Make no mistake about it; there is a significant divide that exists between African-American men. In many ways it is amazing that the alluded to divide that cuts across areas such as educational level, socioeconomic status, political leanings, and religiosity/spirituality has not been commented upon more frequently.
On second thought, maybe it is not all that amazing when one considers that there is an unspoken agreement among African-American males who have found themselves the target of every type of attack imaginable, to not speak about our dirty laundry in public. Those who have wondered why such conversations have not been more prominent should be comforted by the reality that such matters are continuously discussed among ‘the brothers’.
At this late day and time, I find it impossible that we may have people who are ignorant to the plethora of issues facing African-American males. African-American males are facing a bevy of issues such as:
Despite these innumerable societal pitfalls that so many of ‘the brothers’ have fallen into, there is a significant segment of African-American men who have not fallen prey to such ‘traps’ and have flourished in the same environment that has curtailed, if not destroyed, the lives of so many of their contemporaries.
To this population’s credit, they have stared down and in many ways overcome the pernicious evils that we know as prejudice, discrimination, and racism.
Ironically, the aforementioned success of some African-American males over prejudice, discrimination, and racism serves as the catalyst behind the ever-widening divide that is currently found among Black males. This divide is best expressed by New York City educator Damon Thomas who publicly questions his contemporaries regarding their inability to replicate his success over the aforementioned obstacles. Thomas shared the following critique of this matter, “Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that racism still exists in today’s society. However, I trace much of the present state of Black Males to their personal failings, poor decision-making, and a failure to plan for their, and their children’s, future.”
Thomas is most certainly not alone in his contentions, Columbus, Ohio businessman Eric Morris cites “laziness, foolishness, and silliness” as the actual reasons that so many African-American males are lagging behind educationally, politically, and socially. 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 simply 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 own both the good and the bad that occurs in my life.”
Individuals such as Morris and Thomas have no problem with addressing the shortcomings of other African-American males for one simple reason. They realize that all persons of African descent, particularly African-American males, are inextricably linked with one another.
According to Thomas, “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.”
Reporter Dan Freeman offered the following commentary regarding this matter. “Although I hate to admit it, I no longer view all ‘brothers’ as ‘brothers’, if you know what I mean. I simply can’t afford to. I really don’t think that any Black man who wishes to accomplish anything has that luxury in today’s society. I have been burned far too many times trying to help my ‘brothers’ out. After a while, you simply decide that it is not worth it; I am certain that a little part of me died at that moment, however, I had to do what was best for me.”
Laying at the center of this rapidly expanding divide among African-American males is the realization that those to whom much has been given, the population that W.E.B. Du Bois would term our ‘talented-tenth’, have tired of dragging along brethren who behave as if they are not only oblivious to the perilous state that their life could be aptly characterized as, but also displaying copious amounts of anger and hatred at those who offer a helping hand.
Little do they know, such assistance will become much and much more rare as we move forward. And that is a reality that none of us should be proud of.
James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D., M.A., M.A., M.A.
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016
I must relate that I absolutely love my cousin Kareem for the man that he has evolved into, however, it is most definitely not accidental that he has evolved in such an impressive manner; his parents, my aunt Jackie and uncle Clarence, were extremely unique individual people who tailored a path for each of their children to succeed. Put
simply, save for some type of mental inadequacy or streak of immorality — things that he most certainly does not suffer from — he, and his beautiful, intelligent, and courageous sisters had no other choice but to turn out the way that they did; the person he is today is not happenstance, it was in many ways his destiny.
So I was not shocked today to see a post that he placed in OUR Facebook group — Manhood, Race & Culture — that explained so much about the role that a Black woman plays in the construction of a man.
His post today was one answer from an interview that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan had given that does much to illuminate how a woman can play a significant role in supporting the development of ‘Manhood’.
Responding to a question regarding his wife and her role in his development, Minister Farrakhan responded in the following way.
When you have a woman by your side who does everything she can to support you in your work, and as a wife, to speak to you when you need correcting or to make it clear to you where she is dissatisfied, but always in a loving and respectful way, that is what helps a man to be a man.
As always, Minister Farrakhan’s words are efficient and packed with tons of insight and wisdom. Far too often we hear a familiar lament from many African-American women that goes as follows: “Where are the men?”
Now there is most certainly a tendency for discussions regarding the role of women in the development of manhood to devolve into a debate that closely resembles the classic quandary of ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg’, however, I am most definitely seeking to avoid such foolishness.
Far too often there is a misunderstanding regarding the ‘development’ of manhood, most are totally unaware that the process is on-going throughout a man’s entire life. Now there is absolutely no
doubt that there is a sizable portion of males who have neither desired nor embarked upon the journey to embrace manhood and I must relate that this post has absolutely nothing to do with them, for all intents and purposes, they are lost causes in regards to becoming men and therefore should be considered traitors to the cause of racial uplift.
I am referring to those who possess both the potential and desire to put on the weighty cloak of manhood. It is this population that our women should be receptive to if for no other reason that they provide a path for her to display one of her innumerable superpowers; on this occasion it is propelling her man to unconscionable heights that he could have never achieved on his own.
I only wish that more sisters found quality male’s with the desire to be strong Black men so that they could implement Minister Farrakhan’s advice and ‘do everything she can to support him in his work’, ‘address him, in a respectful and loving way, regarding matters he is incorrect upon and could improve upon’. According to Minister Farrakhan, that is how ‘sisters’ could help the Black man be a man.
I can personally attest to the damage that a non-cooperative partner can have upon one’s life, it is stifling and suffocating. Instead of cooperation, they intentionally create moments of discord, rather than speaking in a respectful and loving manner, they say things that are intentionally designed to incite an uncontrollable rage. Put simply, many ‘relationships’ within our community are combative and therefore far from loving and supportive. Amazingly we are then surprised when our home’s, the building bloc of any nation, lay in ruin.
