Category Archives: Black Men

“Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?”: How Desegregation Played a Pivotal Role in Removing Black Male Teachers from the American Classroom

I have come to understand that when I teach the Civil Rights Movement, there are several things that I can expect. One of the most prominent is that the vast majority of my students believe that the desegregation of America’s schools was an undeniable positive occurrence in black education. From their myopic perspective, school desegregation provided a highly sought after route to black liberation with its infusion of better materials, facilities, and teachers. Trust me when I say that the vast majority of my students believe that the U.S. Supreme Court mandate to desegregate the schools “with all deliberate speed” was an unequivocal positive for Black America. As I am confident that you can imagine, my viewpoint conflicts with such a perspective.

The manner in which my students battle against my nuanced criticism of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision reveals a shocking emotional investment that shows a strident belief in meritocracy; the idea that if you work hard in America, success will eventually occur. Experience has taught me that the most certain way to undress school desegregation is via the following query; “How many of you had an African-American male teacher during your K-12 experience? Please do not count any teacher who was involved in school athletics in that number.” There may be a few students who indicate that they have had such an indicator by raising their hand. However, a brief survey reveals that very few students have had more than two African-American male teachers who were not attached to some athletic sport during their K – 12 educational endeavors. This unfortunate reality provides a perfect opportunity for me to query, “To what do you attribute that fact?”

As I am confident that you can imagine, there is a litany of excuses/explanations for the absence of African-American males from the teaching profession.

  • “Teaching doesn’t pay, so they refuse the work.”
  • “Being a teacher is woman’s work.”
  • “Too many of them end up in prison and not college.”

I am confident that the flawed explanations would continue into infinity if I did not stop them.

None of my students possess enough knowledge to trace the absence of African-American male teachers to the cause of this matter, the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

When discussing this issue, I frequently take Malcolm X’s position and ask my charges if they are confident that it was a wise decision to abandon black schools to integrate with a hostile white community? I remind my students that they are integrating with a community that has publicly articulated a non-desire to have African-Americans anywhere near them unless it was in a subservient role that bolstered their monopoly upon limited politico-economic resources. My students are not alone in their myopic view of school desegregation. Integrationist oriented Civil Rights leaders also failed to understand that the integration of American schools would have an unconscionable impact upon not only the minds of African-American children but also ensure the disappearance of black male teachers. Malcolm X considered the decision to integrate so unwisely that he admonished his moderate Negro leaders that “Only a fool would let his enemy educate his children.”

Over sixty years after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered school desegregation, it is evident that African-American male teachers are the primary victims of desegregation. Consider for a moment that before the Brown v. Board of Education decision, educators made up over fifty percent of the black professional class; male teachers were approximately half of that population. Things have certainly changed since Brown in regards to the presence of African-American male educators. At this present moment,

  • 75% of American teachers are female
  • 83% of American teachers are white
  • Less than 2% of American teachers are black men

In hindsight, it is evident that Brown blocked a robust pipeline that consistently delivered black male educators to black schools.

After Brown, white school administrators efficiently replaced black male teachers with white women. The alluded to occupational displacement was motivated by an extreme desire by white managers to avoid an agreed upon racial taboo that forbid the placement of African-American men in positions of authority over any white, most notably a white female. An irrational paranoia that reduced African-American males to a monolithic population whose greatest desire was sexual contact with any white woman motivated this decision. Put simply, the pipeline that routinely produced black male educators before Brown was not only halted but also deconstructed by the Supreme Court order.

It is this historical reality that has forced a consortium of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Southern University, Tuskegee University, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Alcorn State University and Claflin University) to join in an endeavor that is ironically being called Project Pipeline Repair: Restoring Minority Male Participation and Persistence in Educator Preparation Programs (Project PR).

Project PR, supported by a $1.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is seeking to “eliminate social and economic barriers” that preclude the presence of African-American male teachers in today’s classrooms.

I hope that Project PR is a resounding success as we are in dire need for African-American male teachers who could serve as educators and mentors to the next generation of American youth, regardless of their race, gender, or ethnicity. However, as an individual who has studied Race in America for the better portion of his life, I am slightly perturbed that this movement to restock this nation’s schools with African-American male educators is occurring without any discussion regarding why there are so few of them at this present moment. The historical record shows that their absence is not due to social dysfunction or personal flaws, rather it results from white school administrators discriminatory hiring practices in the wake of Brown. It was their dastardly decision that facilitated the disappearance of black male educators from American schools and the subsequent decline of a quality education for African-American students.

