attributed to heterosexual contact.c The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African    American women (38.1/100,000 population) was 20 times that of white women and almost 5 times that of Hispanic/Latino women.

Source (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/racialEthnic/aa/facts/index.html)

Unfortunately, the numbers do not lie. The greater question facing the African-American population, I use the word population and not community intentionally, because a community bonds together to aid one another and solve common problems, I am personally unsure if we are a community, is a simple one of ‘how long will you act as if this issue, and a host of others that pivot upon matters of personal responsibility, should not be at the forefront of issues on our collective agenda. Maybe it is time that we lay the cross of victimization down in regards to repeated reactionary responses to racism and begin with a stern movement toward socially responsible individualism.

On this date, the twenty-third anniversary of Magic Johnson’s announcement that he had contracted HIV, I think that it may be imperative that we each take a moment to recognize those that have fallen victim to this horrendous disease, but also take nickiproactive steps on an individual and collective basis to address the matter. As a college professor, I am constantly bombarded with the issues of unprotected sex among collegians, I hear male students, hetero- and homosexual, bragging about their sexual conquests; rarely do I hear any mention of safe sex or any type of protection being used. I am almost certain that similar conversations occur among my female students. Regardless of if we want to admit it or not, we are each inextricably linked with one another and my Lord, what a tangled weave have we created?

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

#ManhoodRaceCulture

#Me Too: Why Has Black America Remained Silent About the Sexual Predators in their Midst?

I am quite confident that if you speak with an African-American man, they will tell you that at some point in their life they have had a private exchange with a black woman that forever changed their soul. We never publicly speak of this secret moment for reasons of delicacy and respect. However, the alluded to exchange remains so prominent in our heart and soul that it often causes us to stare at the man in the mirror as we wonder what demons hide in the hearts of men.

Most devastating to the black men who have had this deep conversation is that it usually occurs with someone that we love, cherish, and trust: a lover, our wife, a family member, or our best female friend. The topic that I am alluding to is the far too frequent occurrence of rape or sexual assault of African-American women at the hand of some black man that is far from a stranger.

When I think back over the relationships that I have had with African-American women, I now realize that at some point in our engagement the vast majority of them confided in me that at some point in their lives that they had been harassed, sexually assaulted, or even brutally raped. Unfortunately, the only commonalities in their stories were that they all knew their attackers and not a single one of them was ever convicted of their crimes. Each of these women decided at some point to either not report the crime or end their engagement with an unresponsive criminal justice system. Most revealed that they refused to go through the same charade that their mothers, aunts, and girlfriends experienced after similar assaults.

As an African-American male, I find it a strange phenomenon that there is a segment of black men who have decided to prey on African-American girls and women in a manner that conveys a deep and unending hatred. In fact, the commentaries and viewpoints of so many black males are so standard that I am no longer shocked to hear their tales of sexual conquest, not to mention financial exploitation, of apparently naïve African-American women whose educational attainments and financial resources vary widely. Truthfully, there was a time when I thought that such viewpoints were a sign of ignorance, small-minds, and an absence of loyalty to the Race. Those days are gone as experience has taught me that individuals holding draconian beliefs about black women are found even within the African-American Freedom Struggle.

I find it to be peculiar that black males can pledge their loyalty to “the liberation and salvation of the black nation” while operating from a “physical might equals right” ethos in regards to their dealings with black women. The referenced individuals have somehow found space to publicly pledge their allegiance to the Race while operating out of a highly-flawed manhood construct. Rarely is it discussed that the alluded to manhood constructs are white male patriarchy in blackface.

The sexual exploitation and rape of black women within the activist community is nothing new if we believe the shocking commentary of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee leader Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture). Carmichael answered a question regarding the role of black women in the African-American freedom struggle as being “prone.” Carmichael’s quip translates into the role of black women in the movement is on their backs with their legs open. Even the Black Panther Party (BPP), the Vanguard organization of sixties protest politics, had so many problems with Panther “brothers” attempting to exploit Panther “sisters” that BPP leadership expelled members for the offenses.

I long ago decided that I would do my best to remain on the right side of events, even if it meant me taking a stance against the actions, activities, and intentions of African-American men. It is this commitment to righteousness that spurs my rejection of the perverse forms of toxic manhood that I see so many of my contemporaries and students using as their moral compass.