I am quite certain that there are many brothers who are currently imbued with a sense of pride and righteousness as they perceive this to be a backhanded slight at the ‘sisters’, they are in as much error as the ‘sisters’ who have allowed their expectations that this is a ‘typical’ posting aimed at disrespecting them to override their engagement in it. If you have read this piece and have come to that conclusion, either you need to increase your reading comprehension or I have failed at my task.
I was simply sharing some advice from a wise man regarding a path that he has already traveled with his beloved partner. I only wish that more of us, men and women, could be so lucky.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.
It was a truly peculiar moment that remained in my mind for many reasons. The image was no more shocking and stupefying than the message board responses that followed it; the alluded to responses hinted at my being one of the few, if not the only, viewer who deciphered the contemptuous message that not only left me in a state of disbelief, but also caused me to search for ways to either discount or dispute my interpretation of the image; however, doing so called for me to lie to myself. I knew the message the image conveyed, even if no one else noticed. That message was that America’s gang culture had arrived, brashly and with no apologies I might add, onto center stage of this nation’s collegiate sports scene and there was not a damn thing we could do about it.
As a proud alumnus of THE Ohio State University, I make it my business to stay abreast of developments concerning the recruitment of the next generation of gridiron warriors who will don Scarlet and Grey jerseys. I am not alone in this obsession, the ‘Buckeye Nation’ includes millions of fanatics that cheer the Buckeyes onto victory every Saturday; an obsession that appears cultish to outsiders in late November when THE Ohio State University delivers an annual drubbing to the hated Wolverines from that School Up North; in honor of the beloved Woody Hayes, I refuse to even speak that state’s forbidden name.
So, it was not unusual for me to visit my favorite recruiting site in search of information regarding my alma mater’s football program. It was during one of my daily check-ins that I witnessed a photo of Demetrius Knox, a highly sought after Offensive Lineman who carried the moniker of ‘Big Meech’; a title that may very well have been a play upon this young man’s stature and name or quite possibly a means of paying homage to ‘Big Meech’ a leader of the Detroit based Black Mafia Family. A who’s who of college football programs, desperately pursued ‘Big Meech’s’ signature on a National Letter of Intent for his athletic prowess; most project that this young man would at worst be a significant contributor the moment he arrived on some major college campus in the Fall. ‘Big Meech’ is apparently any college football coaches dream; at least in regards to his athletic ability.
My heart tried to deny that the photo taken of ‘Big Meech’, and another recruit, dressed in Ohio State’s signature Scarlet and Grey uniform at the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility during a recruiting trip captured the young man brazenly displaying a gang sign denoting his affiliation/association with the violent street gang the Bloods. The average fan’s ignorance of gang culture, a subculture that many of today’s athletes were exposed to on a daily basis during their upbringing, is the primary reason that ‘Big Meech’s’ photo went unnoticed. I laughed aloud at one OSU football fans response to the photo, he responded with ‘Peek-a-boo, I see you’; as if ‘Big Meech’ were playing a childhood game of ‘Peek-a-boo’ when he transformed his hand into a “b” and placed it over his eye.
********* It is solely out of a desire to prove my point regarding this matter that I include photos of several individuals, some of them that you may know, throwing up the same sign as ‘Big Meech’; hopefully, this drives home the point that the Black community is in crisis. **********
My mind searched for an answer to the piercing question of what does ‘Big Meech’ displaying a gang sign while being shown the bountiful cache of opportunities a major institution like THE Ohio State University has to offer, say about the values that many African-American youth harbor today. In the midst of finally “making it”, this young man took it upon himself to communicate with what should be termed the dregs of the African-American community; however, within “the hood”, such individuals are lauded for their immorality, criminality, and nihilism. Apparently in ‘Big Meech’s’ mind, not even the unprecedented opportunities that flowed from his prodigious athletic abilities would facilitate his disassociation from ‘the hood’ or its inhabitants. ‘Big Meech’ is not alone in his inability to not be governed by a flawed value system that calls for loyalty under all circumstances, ‘the hood’ is never to betrayed, regardless of individual opportunity. Inexplicably, for many contemporary African-American athletes, their million dollar contracts are merely a tool to access ‘street credibility’. For many it appears that concerns regarding “street credibility” heavily outweighs all other concerns, including remaining in good standing with the NCAA, NFL, or NBA.
Social media provides unprecedented access to the lives of today’s athletes, leading many fans to erroneously believe that they intimately know these individuals. The alluded to fan base would be shocked to learn that gang culture has always existed on the periphery of collegiate and professional athletics. This glaring blind spot in the vision of most sports fans is attributable to the fact that those who can most afford to attend games are completely unaware, except for anecdotal evidence, of the socialization and values that motivate many of today’s athletes.
The dilemma posed by Demetrius Knox, and by extension many of today’s athletes is peculiar. Despite African-Americans desperate desire to avoid the characterization of any segment of their population as thuggish, meaning immoral, illogical, and criminal-minded, the truth is that there is a significant portion of our population that has adopted anti-social behavior and flawed priorities as a lifestyle. Most troubling of all is that the opportunities afforded individuals such as Demetrius Knox, and a host of contemporary athletes/entertainers, should be a way out from impoverished communities that have historically stifled the hopes and dreams of generations of African-Americans. Mr. Knox’s decision to flash gang signs while on the cusp of unprecedented opportunities is not only revealing in regards to skewed priorities among African-American youth, but also a clear sign that they have absolutely no comprehension of whom they are or from whence they came; realities that will continue to doom this population until they are corrected through relevant education, mentoring, and a cleansing of the soul.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III