Tag Archives: Black Males

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

The Man I Hope To Be

Although I am not professing to have “seen it all and done it all and done it all at” during my 23 years on this planet. I do take pride in being a candid listener and astute observer. Therefore the following is the sum of what I have learned.

Growing up in Dallas, Texas I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by what could comfortably be called “men’s men”; a population that continuously strove to accomplish one primary feat; that being, providing for their families. I often found myself contemplating if that were the only measure of a man. Was simply “putting food on the table” the only path to manhood?

Not living with my father as I came of age, I found myself constantly wrestling with this matter. I began asking questions of every man, I felt had successfully entered manhood regarding this matter; obviously I was seeking a better understanding of this matter.

Many wise words later, I feel that I have not yet come to a definite conclusion, however, I have a much greater understanding regarding what it means to be a great man. At this moment, I fervently believe that a man must uphold high standards for not only himself, but also those linked to him in some form or fashion. What follows is my understanding of this matter that I wish to share with those of my generation who have no one to share such matters with them.

Self-esteem, the belief that you can achieve your goals through extreme dedication, is paramount to anyone who wishes to advance in life. It is essential for a man to know who he is and exactly what he stands for as he is the backbone that carries his family through every circumstance and obstacle. However, this cannot be achieved until he knows who he is and what he truly hopes to accomplish in life. A man must use his God given talents to better his circumstances.

Discipline is key is to the aforementioned matters. Where there is no discipline there will eventually be some form of advancement. Holding oneself accountable for your own actions is the greatest measure of a man. A man must not let anything or anyone cause him to venture from the goals he has set. Once this self-discipline and self-accountability, not before, is obtained a man can then look forward to creating and providing for a family.

Scripture tells us that once a man finds a good woman he finds himself a good thing. As alluded too, once a man has the ability to care and hold himself accountable he is now prepared to fully embrace and appreciate this good woman. A Christian man is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. A good woman will let you know when you have drifted off course, it is then the man’s duty to listen to these cries and adjust accordingly.

When blessed with this priceless treasure of a good woman, a man can then begin thinking about rearing children into the world. It is a man’s duty to not only provide for his children, but also to teach them all the lessons he has learned to help them build upon the foundation you have constructed. A man should teach his son the responsibilities of being a man. Teach him that he must love and respect himself and do what is necessary to build a  great and better world. The man must then show his daughter what love from a man feels like, while making her feel beautiful giving her bountiful amounts of self-esteem that will most certainly be necessary as she seeks to navigate a turbulent and often hostile world.  Giving his children a platform and understanding he did not have must be accomplished prior to his seeking to aid the world that his family mst live within.

It is crucial that men prepare to live within the general society. it is imperative that Black Men balance fighting the virulent racism that is endemic to America, while also holding on to tenuous hopes of uplifting this nation. The Black man must fight against the injustices seen in his community.  I believe a man’s duty to his culture and people are essential because it creates a legacy of self-worth and self-empowerment.

When you add it all up, the Black Man is much more than a provider and protector. He is often a lover, a teacher, and a friend for those he adores. A good man is patient and focused when things go astray.

The family can be used to not only bridge the community, but also positively impact our culture in innumerable ways. As previously stated I do not profess to have all the answers; however, I am certain that once a man strives to better himself on a daily basis, all around him will be positively affected.

Patron Payton

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.

Not So Fast Ray: Why Ray Lewis’ Criticism of ‘Black Lives Matter’ is Seriously Flawed

In what can only be termed a good intention-ed attempt to address the escalation of Black-on-Black lethal violence in urban centers such as Chicago, Illinois, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis took to Facebook and posted an impassioned plea that called for Black males to cease the killing of their ‘brothers’.

According to an impassioned Lewis, “Why do we always find ourselvesRay Lewis 2 the victims, and now we have the separation once again that we’re being victimized because of one bad white cop, two bad white cops, three bad white cops, killing a young black brother. But every day we have black-on-black crime, killing each other?

As if that were not enough, Mr. Lewis took a significant jab at ‘Black Lives Matter’ by echoing an all too familiar criticism; that being, why has ‘Black Lives Matter’ not commented upon the repeated occurrences of Black-on-Black lethal violence. The insinuation is obvious, ‘Do Black lives only matter when they are extinguished at the hands of whites?’

