Category Archives: African-American Men

Developing and Cultivating a Young ‘Criminal Class’ in Memphis

There are those who say that if the Ku Klux Klan tried to destroy an entire generation of Black boys, they could not have done a better job than Black people have apparently done to themselves.

Many of these same people actually believe that a generation or two of young Black men in Memphis (and other cities as well) have been so completely corrupted and defiled, that they have become a ‘species’ unto themselves.

Still further, that we have to ‘write-off’ this current generation of tattooed, sagging pants-wearing, shower shoe-wearing, bad-languaged young thugs, and concentrate on the next group of urban boys.

The fact is that when the current generation of urban boys looks around for answers, and perhaps a little more dignity than the urban males they see on a daily basis, most often they come up empty and get nothing tangible from parents, preachers, politicians, principals, or their peers. The threat is existential, and very real.

The ‘Black Community’ has devolved over the past two decades into an incessantly chaotic mix of great wealth for a few, utter confusion among the masses, bitter frustration inside neighborhoods, mistrust among the divergent groups, and no singular plan to dig ourselves out of this situation.

It is, therefore, no great surprise that we are witnessing the rise of a young ‘criminal class’ in Memphis and in cities across America.

Exactly what is it that we would expect from a once-proud group of African-American citizens, who would never curse in front of the elderly, or disrespect a teacher, and would frown upon being arrested for a ninth time? We can’t exclusively blame violent TV or video games, or violent lyrics in rap music, or even the violence that many young boys see inside their own homes as the ‘primary’ cause for the undeniable rise in shootings, stabbings, armed robberies, and domestic assaults.

But just like the arguments around Global Warming, these human elements must be considered as a possible (and quite plausible) contributing factor. “It’s the criminal’s own fault”, and “He should just go out and get a job”, are two of society’s main refrains, and these sentiments are both rooted in truth.

“Lock ‘em up for forty years”, and “three strikes, you’re out”, and “Let’s bring back law and order”, are also very popular things for politicians to say, and even frustrated everyday Black people agree.

But we’re still just pruning dead leaves from a tree, without getting into the roots or the lack of nourishment that caused the visible blemishes. The violence among young men in Memphis is rooted primarily in deviance, harsh economics, and limited opportunity.

Ours is a ‘cultural deficiency’ that starts in poverty-stricken, single-parent homes across Memphis, and extends to the greater community. Who would argue with such a premise?

Without early training and engagement of Middle School students, we are left with young boys who have been thrown to the wolves, the vultures and the predators of society, that lay-in-wait for them as new recruits for nefarious goals of easy money, street-respect, and ‘ghetto prestige.’

Allen Iverson can be credited as being the forerunner and icon of a belief that lots of money can mask pure thuggery, and that you can wear a basketball jersey anytime, anywhere. As long as you look tough and talk tough, you don’t have to have any legitimate knowledge about anything at all.

Violence is clearly a part of the game, and young boys better develop a strong stomach for it, or go back on the porch. The game is hard, and Hollywood hype has defined exactly how a young boy should look and act as he tries to carve out his early life and his destiny… shower shoes, neck tattoos, sagging pants, inarticulate speech, and probably, access to a gun. Meanwhile, most of them have never been to Sunday School, and never learned to pray.

Scarce summer (and year-round) employment, no family-centered recreational options, and a shortage of non-sports training has led thousands of young men to find other outlets for their ‘manhood quests,’ as they enter the larger economic mainstream.

The majority of these boys are not going to sit idly by, as their peers have girlfriends and cars, and occasionally money. They are going to engage the society based on what they know… and what they know how to do.

The names ‘Rayful Edmonds’ and ‘Brian Tribble’ may not be familiar to most Memphians, but theirs are two stories that speak volumes about the violent situations that now face Memphis and its teens. We are more familiar with the name ‘Craig Petties,’ but it’s the same game, just a different city. ‘Shop Class’ and early exposure to Vocational skills could at least give children an idea – and a hope – of what they might pursue as a legitimate career.

What do we expect the outcome to be, when 8,000 urban boys are left to their own devices in such a chaotic urban setting as Memphis has become? City and county officials only give lip service to the early development of Middle School and High School students, both boys and girls. These young people could find economic options in the un-used commercial kitchens of our 25 closed schools, and no one has ever talked to them about learning to install Fire Suppression Systems, or residential sprinkler systems, or pressure washing windows and driveways, or merchandising grocery stores as a small business… we only give them basketball. “Those who can, will… those who can’t, take.”

So you tell me, why do you think our boys are so violent? I’ll wait, as you ponder your role…

Tony Nichelson is a Memphis community activist who runs Man of the House, a youth mentoring program.

Taken from the Commerical Appeal

A HAIR CUT WOULD SOLVE ALL YOUR PROBLEMS: WHY MICHAEL VICK’S ADVICE TO COLIN KAEPERNICK REVEALS HIS STATUS AS A BROKEN MAN

I remember it like it was yesterday when Dr. Julianne Malveaux, the former President of Bennett College dropped this nugget of wisdom regarding institutional racism and the forgiveness it affords white males. In her famed style, the remarkable economist remarked that ‘a skinhead ain’t nothing but a white boy who needs to grow some hair. And when he does, he can walk into any company and be assured of securing some semblance of employment, regardless of his qualifications for the position.’

The alluded to wisdom that Malveaux shared with a room full of African-American collegians was daunting, yet true. Every American should realize that white privilege is enjoyed by whites regardless of their effort to secure it or desire to receive it. Hence, it is puzzling, if not bewildering to hear former NFL Quarterback Michael Vick, a black man who once was the personification of a thug in the eyes of white America, offers the following advice to Colin Kaepernick on FS1’s show “Speak for Yourself.”