The historical record definitively proves this matter. Until this nation places this conversation within its proper historical context, it is not only doing itself a severe disservice but also extending one of its greatest traditions of conveniently excluding significant aspects of its storied tradition of discrimination and racism. Until we tell the truth about American racial matters, this nation will continue to be haunted by this demonic spirit.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

“Do or do not; there is no try”: ABANDONING EXCUSES AND DEMANDING EXCELLENCE FROM BLACK MALES

I long ago realized that the least likely locations provide important nuggets of wisdom. When such a moment occurs, I always gather these amazing words of wisdom and integrate them into my life. Life has also taught me that just as I did not anticipate the arrival of these illuminating thoughts; my use of them will likewise be impromptu.

I must tell you how pleased I was when my son took an interest in Star Wars, a movie series that I grew up watching. Our mutual affinity for the Star Wars series has provided many a moment of bonding and intense conversation regarding good versus evil, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and “the force.”

As any doting parent would, I have done my absolute best to help my son create a path that will lead him to be an engineer, his chosen field. I am confident that you under why I strategically aim each recreational purchase at developing his prodigious mind and keeping him in what he terms “master builder mode.” So it was only natural that this Christmas he would be gifted builder sets with moving parts, batteries, and even one that ran off of solar energy.

After a morning of spending time with family and opening gifts, my son retreated to his room and became engrossed in constructing a mechanical arm that included several different power sources and over 300 pieces that only a “master builder” could build. The ability to remain on task is most certainly one of my son’s strengths, so I was not surprised when he dedicated several hours to his new building project before emerging with it in tow. However, I was shocked when he frustratingly related, “I keep trying to get this thing to work, and there is something wrong with it. Dad, the construction plans are wrong.”

I was confident that there was nothing wrong with the building plans. And to my son’s dismay, I related that fact to him before telling him that he needed to deconstruct the entire project until he found his error. As expected, this frustrated teenager remarked, “I have tried and tried. Nothing is working.”

It was at this moment that I used one of my favorite lines in the Star Wars series that was voiced by Jedi Master Yoda. “Do or do not; there is no try.” James pivoted and headed back to his room with his failed project in tow. In less than fifteen minutes, he returned with a completed project in hand and a smile that communicated everything that I needed to know about the problem he had confronted and conquered on his own.

Were I permitted, I would point every person toward the words of Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Such a life philosophy is the lynchpin capable of transforming our hopes and dreams into achieved goals. You must never cower in the face of difficulty as it is merely an obstacle standing between you and your goals. So go forth and become one with the force as you make your hopes and dreams a living reality.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Is the Proper Training of Black Males the Initial Step in Saving Chiraq from Ruin?

Within African-American communities and neighborhoods, black males set the tone for much of what does and do not occur. Under optimal conditions, black men have served as providers and protectors for the African-American women and children in their midst. The benefits of being a provider and protector served as the wind beneath the wings of the soaring manhood that was the very essence of black men.

During times past, it appeared that the vast majority of African-American men took their job of modeling manhood with the utmost seriousness. It was impossible to listen to the life-lessons that these men shared or observe their daily dealings with an invariably hostile white populace and not understand that the primary job of black men was to protect and provide for your family in a host of ways.

One thing is for certain, the men of my father’s generation, although far from perfect, had a well-developed sense of ‘what a man ought to be and ought to do.’ In the face of unbridled occupational discrimination and unending prejudice, the alluded to men were unshakable pillars of their community. Unfortunately for the entire black community, it appears as if those pillars have gradually faded away. More troubling is the reality that there are too few replacements for the men who displayed our grandest manhood traditions.

A person needs to look no further than the ‘Windy City’ to understand the remarkable changes that have occurred to African-American manhood over the past half-century. With the benefit of hindsight, it is evident that the most expeditious path to the unraveling of any community is for its men to lose their understanding of ‘what a man ought to do and ought to be.’ The present state of Black America proves that when critical masses of males abandon steep manhood traditions, things fall apart. The “Windy City” is a notable example of such an occurrence.

There may be no more succinct representation of the pernicious evils occurring in Chicago than residents abandoning its traditional moniker of the ‘Windy City’ for a much foreboding ‘Chiraq’; a play on words that likens the great American city to the war-torn nation of Iraq.

At this moment, Chicagoans of every hue, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, faith, and political affiliation are debating what should be done to save the “Windy City” from roguish African-American males whose toxic manhood is damaging everyone around them. Make no mistake about it, the actions of black males whose propensity for the Black-on-Black crime makes the Capone Era look like child’s play, sit at the core of the “Windy City’s” problems.

