Tag Archives: African-American Men

BUILDING A ROAD MAP FOR SUCCESS: WHY FINDING A MENTOR IS CRUCIAL TO BLACK MALE SUCCESS

I have issued the comment that “there is dignity in all work” to my male students so often that I honestly cannot tell you from whence this observation emanates or when I first uttered what I consider an ode to manhood. One thing is for certain, the dignity that flows from labor is a cornerstone of manhood.

Although it would be impossible for me to count the many black male students I have advised that “there is dignity in ALL work,” I am confident that number reaches into the thousands. Of all the lessons that I hope they retain from my courses, the concept that labor paves the way toward the securing of their goals is arguably the most important.

During the past two decades, I have engaged thousands of black males desiring directive regarding the path to manhood; a destination that is nearly inaccessible to young black males without the aid of appropriate mentorship and guidance. I have learned that the vast majority of black males have little understanding of what a man ought to be and ought to do. For far too many black males, a solo journey down the path to success is similar to a failed navigation of unfamiliar terrain without the assistance of either a roadmap or illumination; we tend to travel alone and in the dark.   What makes this inefficiency extremely unfortunate is that others have successfully navigated the alluded to terrain; however, many of those who have arrived at a destination of success have forgotten to aid subsequent generations of black males seeking success.

One of the most shocking things about the road to success is that although the road can be arduous and unpredictable, the tools needed for the journey are relatively limited, yet must be applied with an extreme discipline. The alluded to tools are,

  • Selection of a goal.

  • Development of a detailed plan to achieve the desired goal.

  • Strict adherence to that detailed plan via focus, diligence, and hard work.

  • Unrestrained courage to pursue your goals.

Without the invaluable illumination that mentorship provides, the vast majority of African-American males are oblivious to the snares, pitfalls, and cliffs littered throughout the path to success. If one considers former Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton’s advice that “people learn from observation and participation” valid, it is imperative that successful African-American men give back to their community by guiding succeeding generations of black males in the development of a plan for success.

I am confident that many African-American males are sighing, “If only it were that easy.” The have frequently been ignored by those that they seek to help for one simple reason; they are devoid of the renown or celebrity status that bequeaths its possessor with instant credibility. In many ways, this unfortunate reality is the impetus for me using the words of Tupac Amaru Shakur at this particular moment.

Tupac shared the following advice to young African-Americans regarding hard-work, the vehicle that those pursuing success must use to travel down.

“You have to work from one point to go to another. So I admire work ethic, I think it should be reinforced through out our neighborhoods, that everybody should work hard, practice makes perfect, you have to be diligent with what you want, you have to apply your self, you have to motivate yourself.”

Life has taught me that ultimately we write our own story by either using or refusing to use the tools of planning, diligence, focus, and courage; I pray that the next generation of African-Americans craft the perfect life filled with their achievement of their most unrealistic hopes and wildest dreams. Such a life is there for the taking and one that is worth living.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

“Be Careful Out There”: Why this Daily Advice to My African-American Male Students is So Much More than a Mere Pleasantry

My most consistent refrain for the droves of black and brown students at the end of every class is for them to “Be careful out there.” The response that I invariably receive from my students is either a mundane “O.K.” or a more meaningful directive of “You be careful out there as well.”

Although I would love to think that my students believe that my admonishment to “Be careful out there” is merely a nicety that emanates from similar statements such as “Hello” or “Goodbye.” However, I am confident that they realize my words are emanating from a space of significant concern, if not sizable fear.

I am sure that you are wondering, “Concern and fear of what?” Concern and fear that this may be our last time together. The fleeting nature of my association with any African-American male was once again driven home for me while I was inputting my final grades for our expired semester and noticed the words “deceased” written next to one of my most charming African-American male students. A brilliant brother who I am certain would continue his trajectory of success and make the world a better place for those around him.

Anyone with even a scant association with African-American males will tell you that the ‘grim reaper’ often arrives way too early for them. In many ways, the sorrow that reverberates from the premature death of African-American males is the most common tie that binds our community together. Put simply; early death is the chief hazard of being young, black, and male in America. In fact, the great Pan-Africanist leader Marcus Garvey consistently highlighted in his speeches and writings that wherever you go on planet Earth, you will find that persons of African descent are positioned at the bottom of every measurable from economics to death.