“First thing we’ve got to get Colin to do is cut his hair. Listen, I’m not up here to try to be politically correct…I don’t think he should represent himself in that way in terms of just the hairstyle. Just go clean-cut. You know, why not? You’re already dealing with a lot of controversy surrounding this issue. The most important thing that he needs to do is just try to be presentable.”

Vick’s uninformed diatribe continues below,

“(I) didn’t listen until the end, until I was going through the turmoil and the hardships…Listen, I love the guy to death. But I want him to also succeed on and off the field…It’s not about selling out.”

When one considers Vick’s words, it is evident that life’s experiences have taught him the primary lesson that educator Jane Elliott reveals as the only path for black people to get ahead in America, “Conform!!!! Act white!!!! That’s how you get ahead in America!!!!”

As an educator privileged to watch thousands of young black males transform during their undergraduate years, I have always found it humorous when a figure that white America and a particular segment of ‘well to do’ black America would consider a ‘thug’ transforms into “the company man.” The company man is ironically a desperate attempt by the disenfranchised to replicate the persona and worldview of those that have historically taken glee in vilifying him. The alluded to figure is impeccably groomed, never found in anything less than designer clothing, and arrives at informal social gatherings dressed business casual. Shockingly, the alluded to transformation often extends far beyond physical appearance as it affects their word choice and diction; I swear that a few of my students picked up a strange accent that vacillates between British and French to complete the transformation. This persona that Harlem Renaissance Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar termed “the Mask” is always an uncomfortable fit for those that consider it an indispensable accessory.

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

 

Why should the world be over-wise,

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

 

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!

(Paul Laurence Dunbar)

There is no doubt that those who wear Dunbar’s “mask” do so with the realization that it is the most certain means of having their material needs satisfied. However, if given enough time, these same individuals will realize that they have made a lopsided deal with the Devil that ultimately leaves them as one of the “tortured souls” that Dunbar writes about in his poem.

In many ways, Michael Vick’s advice to Kaepernick is revealing as it displays what he has learned from his very public troubles. Apparently, Vick believes that one must curry favor with white power-brokers ‘by any means necessary.’

I guess that silly is as silly does, and Michael Vick’s silly advice to Kaepernick has actually achieved one thing for certain; that being, it has ensured that he is firmly entrenched as the starting Quarterback on an All-Star team of unwise and stupid athletes who should have been benched long ago when it comes to addressing racial matters, a duty they are incapable of doing well.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

A Low Down Dirty Shame: What the Video of Maia Campbell Reveals About Ignorant Black Males

I recently received a communication from a trusted female friend who issued a very poignant assertion that doubled as a general indictment against African-American men.

We are supposed to jump on every injustice that happens to the black man, but we seem to be their main punching bag! Sharing that video is an insult to us all!!!!

As soon as I read the comment, I realized that it was emanating from grave disappointment with black men. The impetus behind the communication was a “viral video” of actress Maia Campbell who suffers from a bipolar disorder that affects 2.3 million Americans.

The alluded to video captured the In the House star as a physically and mentally disheveled mess in desperate need of the kind of professional help that extends further than an earnest attempt to pray away the “demons” by some prayer circle. Viewing the video caused my heart to break for this young lady. As expected, the lens of love and understanding that I used to view Mrs. Campbell was not matched by other members of our community who used this unfortunate matter to hurl derisive comments in her direction. As if things could not be any worse, it became apparent that it was a black male who not only captured but also promoted the shocking images.

For reasons coded in both our DNA and historical record, African-American women have looked to African-American men for some semblance of protection; unfortunately, in the new millennium it has become increasingly common for those reasonable expectations to be ignored by a sector of black males, a population that is distinctly different from African-American men, who now view black women as prey to be hunted, subdued, and released back into the wild after they are of no further use to them. It is this behavior that led to the poignant assertion that,

“(Black women) are supposed to jump on every injustice that happens to the black man, but we seem to be their main punching bag!

Now I am most certainly aware that the vast majority of black women believe that they have always supported and defended black males regardless of the situation and received very little in return. Such feelings contextualize the repeated conflicts that occur between black men and women. One of the primary mistakes that the combatants on both sides of the aisle make when deciding to attack what they unwisely consider their adversary is a failure to pinpoint those that they intend to battle; put simply, it appears that hurt, anger, and disappointment paves the path for each of us to generalize and indict all black men or all black women as the source of our turmoil.

Despite an understandable emotionally charged knee-jerk reaction, the truth of the matter is that the scrap of a human being who captured Maia Campbell on video is not a fair representation of the black men that I know; he is a black male biologically, yet devoid of any of the qualities necessary to be crowned a black man. It is fair to characterize persons of this ilk with the following descriptors: ignorant, unlearned, socially inappropriate, devoid of common sense, and absent even a semblance of consideration for the community that has nurtured them. Predictably when this Negro was pressed as to why he recorded the referenced footage, he related the following.

Y’all n****s would not be mad if I posted a white girl. If I would have ran into muthaf***king Hillary Duff/ Lizzy McGuire and she was asking for crack and sucking d**k at the gas station for money for crack, I would have posted her, too…This ain’t no mental disorder this b***h is just high as f**k.”

When one considers all that the above language and worldview convey, it is easy to understand why others look at this population of African-American males with amused contempt and pity.

In regards to the assertion that black women

“…are supposed to jump on every injustice that happens to the black man, but we seem to be their main punching bag!”

I have little response other than to warn black women to not generalize and fall into the trap of allowing a few ignorant fellows to represent the essence of black manhood. If nothing else, it is imperative that we ostracize this class black male and work toward healing the willing and able in our midst. I am confident that she would agree that this process becomes more difficult when idiots such as the one referenced above are included and therefore permitted to continue their pattern of mischief and destruction.  

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017.