Although rarely discussed in public spaces, flawed manhood constructs are as damaging to black men as the pernicious and publicly discussed evils of bigotry, discrimination, and institutional racism. In many ways, faulty manhood constructs that mandate black males assume personas of hyper-aggression, irresponsible sexual lifestyles, and pervasive social responsibility is the final nail in the coffin in regards to their maturation.

Unfortunately for Black America, until black males are socialized into appropriate forms of black manhood, none of the women in our community are safe from sexual assault or rape. Not your mother, aunt, sister, or daughter. None are safe!!!!!!

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

 

An Open Letter to Veronica Wells: Please Refrain from Making Black Men Invisible

I must admit that I did little more than shake my head when I heard my brother Carl Tone Jones speak about someone terming black men “terrorists.” Considering that his comments came on the heels of the greatest terrorist attack on American soil, I simply shook my head and mused, “ain’t white folk something.” I readily admit that my racial paranoia led me to believe that it was the white press that had managed to twist and turn the deplorable Las Vegas shooting into an innovative opportunity to rail against black men.

I am confident that you will understand my surprise when I learned that it was Veronica Wells, a black female who serves as the culture editor of MadameNoire, who had disparaged black men in this manner. Particularly troubling is the reality that Wells’ commentary was bound to reach thousands of Americans.

According to Wells,

Black women have been trying to tell the entire Black community that one of our biggest threats in the world is the very Black men we’ve birthed. In the same way that White men use their power and their gender to oppress virtually every one else, is the same way Black men oppress the only group they can, Black women.”

Wells goes further into her diatribe while making the same mistake that Damon Young of “Very Smart Brothas” did in a similar statement against his brothers in Straight Black Men are the White People of Black People. The alluded to mistake was pointing a sawed-off shotgun in the direction of black men and irresponsibly pulling the trigger to fire a spray of pellets in their path. Both of these writers wielded a shotgun when a sniper’s rifle would have been much more appropriate.

It is important to note that the alluded to attack on all black men by writers whose subjects and analysis should be emanating from an esteemed intellectual tradition of racial uplift is yet another consequence of having an intellectual class that has learned at the foot of a white community whose primary purpose has been the destruction of Black America. If Wells and Young are representative of the black intellectual community, that population now fails to understand the utility and power of the Black Pen. In fact, it appears that many black writers consider its best use to be sticking the instrument in the eye of black women or stabbing black men in the heart with it.

In her posting, Wells takes the privilege of speaking for all black women and issues the following complaints regarding black males.

Men literally break their necks to oogle your body as you pass by. They comment on what you should and shouldn’t be wearing. They touch your hair and then get loud and angry when you tell them to stop. They demand hugs, following you into your apartment building and trapping you in an elevator to take them. A Black man threw an empty bottle at Victoria. Brande has had men offer extremely hurtful opinions about her body. And our experiences are not unique.

Although I do not doubt that there are black males, a description that is a far cry from black men, who have perpetrated those acts against not only Wells but also droves of other black women. I am not compelled to apologize for their actions. I have nothing to do with their behavior, yet as a black man, I do denounce their disgraceful conduct and have always served as an active socializing agent against the continuation of such events from my lectern on a weekly basis.

Quite possibly the most annoying aspect of both Wells’ and Young’s postings is that in their clumsy, haphazard rush to correct black males, they have rendered black men whose very essence is guided by a moral compass and commitment to uplifting the Race invisible. Ralph Ellison appropriately sums up the enormous erasure that occurs to progressive-minded black men whose love for women extends beyond familial connections when writers such as Wells and Young articulate unsophisticated, illogical, sophomoric attacks that achieve nothing more than serving as a rallying call for those who despise black men; a population that predictably includes droves of people who hate black women with a similar intensity. These unspecified sawed-off shotgun blasts that by their very nature will harm the innocent are nothing new. Ralph Ellison penned the following about such generalized maligning by relating what such attacks do to black men.

I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.   

Once again, my primary problem with this posting is not that Wells has decided to point out a most unfortunate occurrence within our community by a specific sub-culture as those discussions are much-needed and should be encouraged. However, such conversations need to be precise and not general ramblings that ultimately cause more division among people that I could not imagine being any more divided than it is at the current moment.

