Tag Archives: Black Manhood

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

An Unwise Choice: An Open Letter to Black Men About Umar Johnson from a Sister Who Loves You

I am most certainly disturbed and bewildered by Umar Johnson’s continuing relevance in the struggle to liberate Black America. I am confident that you agree with my summation that Mr. Johnson is the most polarizing figure Black America has seen since Clarence Thomas. To some he is a breath of fresh air, to many others, he is a traveling con man selling hope for a better tomorrow to the droves of oppressed confused black people. Make no mistake about it, you either immediately embrace or exert extreme caution when it comes to this verbal wizard who possesses an uncanny ability to mesmerize black men. Johnson’s siren call comes in the form of seductive rhetoric that taps into their innate urge to assume what they consider their rightful position as “head of household” if not an exiled African “King” in the North American wilderness.

As a black woman, I would be disingenuous if I did not relate that the seemingly unending support Umar Johnson has received from my brothers is simultaneously shocking and offensive. For myself and the vast majority of black women, Mr. Johnson’s incantations for a return to the good old days when black men ruled their homes and communities with an iron-fisted authority that no one dared to challenge are eerily similar to white racists calls for a return to the good old days when a woman knew her place, children were to be seen and not heard, and homosexuality was a sexual deviance on par with child molestation.

Although Mr. Johnson’s supporters will deny it, their manhood constructs are merely a dastardly inheritance of tyrannical patriarchal that they were bequeathed by their white male fathers. In every way, Umar Johnson’s expression of masculinity is nothing more than a minstrel show of white patriarchal constructs.

It is time that the black community divests from the draconian position that one’s gender is sufficient for the leadership of anything. My brothers fail to realize that they have picked up their oppressors tools and dedicated their lives to replicating his immoral pattern of oppression within their community. The irony that Umar Johnson’s male supporters fail to realize that their movements to ‘uplift’ the black community are a haphazardly constructed garment that is held together by the anger of black males that is demanding not only silence from dissenters but also an intrusion into the personal lives of those under their reign. It appears that when black males’ steep emotional investment in Umar Johnson combines with natural impulses to take their rightful place as “the head” of everything they encounter, reason and logic are suspended.

The fact that thousands of black men would champion the flawed, antiquated perspectives of Umar Johnson is frightening as it reveals their failure to understand the inherent dangers associated with patriarchy and toxic manhood constructs. I pray that those I honestly consider my brethren can divorce themselves from the seductive emotionalism of this charismatic charlatan known as Umar Johnson, return to their senses and understand what Audre Lorde meant when she admonished oppressed people seeking liberation that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” What Umar Johnson is doing is not dismantling white supremacy, he is attempting to build a black version of it that will oppress all of those within our midst who disagree with his irrationality and inconsistencies.

K.V.J.

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

 

WHERE ARE THE REVOLUTIONARY BLACK LEADERS TODAY?

“Here – at this final hour, in this quiet place – Harlem has come to bid farewell to one of its brightest hopes -extinguished now, and gone from us forever. For Harlem is where he worked and where he struggled and fought – his home of homes, where his heart was, and where his people are – and it is, therefore, most fitting that we meet once again – in Harlem – to share these last moments with him. For Harlem has ever been gracious to those who have loved her, have fought her, and have defended her honor even to the death.
It is not in the memory of man that this beleaguered, unfortunate, but nonetheless proud community has found a braver, more gallant young champion than this Afro-American who lies before us – unconquered still. I say the word again, as he would want me to : Afro-American – Afro-American Malcolm, who was a master, was most meticulous in his use of words. Nobody knew better than he the power words have over minds of men. Malcolm had stopped being a ‘Negro’ years ago. It had become too small, too puny, too weak a word for him. Malcolm was bigger than that. Malcolm had become an Afro-American and he wanted – so desperately – that we, that all his people, would become Afro-Americans too.

There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain – and we will smile. Many will say turn away – away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man – and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate – a fanatic, a racist – who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them : Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him.

Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves. Last year, from Africa, he wrote these words to a friend: ‘My journey’, he says, ‘is almost ended, and I have a much broader scope than when I started out, which I believe will add new life and dimension to our struggle for freedom and honor and dignity in the States. I am writing these things so that you will know for a fact the tremendous sympathy and support we have among the African States for our Human Rights struggle. The main thing is that we keep a United Front wherein our most valuable time and energy will not be wasted fighting each other.’ However we may have differed with him – or with each other about him and his value as a man – let his going from us serve only to bring us together, now.