Lewis queried the following, “I’m trying to figure out if black lives really matter. In Chicago alone the murder rate has soared 72 percent in 2016 — 88 percent in the first three months of 2016 compared to the last year…I know black lives matter because I’m a black man, but stop killing each other. Man, we have to put these guns down in Chicago. Baltimore, Miami, man it ain’t that hard. You have to be okay with earning a living. It ain’t supposed to be easy…If we don’t change what we’re doing not only will our kids not have a future, but we might find ourselves extinct.”

I applaud Ray Lewis for diving head first into this matter, however, his perspective, and that of others who routinely attack ‘Black Lives Matter’, although backed by bountiful loads of passion and good will is at best seriously flawed.

From the perspective of ‘Black Lives Matter’ critics, the organization should turn its focus away from the few cases of lethal violence by officers and focus upon an even bigger problem of Black males killing other Black males. Although I most certainly agree that the problem of Black-on-Black lethal violence is a much larger issue, the truth of the matter is that it is not a problem that can be solved by Black self-restraint and copious amounts of conflict resolution classes.

Black-on-Black violence is a convoluted issue that should never be solely placed at the feet of African-Americans. It is most certainly a problem that requires the full attention of the U.S. Government if it is to be ever solved.

The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is actually addressing an issue, officer violence against citizens that can be solved through better Black 3police training and the prosecution of rogue officers who needlessly shoot down African-American males in American streets.

The issue of Black-on-Black lethal violence is an entirely different beast with historical precedence.

Although unfashionable to state, the truth is that Black-on-Black crime and lethal violence does not have its genesis within the Black community. Hence, it is disingenuous to demand that African-Americans independently solve this pernicious evil on its own.

Despite seemingly unceasing news coverage that depicts African-American males as a peculiar criminal-minded population that this nation has never encountered before, an actual reading and comprehension of this nation’s historical record not only offers significant understanding to Black-on-Black crime and lethal violence in America’s urban centers, but also points toward a solution.

African-Americans are not the first American population to be placed in situations where there are marginal educational resources, a Black 4dearth of employment opportunities, social ostracism, and an absence of city services. The American historical record highlights several groups that lived under such a yoke (Germans, Italians, Irish, Russian, etc.) and each of these groups had their moment(s) of poverty, crime, and intra-racial lethal violence. For the vast majority of such populations, assimilation with the dominant group was their escape mechanism; such a path has historically been blocked for Blacks.

There is little doubt that poverty, lack of education, absence of employment opportunities, and nihilism invariably results in oppressed populations attacking their own during individualized pursuits of extremely limited resources.

What many are afraid to discuss is the reality that there is no gene that makes African-American males criminal-minded. Most hesitate to publicly acknowledge this fact as it would force the nation to consider a different catalyst to the rampant crime occurring in America’s central city areas, such as: the economy, a broken educational system, a political arena controlled by big money donors, and a draconian criminal justice system that routinely differentiates sentencing according to the racial background of the convicted.

Hence, the question facing the nation is a simple one. What are Americans willing to do to correct the maladies such as Black-on-Black lethal violence occurring in central city areas?

Predictably, African-Americans, like the European immigrants who found themselves ostracized prior to the culmination of World War I, the Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, and Chinese-Americans during World War II, have been attacked for their impoverished status with arguments that implicitly state that if only they tried harder, made better choices, or lived better, they would quickly be extricated from a multi-generational economic poverty that now appears to be a Biblical curse upon Black folk.

The central problem with such arguments is that individual effort has little to do with any of the catalyst behind contemporary Black politico economic poverty.

Despite this nation’s collective resistance to admit it, the issue of Black-on-Black violence is a national issue that needs to be Ray Lewis 4addressed by the U.S. Government with a modern-day Marshall Plan. Instead of dumping millions of dollars in foreign economies, such dollars should be infused into urban enclaves to address areas such as: education, job training, and business loans. There is little doubt that racial self-help programs will never be able to address the myriad interlocking problems affecting so many African-American neighborhoods.

There is no doubt that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement could very well address the issue of Black-on-Black violence, however, their attention to this problem would in no way impact the fundamental problems affecting this nation’s urban centers. This is an issue that can only be solved with the full focus and brunt of the U.S. Government, not a citizen group struggling to be heard.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

#ManhoodRaceCulture

THE CASE OF WENDY BELL AND THE BEST WAY TO ENSURE THAT BLACK ACTIVISTS SHOW UP TO THE PROTEST

In 1711, Alexander Pope penned the following statement, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” in his poem An Essay on Criticism. Four centuries later American racial matters has breathed new life into this timeless sentiment

Just in case you missed it, Pittsburgh news anchor Wendy Bell was fired from her position with ABC affiliate WTAE after a recent Facebook posting that conveyed many negative stereotypical things about “young black men.”