Consider the following as it is one example of the inherent danger of sloppy intellectualism and writing manifested by both Wells and Young.

In her posting, Wells pens the following,

By the time I got upstairs to my office, I told my friend and coworker Victoria about the incident. Victoria is the ’bout it friend. Not that she ever goes looking for a fight; but should one present itself, whether it directly involves her or not, she’s not afraid to confront the situation. I mean, I’ve literally watched her jump into a fight involving teenagers on a New York City subway from Brooklyn to Harlem at like 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. Bout it. Meanwhile, I was half sleep, curled up in the corner…Anyway, when I told her what happened, she climbed a few levels of crunk as she talked about what she would have done and said to him.

Now consider for a moment if I were to take the antics of her “bout it friend”, who obviously has an absence of impulse control as she is eager to jump in random confrontations such as fighting on a New York City subway car in the early hours of the morning, and extended it to cover all black women. I would be left with no other conclusion than to believe that even when empowered with an education — a fact that I am certain that her co-worker at MadameNoire possesses — all black women are hood-rats who when pressure is applied morph into uneducated, ghetto-talking, welfare queens, whose foremost desire is to get their hair “did” as it will help them attract their next baby daddy. I am confident that you agree that it would be ludicrous for me to take the socially inappropriate actions of her impulse-control starved co-worker or a figure such as Veronica Wells who apparently fell asleep after a long night out on the town and consider the actions of these few individuals to be an appropriate sample size to evaluate all black women.

In many ways, writings such as those penned by Veronica Wells and Damon Young reveal more about their view of black men and less about the subjects that they loathe, if not despise. As a black man who has lived a little bit of life, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly to be found among black women and even after those life experiences I find it impossible to denigrate black women in such a generalized manner. For every sister that I have seen fighting on a subway or passed out from a night of gallivanting, I also realize that I have female friends whose star shines so bright that it would be impossible for them ever to be rendered ‘Invisible Women.’ The alluded to women are brilliant Professors, loving mothers and wives, phenomenal intellectuals, Womanists, Engineers, and the list goes on and on. It is this latter populace that is the norm in my world, and the antics of a few misguided individuals will not block my view of these sisters that I love cherish and would attack anyone who sought to invade their physical space, mental clarity, or safety.

Although it may be difficult to comprehend for a writer such as Veronica Wells, the majority of black men deplore the actions of those that you have termed “terrorists.” I am confident that you can understand that black men denounce the harassment of black women as they are our mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, confidants, and cherished friends. In fact, I feel comfortable in saying that black men denounce such foolishness more stringently than you could ever imagine. And we do that without the expectation of any kudos or response from black women. All that we do ask is that in your abhorrence of these droves of black males who have yet to understand the essence of black manhood and therefore fail to under the jewel that black women are, that you do not overlook us and render us Invisible Men whose presence matters little to you.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

FLAWED CULTURAL PRIORITIES: THE FOREMOST PROBLEM AFFECTING SO MANY BLACK MALES

I have learned that it is crucial that I choose my battles wisely. Now I admit that this commitment to avoid unnecessary frivolous conflict signals either the arrival of wisdom or is an indicator of a subconscious desire to conserve my mental energies. The latter is the closest that you will ever get me to admit that I am aging.

It is this commitment to choose my battles that recently led me to avoid a relatively petty disagreement with a male student. The alluded to conflict flowed from his belief that the sole purpose of life was money and the more of it that he possessed, the happier he would be. Trust me when I say that this young brother was the personification of what many consider a stereotypical black male in dress, speech pattern, and social inappropriateness. I am confident that you understand what I mean when I say that although this was our initial encounter, I already knew him well.

Maybe I can chalk up my decision to not engage this fellow to wisdom. I can tell you that within thirty seconds of speaking with him, it became apparent that he would never understand that a successful life should never be evaluated by one’s bank account or accruement of cars, clothes, women, and homes. I have learned that flawed value systems such as his are birthed by both an absence of education and dearth of mentorship. I am certain that you agree that such ingredients result in absolute disaster for black males, regardless of their age.

