Tag Archives: Black Males

An Open Letter to Veronica Wells: Please Refrain from Making Black Men Invisible

I must admit that I did little more than shake my head when I heard my brother Carl Tone Jones speak about someone terming black men “terrorists.” Considering that his comments came on the heels of the greatest terrorist attack on American soil, I simply shook my head and mused, “ain’t white folk something.” I readily admit that my racial paranoia led me to believe that it was the white press that had managed to twist and turn the deplorable Las Vegas shooting into an innovative opportunity to rail against black men.

I am confident that you will understand my surprise when I learned that it was Veronica Wells, a black female who serves as the culture editor of MadameNoire, who had disparaged black men in this manner. Particularly troubling is the reality that Wells’ commentary was bound to reach thousands of Americans.

According to Wells,

Black women have been trying to tell the entire Black community that one of our biggest threats in the world is the very Black men we’ve birthed. In the same way that White men use their power and their gender to oppress virtually every one else, is the same way Black men oppress the only group they can, Black women.”

Wells goes further into her diatribe while making the same mistake that Damon Young of “Very Smart Brothas” did in a similar statement against his brothers in Straight Black Men are the White People of Black People. The alluded to mistake was pointing a sawed-off shotgun in the direction of black men and irresponsibly pulling the trigger to fire a spray of pellets in their path. Both of these writers wielded a shotgun when a sniper’s rifle would have been much more appropriate.

It is important to note that the alluded to attack on all black men by writers whose subjects and analysis should be emanating from an esteemed intellectual tradition of racial uplift is yet another consequence of having an intellectual class that has learned at the foot of a white community whose primary purpose has been the destruction of Black America. If Wells and Young are representative of the black intellectual community, that population now fails to understand the utility and power of the Black Pen. In fact, it appears that many black writers consider its best use to be sticking the instrument in the eye of black women or stabbing black men in the heart with it.

In her posting, Wells takes the privilege of speaking for all black women and issues the following complaints regarding black males.

Men literally break their necks to oogle your body as you pass by. They comment on what you should and shouldn’t be wearing. They touch your hair and then get loud and angry when you tell them to stop. They demand hugs, following you into your apartment building and trapping you in an elevator to take them. A Black man threw an empty bottle at Victoria. Brande has had men offer extremely hurtful opinions about her body. And our experiences are not unique.

Although I do not doubt that there are black males, a description that is a far cry from black men, who have perpetrated those acts against not only Wells but also droves of other black women. I am not compelled to apologize for their actions. I have nothing to do with their behavior, yet as a black man, I do denounce their disgraceful conduct and have always served as an active socializing agent against the continuation of such events from my lectern on a weekly basis.

Quite possibly the most annoying aspect of both Wells’ and Young’s postings is that in their clumsy, haphazard rush to correct black males, they have rendered black men whose very essence is guided by a moral compass and commitment to uplifting the Race invisible. Ralph Ellison appropriately sums up the enormous erasure that occurs to progressive-minded black men whose love for women extends beyond familial connections when writers such as Wells and Young articulate unsophisticated, illogical, sophomoric attacks that achieve nothing more than serving as a rallying call for those who despise black men; a population that predictably includes droves of people who hate black women with a similar intensity. These unspecified sawed-off shotgun blasts that by their very nature will harm the innocent are nothing new. Ralph Ellison penned the following about such generalized maligning by relating what such attacks do to black men.

I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.   

Once again, my primary problem with this posting is not that Wells has decided to point out a most unfortunate occurrence within our community by a specific sub-culture as those discussions are much-needed and should be encouraged. However, such conversations need to be precise and not general ramblings that ultimately cause more division among people that I could not imagine being any more divided than it is at the current moment.

Consider the following as it is one example of the inherent danger of sloppy intellectualism and writing manifested by both Wells and Young.

In her posting, Wells pens the following,

By the time I got upstairs to my office, I told my friend and coworker Victoria about the incident. Victoria is the ’bout it friend. Not that she ever goes looking for a fight; but should one present itself, whether it directly involves her or not, she’s not afraid to confront the situation. I mean, I’ve literally watched her jump into a fight involving teenagers on a New York City subway from Brooklyn to Harlem at like 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. Bout it. Meanwhile, I was half sleep, curled up in the corner…Anyway, when I told her what happened, she climbed a few levels of crunk as she talked about what she would have done and said to him.

Now consider for a moment if I were to take the antics of her “bout it friend”, who obviously has an absence of impulse control as she is eager to jump in random confrontations such as fighting on a New York City subway car in the early hours of the morning, and extended it to cover all black women. I would be left with no other conclusion than to believe that even when empowered with an education — a fact that I am certain that her co-worker at MadameNoire possesses — all black women are hood-rats who when pressure is applied morph into uneducated, ghetto-talking, welfare queens, whose foremost desire is to get their hair “did” as it will help them attract their next baby daddy. I am confident that you agree that it would be ludicrous for me to take the socially inappropriate actions of her impulse-control starved co-worker or a figure such as Veronica Wells who apparently fell asleep after a long night out on the town and consider the actions of these few individuals to be an appropriate sample size to evaluate all black women.

In many ways, writings such as those penned by Veronica Wells and Damon Young reveal more about their view of black men and less about the subjects that they loathe, if not despise. As a black man who has lived a little bit of life, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly to be found among black women and even after those life experiences I find it impossible to denigrate black women in such a generalized manner. For every sister that I have seen fighting on a subway or passed out from a night of gallivanting, I also realize that I have female friends whose star shines so bright that it would be impossible for them ever to be rendered ‘Invisible Women.’ The alluded to women are brilliant Professors, loving mothers and wives, phenomenal intellectuals, Womanists, Engineers, and the list goes on and on. It is this latter populace that is the norm in my world, and the antics of a few misguided individuals will not block my view of these sisters that I love cherish and would attack anyone who sought to invade their physical space, mental clarity, or safety.

Although it may be difficult to comprehend for a writer such as Veronica Wells, the majority of black men deplore the actions of those that you have termed “terrorists.” I am confident that you can understand that black men denounce the harassment of black women as they are our mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, confidants, and cherished friends. In fact, I feel comfortable in saying that black men denounce such foolishness more stringently than you could ever imagine. And we do that without the expectation of any kudos or response from black women. All that we do ask is that in your abhorrence of these droves of black males who have yet to understand the essence of black manhood and therefore fail to under the jewel that black women are, that you do not overlook us and render us Invisible Men whose presence matters little to you.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

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

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

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.