As mentioned above, the issues and matters surrounding the premature death of African-American males is the tie that binds so many disassociated elements of our community together, so it is not at all surprising that this matter has created a point of convergence for Conservative pundit Juan Williams and famed rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur. The alluded to point of consensus is the early deaths of African-American men. According to Juan Williams, the “Number one cause of death of young black men (between the ages of) 15 to 34 is murder. Who’s committing the murder? Not the police, other black men.” Tupac Amaru Shakur offered similar commentary in his classic song, Only God Can Judge Me, by commenting “And they say that it’s the white man that I should fear, but it’s my own kind doing all the killing here.”

Tupac’s lyrical exegesis is validated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data that highlights that 93% of murder victims were killed by someone of like race. Additional data relates that for African-American males between the ages of 15 and 34, the three leading causes of death are:

  • Homicide
  • Accidents
  • Suicide

For slightly older African-American men (ages 35 – 44), the causes of death are slightly different, yet daunting nevertheless.

  • Diseases of the Heart
  • Accidents
  • Homicide

In 2011, homicide accounted for 40% of the African-American males between the ages of 15 – 34 who met an untimely death. The fact that less than 4% of their white male counterparts within the same demographic met a similar fate magnifies these matters. According to CDC data, homicide was not even in the top 15 causes of death for whites between the ages of 15 – 34.

Many experts such as Eli Silverman, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, consider the exorbitant homicide rates within Black America to be a perfect storm where a history of injustice due to an inconsistent justice system meets social adaptations aimed at securing some semblance of justice. According to Silverman, “The (homicide) numbers highlight the condition in minority areas, where a lot of violence occurs and the whole way of life is further intensified because police surveillance is always trying to track down people. People have heightened survival instincts, will do anything to survive, and they’ll seek retribution for anything…because they don’t trust law enforcement.”

Although difficult to accept, the African-American male existence is analogous to being a soldier involved in a war with an undefined enemy. For African-American males, death could come in a host of ways, the majority of them from a familiar face. In time, black men learn that even a basic disagreement could crescendo into the extinguishing of their life. Particularly troubling is the reality that there is little that anyone within our community can do to eradicate the stated dangers.

From my perch as a professor, I remind my students on a daily basis to “be careful out there” because I realize that there is little that I can do to disrupt the impromptu dangers that will arise. So it is with a bit of sadness that I tell them to “Be careful out there” because I realize that once they exit my classroom, there is little that I can do for them beyond hoping and praying for their safety. Each day that I walk to my class, I say a short prayer that communicates my fervent hope that they survived their interactions with what is invariably a hostile world that cares little for black ingenuity and promise.

Although they rarely notice it, I do exhale when we come together for more reasons than the sharing of knowledge.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

ARE THERE ELEMENTS OF TRUTH BEHIND WHITE BIGOTS NEGATIVE VIEW OF BLACK MALES?

As I am confident that you can imagine, in this internet age there is no better place to discover how people feel about an issue than message boards. The cloak of anonymity message boards provide, emboldens people to freely express thoughts that they would never share in the presence of others. Put simply; message boards allow users to let it all hang out literally.

Considering my affinity for the message board, I found the following post by an unidentified male whose frustrations regarding American racial matters could not be anymore exacerbated to be particularly riveting. The post, aimed at African-American males, reads as follows,

You are NOT victims anymore. You are the bad guys now. You have your hand out for more freebies. You won’t take responsibility for yourself. You have a 74% illegitimacy rate. You are 13% of the population but you commit 65% of the crime. You produce nothing. You contribute nothing. You take and just want more. You don’t think the laws should apply to you. You blame others for your own decisions. You don’t try in school. You don’t try at work. You have no concept of personal responsibility. You don’t see the direct connection between your own decisions and the impact on your quality of life. You can’t imagine how hard it is to make it in the world, because you never try. You think you can have quality of life without earning it. You don’t raise your children with any morality. You celebrate violence and misogyny. You defend the inexcusable. You beat your domestic partners. You think you are owed something, when you’re not. At this point you are not victims of the bad guys, You ARE the bad guys. I’m tired of my tax dollars being used as handouts to these THUGS.