Bell was apparently prodded to post those comments in the wake of a mass shooting in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, in which six people were killed. A shocked Wendy Bell posted the following Facebook post.

“You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts. They are young black men, likely in their teens or early 20s. They have multiple siblings from BLACK P STONE RANGERS 1multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs. These boys have been in the system before. They’ve grown up there. They know the police. They’ve been arrested. They’ve made the circuit and nothing has scared them enough. Now they are lost. Once you kill a neighbor’s three children, two nieces and her unborn grandson, there’s no coming back. There’s nothing nice to say about that.”

Predictably, hordes of people rushed to not only denounce Bell’s post, but also called for her head to be served on a platter. This raving horde must have celebrated when their thirst for blood was momentarily satisfied. Hearst Television, the owners of WTAE, responded to them with the following press release, “WTAE has ended its relationship with anchor Wendy Bell. Wendy’s recent comments on a WTAE Facebook page were inconsistent with the company’s ethics and journalistic standards.”

Unfortunately, I think that such individuals missed a much larger moment in their rush to criticize and denounce Bell; that being, they have failed to consider not only why such feelings regarding “young Black males” are harbored by so many Americans, regardless of race, but also if there is any validity to their comments and criticisms.

In her defense, Ms. Bell has responded to critics by relating that this matter should have never been reduced to a point of minutiae about her, rather about the long-standing issue of “African-Americans CHIRAQ3being killed by other African-Americans.” Bell continued by telling The Associated Press that “It makes me sick. What matters is what’s going on in America, and it is the death of black people in this country. … I live next to three war-torn communities in the city of Pittsburgh, that I love dearly. My stories, they struck a nerve. They touched people, but it’s not enough. More needs to be done. The problem needs to be addressed.”

Unfortunately, for Ms. Bell, we now exist in a moment where the actions and activities of many social Black activists resemble those of an ‘ambulance chasing attorney’ who drives around the city or watches news reports for accidents that he may be able to capitalize off of in some monetary way.

It is particularly unfortunate that the energies that we see expended for impromptu movements that call for the removal of seemingly well-meaning individuals such as Wendy Bell are never matched during non-sensationalized moments where real aid can be doled out within the African-American community.

According to Nicholas Malone of the Academic Grind Center, “Although we need to respond to attacks against our people, it is much more important that we are steadily building our community up in meaningful ways on a daily basis. Unfortunately, picking up trash, maintaining our homes, helping our children with their homework are not ‘sexy enough’ for many of our people, particularly our so-called leaders.”

Anthony Quinn, the Vice-President of a small college in Monroe, Michigan, seconded Malone’s contention when he related “Where is Black 2this enthusiasm and commitment from the masses of our people when it comes to creating the basic building blocks that will sustain any community? You know the old saying, the only time Black folk come together is for a funeral. Well, today it seems like the only time that Black activists and Black leaders appear is when some white person has issued some offense to our community.”

Now that I think about it, it appears that the African-American community has decided somewhere along the way, that we will keep our ‘business’ out of the streets, meaning we demand that whites do not comment or interfere in our foolishness, and not criticize one another regarding the obvious internal problems that we all know exist. However, in the event that someone from the outside comments upon or ‘dirty laundry’ there will be hell to pay.

According to Dan Freeman of African-American News & Issues, “I was just talking about this recently. It seems that the only way to get our people out to a community forum is to have some ‘racial school 4incident’. Without that white folk did this or that to us component, we are not showing up for anything, not in mass. Try and get these Negroes out for something that is not reactionary and you will see. Hell, Negro leaders aren’t even showing up unless the white media is going to cover the event. I know a brother, a ‘so-called Black leader’ who actually determines if he will show-up based upon if his contact within the white media will be present. If they aren’t coming, neither is he. He fashions himself a national leader.”

I just wish that we would simply address and clean our ‘dirty laundry’ so that there would be nothing for others to comment upon. However, such activities are seemingly much too sensible for many of our people.

So we wait, in the midst of crime, filth, depreciating home values, political disorganization, and economic non-sense for the next offense; and white America should be aware that we are prepared to attack anyone who even looks our way, we always are.

How silly of a people we have become?