Considering the historical conflicts between the African-American community and ‘the boys in blue,’ Black Chicagoans find themselves in an ironic quandary. Should they turn to local law enforcement officers for aid in addressing lawless black males or is there a better in-house solution to this dilemma?

Up to this point, many African-Americans throughout the nation have refused to seek redress via law enforcement agencies out of fear of retribution and a desperate desire to not contribute to the incarceration of African-American males that Michelle Alexander so powerfully details in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

There are significant sections of Black America that are disturbed by any assertion that the path to peace is the removal and warehousing of black males in this nation’s penitentiaries. However in a city that witnessed,

  • 713 Killed by gunfire
  • 3665 Wounded by gunfire
  • 4378 Shot

Most agree that something definitive must occur.

The majority of Black America has rightfully tired of this sordid tale of African-American males choosing to live wayward lives that accomplish nothing more than increasing the dilemmas they face in America at an unconscionable rate.

What can be done to address this dilemma? One thing that will most certainly not positively affect this issue are calls to absolve a criminal segment of Black America from being responsible for their actions by citing typical dodges such as squalor, inferior educational institutions, urban decay, and limited economic opportunities. The above explanations, although important to understanding the daily realities found within the vast majority of impoverished African-American enclaves, do not provide the lawless permission for their criminality and uncivilized behavior.

A more productive path to ameliorating the issues facing black males is for the African-American community to address the matters facing black males via manhood training proactively.

Yes, it is the time that we return ‘back to basics’ by teaching African-American males the basics of ‘what a man ought to be and ought to do.’ It is in understanding the path and many obstacles that prior generations of black men confronted and conquered that vital life lessons are discovered. I am certain that the tools the alluded to men used were basic tools such as:

  • Honesty
  • Hardwork
  • Entreprenurialship
  • Diligence
  • Commitment
  • Strength
  • Honor

Unfortunately for wayward black males, until they are socialized to understand that the above qualities are the path to their liberation and not get rich quick criminal schemes that invariably lead to either the penitentiary or the grave, there is no hope. Cities such as Chiraq have definitively proven this fact.

The time to take control of our destiny is now and the path forward begins with manhood training that paves the path for black males to become African-American men.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

What the Black Man Wants!!!!!!!

“What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!

If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! If you see him on his way to school, let him alone, don’t disturb him! If you see him going to the dinner table at a hotel, let him go! If you see him going to the ballot- box, let him alone, don’t disturb him! If you see him going into a work-shop, just let him alone,–your interference is doing him a positive injury…Let him fall if he cannot stand alone!

If the Negro cannot live by the line of eternal justice…the fault will not be yours, it will be his…Let him live or die by that. If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man.

If you see him on his way to school, let him alone, don’t disturb him! If you see him going to the dinner table at a hotel, let him go! If you see him going to the ballot- box, let him alone, don’t disturb him! If you see him going into a work-shop, just let him alone,–your interference is doing him a positive injury…Let him fall if he cannot stand alone! If the Negro cannot live by the line of eternal justice…the fault will not be yours, it will be his…Let him live or die by that. If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man.

A great many delusions have been swept away by this war. One was, that the Negro would not work; he has proved his ability to work. Another was, that the Negro would not fight; that he possessed only the most sheepish attributes of humanity; was a perfect lamb, or an “Uncle Tom;” disposed to take off his coat whenever required, fold his hands, and be whipped by anybody who wanted to whip him. But the war has proved that there is a great deal of human nature in the Negro, and that “he will fight.”

Frederick Douglass (1865)

Delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Anti Slavery Society in Boston on April 1865.

The Unspoken Divide: A Crisis among African-American Men

Make no mistake about it; there is a significant issue dividing African-American men today. The alluded to divide that has for many black men gone beyond a breaking point cuts across an educational level, socioeconomic status, political leanings, and religiosity/spirituality. To be honest, it is somewhat amazing that this widening cavernous divide has not destroyed what should be natural relations between African-American men.

On second thought, maybe the fact that the few remaining connections found between African-American remain is not as surprising as one would think. Ironically, it appears that black men are tenuously bound together by the inability of whites to differentiate between them. Make no mistake about it; there is an element within white America that eagerly pursues opportunities to make the wide-ranging diversity found among African-American men moot. This part of white America, motivated by an insatiable malice that has seemingly infected every portion of their being could care less if an African-American male has a Ph.D. or no degree, they illogically hate their darker-skinned brethren for no discernible reason other than the fact that they exist.