As I am confident that you understand, I take significant issue with the broad strokes that this anonymous poster used in his racially-tinged commentary; however, there is little room to debate the reality that the comments are not only heartfelt but also reflective of a disturbing reality framing his worldview.

Although I do not embody any of the negative characteristics mentioned above, I will not deny my association with a host of individuals whose dereliction of duty is reflected in the angry post. Let’s be honest, we all know a few African-American males whose behavior lends credence to the pervasive present-day caricatures of African-American males.

Unfortunately for the African-American community, it appears that such individuals are rarely addressed out of fear that the airing of our dirty laundry will accomplish little more than the unintentional validation of white bigots scurrilous belief system and viewpoint. Despite the fervent desires of African-American males enslaved by a moral compass, the ignoring of roguish socially irresponsible African-American men has done nothing to uplift the community; in fact, our collective delay has allowed for the alluded to populations irresponsibility to have a more significant impact on both the black family structure and the African-American community.

Despite the negative repercussions that any attempt to address and curb the multi-faceted dereliction of wayward black males will have upon the community in the short-term, it is past time to move past such concerns and forcefully address this matter in an efficient manner.

If we do not address this issue, it will grow increasingly worse, and we all know that our community cannot afford such an occurrence.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

 

AM I STILL MY BROTHER’S KEEPER? HOW SHOULD WE ANSWER THIS QUESTION IN 2017

There is probably no more hopeful phrase found in the lexicon of African-American men than “I am my Brother’s Keeper.” Within that short five words, declarative sentence lies an unyielding hope that has bolstered the hopes and aspirations of droves of African-American men at some low-point in their life.

Unfortunately for black men, in the 21st Century, this declaration of their commitment to being a solidified force against anything that threatens them or the millions of unknown African-American men that they have no tangible connection to has become little more than rhetorical phrase-mongering.

Let’s be honest about this matter, the vast majority of African-American males harbor some form of “beef” with one another for reasons that even they cannot articulate. The rage that so many black men express to their counterparts does not have its genesis in any particular offense, rather, it is the payoff of being raised within a society that maligns “blackness” at every turn. Put simply; black-on-black rage is a predictable by-product of being socialized to view “blackness” as an omnipotent negative and an omnipresent problem by an oppressive white media and non-representative educational school curriculum.

There is no room to debate that this socialization serves as the primary context for both the development of a toxic manhood and daunting view of all things black. It is this reality that makes the answering of the important question of “Am I my brother’s keeper?” a convoluted mess. I have found that those who answer this query with an unequivocal “YES!!!!” are completing what amounts to a socially appropriate ‘nicety’ that reveals their failure to analyze this matter correctly. Truthfully, a much better question is, “Do black men consider each other brothers?”

Despite our fervent desire to answer this question affirmatively, the truth of the matter is that it should only be answered on a case-by-case basis as our kind has been infiltrated by a host of individuals who maintain a single-minded priority to get ahead materially, even at the cost of compromising our collective well-being. Consider for a moment the sentiments of the late Tupac Amaru Shakur who cryptically foretold his demise at the hand of a “brother” in his classic track Only God Can Judge Me. Tupac asserted “And they say that it’s the white man that I should fear. But it’s my own kind doing all the killing here.” As you well know, Tupac is not the only “brother” who has looked down the barrel of a gun that his “brother” was holding for some unspecified reason.

In many ways, those, such as myself, who are holding on to an old collectivist racial construct are operating out of a make-believe black solidarity that has little grounding in either a mythical past or a frightening present. I am not ashamed to relate that my current interactions with African-American males are governed by an all too real caution and well-deserved skepticism; issues that an extremely vocal minority of black males has made necessary.

So although I would like to relate that “I am my brother’s keeper confidently,” I simply can’t. My resistance to fully embracing this rhetorical cliché is a result of my living long enough to realize that Chuck D’s admonishment that “Every brother ain’t a brother” carries significant weight. With the benefit of hindsight, I have begun to view tales of a universal brotherhood that glued black men together in past times as little more than a well-spun fable. In many ways, it does not matter if such times ever existed as the present is all that matters. And it is this present moment that leads me to the realization that I am not every black man’s keeper because very few of them have either behaved as or have the intention of ever being my brother. Unfortunately, the traditions that forged a collectivist racial identity is largely vanquished from Black America and within that ruin lays the reason that “every brother ain’t a brother.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017