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

#ManhoodRaceCulture

Failing to Answer when Opportunity Comes

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have dedicated my life to addressing the myriad pernicious issues that afflict African-American males. Many have charged that this preoccupation or as some call it an obsession with uplifting African-American males flows from my having an African-American son that I am forecasting phenomenal things for. In reality, it matters little why this has become my ‘life’s work’, what really matters is that it is a conscious decision that I made long ago. This decision frames how I view the world and is with me each moment that I breathe.

So when I was recently invited to attend a middle-school symphony performance, being held at a recently constructed high school in a suburb of Houston, Texas, as usual I arrived extremely early for the event, a decision that permitted me time to wander around the Collegecampus prior to the performance. I must relate that this state-of-the-art educational institution was awe-inspiring. Considering that I was raised in a working-class community and attended a public school for the majority of my academic career, I marveled at the facilities and privately mused, so this is what they have been withholding from us all these years.

Most amazing was the fact that there was literally a club for any and every interest that an inquisitive high school student could have: Theater, English Club, Spanish Club, Political Science Club, French Club, Math Club, Astronomy Club, Symphonic Orchestra, Jazz Band, Video Game Designers Club, etc. I was informed by one of the parents that there were over one-hundred clubs/activities for the students. Color me impressed.

Unfortunately, these feelings slowly evaporated as I perused the school’s trophy case. Now I must state that I found it encouraging that the school prominently JACKIE 1displayed both its academic and athletic achievements in an unbiased manner with an accompanying photo of the individual(s) that brought home the trophy/honor. It was then that I noticed that there were very few, if any, Black males engaging in any clubs or activities other than athletics; particularly track, football, and basketball.

This reality was a bit shocking and saddening for what it actually tells us about many African-American males. During the Civil Rights Movement, our ancestors who fought for equal opportunity/access to academic materials believed that African-American children lagged behind others because of the lack of school materials that whites hoarded for themselves. In fact, it is this alluded to imbalance of materials that was the crux of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that integrated this nation’s schools and laid the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision to rest. Many of the plaintiffs in the former case were hoping that American schools would remain separate, yet truly become equal in regards to funding and facilities.

This is the lens through which I viewed this racially diverse suburban school with state-of-the-art facilities and an unconscionable number of non-athletic extracurricular activities. This is the type of facility that Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall fought for Black children to gain thaccess to during the Brown case. Prior to reaching the trophy case and seeing the dearth of Black male participation in non-athletic extracurricular activities, I was comforted that we had finally accessed the educational resources that whites have historically monopolized. The entire scene left me harboring  what I considered a logical question; ‘Why do so many Black males refuse to engage unprecedented educational opportunities?’

After pondering this situation, I have concluded that there is only one explanation, that suburban Black males have accepted a dysfunctional cultural pattern that Richard Majors terms ‘The Cool Pose.’ According to Majors, the “Cool Pose” is a set of language, mannerisms, gestures and movements that “exaggerate or ritualize masculinity. The EssenceSteve 7 of cool is to appear in control, whether through a fearless style of walking, an aloof facial expression, the clothes you wear, a haircut, your gestures or the way you talk. The cool pose shows the dominant culture that you are strong and proud, despite your status in American society…Much of cool pose is ritualistic imitation of peers. If you’re not seen as cool, you’re an outsider. It’s a way to be included.” Unfortunately for Black males, their inclusion in this club leads to their willfully avoiding academic and professional opportunities that their predecessors, most recently their parents and grandparents, have dedicated their lives to providing.

All signs point to African-American males accepting a pervasive lie that the surest means of expressing authentic ‘blackness’ is foregoing scholastic opportunities and focusing upon either athletics or rapping with a vigor that relates that they truly believe that they have little to offer the world beyond their athletic prowess. The alluded to worldview replicates itself with unbelievable inefficiency.

If provided the opportunity I would take every Black male afflicted by ‘the cool pose’ and expose them to the likes of James Baldwin, Huey P. Newton, W.E.B. Du Bois, Walter Mosley, August Wilson, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., William Raspberry, and the list could go on forever as these individuals are but a small sampling of who they truly are.

Now this is in no way intended to dissuade African-American males from participating in athletic contests; Lord knows if we do not represent this nation in the Olympics, it wouldcollege 4 be dominated by others in an unprecedented manner. Rather it is a simple reminder to Black males that the contributions of their predecessors occurred in so many diverse areas that one would be challenged to pinpoint our greatest strength: intellectual, athletic, spiritual, literary, theatrical, or political. Young brothers, opportunity is most certainly knocking, now the question is will you answer with eagerness and a desire to uplift the race in a manner that would make our ancestors proud?

James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D.

#ManhoodRaceCulture

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015.