It is predictable that within a nation where black men were enslaved, beaten, incarcerated, and hunted throughout their complete existence that they would adapt to their dire circumstances and develop unique survival mechanisms. One of the most prominent adaptations has been an agreement not to air our dirty laundry in public spaces as it provides avowed enemies with ammunition to discredit them in some form or fashion.

Unfortunately for enlightened African-American men, their silence regarding matters such as the pervasive cultural dysfunction that undergirds the activities of so many of their brethren has come at a steep price. The silence of intelligent black men who should be defining “what a black man ought to be and ought to do” has provided a cavernous opening for others less suitable for this role to enter. It is this last population that has led a public campaign full of lies and conjectures that have negatively impacted and cheapened African-American men, women, and children’s understanding of “what a black man ought to be and ought to do.”

Make no mistake about it, Black America’s contemporary cultural formulations and understanding of Manhood have been heavily influenced by those who are least qualified to address them. It is this shocking irony regarding “what a black man ought to be and ought to do” that has contributed significantly to the present state of African-American men in particular and the Black community in general. At this moment, African-American males are facing a bevy of maladies such as:

  • Escalating Incarceration Rates
  • Declining Graduation Rates
  • Unparalleled Unemployment Rates
  • Unprecedented Divorce Rates
  • An Epidemic of Black Children without Fathers
  • School-to-Prison Pipeline
  • Prison Industrial Complex
  • Black-on-Black Lethal Violence
  • And the list could continue into infinity

Despite these many pitfalls that have ensnared so many black males, there has always been a segment of African-American men who have flourished in the same environment. Successful African-American men have implemented basic strategies such as diligence and planning to lessen the impact that racism would have upon their lives.

Ironically, the success of some and the failings of others serve as one of the primary catalysts behind an ever-widening divide between black males. New York City educator Damon Thomas addresses this matter by publicly questioning the inability of so many African-American males to achieve in the face of racism. “Don’t get me wrong; I am well aware that racism still exists. However, I trace the ineptitude of Black Males to personal failings, poor decision-making, and a woeful absence of planning for their future.

Thomas is most certainly not alone in his contentions, Columbus, Ohio businessman Eric Morris cites “laziness, foolishness, and silliness” as primary factors in African-American males educational and socioeconomic failures. According to Morris, “There is no other explanation for why some of us have achieved a few things in our lives, and others seem to be stuck in the same place. I just refuse to wallow in pity and let life happen to me, I am the primary determinant in my success and also in my shortcomings and failures. I orchestrate my destiny.

Individuals such as Morris and Thomas have no problem addressing the shortcomings of African-American males for one simple reason; they believe that all African-American males are inextricably linked.

According to Thomas, “Although I hate to admit it, when these brothers go out into the world and act a fool, it affects each and every one of us. Make no mistake about it; they have severely and permanently damaged what it means to be a Black man. Instead of blackness standing for intelligence, professionalism, and responsibility, these fools have made it stand for the exact opposite.

Film-maker John Calhoun offered the following commentary regarding this matter. “I no longer view all ‘brothers’ as ‘brothers’, if you know what I mean. I can’t afford to. I don’t think that anyone who wishes to accomplish anything has that luxury. I have been burned far too many times trying to help my ‘brothers’ out. After a while, you decide that it is not worth it; I am certain that a little part of me died at that moment, however, I knew that I had to do what was best for me.

Laying at the center of this rapidly expanding divide between African-American men and black males is the realization that the former, the population that W.E.B. Du Bois termed the ‘talented-tenth,’ have tired of dragging along brethren who behave as if they are oblivious to their marginal lives and dysfunctional lifestyles. Making matters worse is the illogical manner that the most marginalized sectors of our community display copious amounts of anger at their brethren who have historically provided a helping hand. Such individuals are either unaware or do not care that their more successful brethren have tired of their dysfunctional lifestyles and their refusal to accept constructive criticism regarding what has become a life not worth living.

One of my greatest fears is that the ties that bind black men together are broken, leaving them more disconnected than they are at this present moment. It is frightening to consider the impact that an abandonment of collectivism for individualistic pursuits would have upon the entire community. Such a move would be disastrous to not only today’s African-American community, but also succeeding generations. However, there appears to be little that is going to deter it from occurring. Unfortunately for Black America, it seems that only the politically astute realize that the process of in-fighting and general disagreement that has become an increasing hallmark among African-American men threatens all of our existence as we remain inextricably linked with one another.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2016