Many of my students who have turned their back on the pursuit of a “life worth living” are surprised to learn that their decision to pursue money over everything else would have been applauded by Southern plantation owners who “owned” their ancestors centuries ago. In fact, there were principally two things that white slave owners feared the moment that chattel slavery ended: (a) financial ruin (b) the obliteration of a Southern culture that served as pillars for both their wealth and political interests. It is evident that Southern plantation owners understood that although monetary resources are crucial to their reign, it was their cultural priorities that dictated the path forward. These “southern gentlemen” were willing to destroy the nation before they even entertained compromising on their cultural beliefs and preferences. Of all of the lessons that one can glean from this period, it is white southerners’ obsession with a cultural formation that served their interests that offer the greatest lesson for African-Americans males at this present moment. Unfortunately, these precious lessons regarding the importance of culture are consistently ignored by those who need to learn from them the most.

Even a cursory examination of American history reveals that Southern plantation owners understood that although monetary resources were crucial to their tyrannical reign, money never superseded the value and importance of what can be best termed cultural priorities. White southerners understood very well that it was their cultural priorities that pointed the path forward. One must never forget that these “southern gentlemen” were willing to destroy the nation before they compromised their cultural framework.

White Southerners’ obsession with holding onto a cultural formation that served their interests offers the greatest lesson for African-Americans males seeking either individual or collective uplift. Unfortunately, these valuable lessons regarding the importance of culture are consistently ignored by a population of black males that need them the most. Failure to honor such realities reduces so many black males useless to their peoples’ historical struggle against white politico-economic oppression.

One of the most poignant social commentaries regarding what happens when there is an absence of black cultural priorities emanates from comedian Chris Rock. We must remember that Rock is the same person who informed the nation that there was “a civil war going on in Black America between black folk and Niggers. And Niggers have got to go.” Chris Rock’s piercing observation delves into one of Black America’s dirtiest pieces of laundry, that being the reality that there is a significant segment of Black America that has willfully embraced, even celebrated a backward set of cultural priorities that encourages what can only be considered a backward lifestyle. The alluded to lifestyle is particularly astounding when one considers that its foremost advocates have attempted to take others to task for not joining them in their wayward perspective. those who champion it have the audacity to issue significant criticism toward those who have pursued financial responsibility, professional success, and educational achievement. Unfortunately, those who pursue the positive goals mentioned above are rendered social pariah by a roguish element of black men.

The alluded to lifestyle is particularly astounding when one considers that its foremost advocates have attempted to take others to task for not joining them in their wayward perspective. Consider for a moment the fact that those discussed above have displayed the audacity to issue significant criticism toward a portion of Black America that has pursued financial responsibility, professional success, and educational achievement. In many ways, it is hilarious that this roguish element of black men has done their best to make the educated in our midst social pariah.

Make no mistake about it; there seems to be a social, intellectual, and cultural poverty that shadows wayward black males. Chris Rock addressed this matter when he charged that “Nothing makes a nigga happier than to not know the answer to your question.” I applaud Rock’s courage to publicly address such matters that are regularly discussed by blacks behind closed doors.

In many ways, the curse of cultural alteration is that change is gradual and indiscernible to the untrained eye. Once the alluded to changes are noticeable, it is often too late to stop them. Although it is impossible to identify a single villain in many African-American males development of non-sensical cultural priorities, however, there is no doubt that this matter exists.

An excellent starting point for explaining this unfortunate development of “ends-justify-the-means” cultural priorities is the impoverished intellectual diet so many black males have become addicted to. It is evident that for many black males, television, movies, rap music, and the foolishness found in American streets have a disproportionate influence on their behavior and worldview. In many ways, such dubious entities have convinced those being discussed of what is and what is not ‘Blackness.’

It is the foolish adoption of a value system that makes the pursuit of material goods the lone goal of life as the most active agent in the “dumbing down” of Black America. There is no room to debate the reality that the individuals who engage in this process eventually find themselves mired in an unceasing world of ignorance that begets a lack of politicization, that begets economic ignorance, that begets poverty, which reinforces their pervasive ignorance.

At the present moment, it appears that this process has manufactured individuals, such as the student mentioned above, whose sole priorities are the pursuit of and consumption of material goods by any means necessary. It is this population that Chris Rock terms “Niggas.” Ironically, such individuals have been so busy pursuing trinkets that they failed to notice that the rest of Black America has taken a vote that agrees with the famed comedian’s point that it is most certainly time for them to go.

James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017