(Ossie Davis, 1965)

There is little doubt that Malcolm X remains the ‘gold-standard’ of black male leadership. For the vast majority of those involved in any facet of the current black freedom struggle, Malcolm X serves as the North Star of Black Manhood.

I am quite certain that it was Malcolm’s display of a courageous manhood that inspired SNCC worker Cleveland Sellers to posit that ‘the problems facing Black America will be solved by black men and black men alone.’ The historical record indicates that Sellers’ strand of thinking remains the most popular view of the black man’s role inside and outside of the African-American freedom struggle.

Consider for a moment the “traditional” roles that black men are expected to fill within their community.

  • Head of household
  • Priest of the home
  • Primary Material Provider
  • Protector of the home
  • Revolutionary Leader

Make no mistake about it the duties assigned to African-American men are critical to the continuing existence of black folk in America.

The fact that African-American existence is consistently perilous makes it critical that we take a closer look at how contemporary black leaders conceive manhood. Put simply, within black America what does a revolutionary black leader look like at this moment?

Before I begin, let me issue the following qualifier regarding the primary pre-requisite to black leadership in today’s Black liberation struggle, that being an individual who has someway or somehow been able to generate a substantial following within the African-American activist community. Such a qualifier is necessary to make this topic somewhat manageable in this space.

When considering the type of male leadership that has curried favor with a sizable population of the African-American community, there are several qualities that contemporary black male leaders possess.

  • Charisma
  • Substantial Social Media Presence
  • Tendency to become involved in Public Spats with other Black Male Leaders
  • Willingness to implement a ‘scorched Earth’ policy when challenged by anyone at any place or at any time.

In many ways, contemporary black leaders’ actions and articulations put one in the mind of a mundane reality television star.

Probably the most disappointing aspect of contemporary black male leaders flows from the many qualities that they neither possess nor need to remain atop their perch. The qualities include, but are in no way limited to the following items.

  • Historical Illiteracy
  • A gross absence of political astuteness
  • Lacking the courage to either speak truth to power or develop reasonable plans to attack white power structures
  • Failure to engage and comprehend an essential literature base
  • Psychologically unbalanced
  • Inability to be governed by a reliable moral compass
  • Socially inappropriate in their interactions with (black men and women)
  • Incapable of developing and then implementing a logical plan aimed at addressing the politico-economic, social, and cultural problems negatively impacting their people.

Put simply; it is safe to term contemporary black leaders “anti-Malcolm’s” as they are devoid of all of the qualities that endeared Brother Malcolm X to the Black community.

The great historian John Henrik Clarke once noted that today we have Hollywood revolutions that do not begin until someone says “lights, camera, action.” Unfortunately, I believe that Dr. Clarke was correct in his summation of contemporary black leadership, as it is undeniable that they are more interested in own self-promotion than in liberation of the masses. The alluded to figures appear to be primarily concerned with speaking engagements that produce nothing more than an increase in their bank accounts and increased television exposure that increases their fame. If nothing else, this pursuit of fame via social media and television guarantees that they are most definitely not leading their people down a revolutionary path, because even the Last Poets told us that “the revolution will not be televised.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

FLOYD QUESTIONS IF EDUCATION IS WASTED ON SOME BLACK MALES

After you have lived enough life, you will learn that experience, and personal observation is powerful entities as they affect following thoughts and observations in a sneaky way. If one is not careful, personal experience will be the only thing informing how you view people. The only problem with such an occurrence is that your experience is in a word, limited. Put simply, if you are not careful your limited exposure will color your views in a most unreasonable fashion.

Now I am confident that you are wondering what I am talking about; such a question is understandable as I would be asking the same thing if I were you. And I realize that it is a bit difficult for you ‘to pick up, what I am trying to put down.’ However, I guess that what I am alluding to is that I felt a major conflict approaching between Floyd and me; a conflict that was most certainly going to boil over during our scheduled meeting at Hank’s Ice Cream.

The source of our disagreement, Floyd had somehow, someway, began questioning the utility of education for African-Americans. I considered this latest line of thinking that Floyd hinted at during previous discussions particularly disturbing, especially for a man of his age.

I must tell you that I hated having any disagreement with Floyd, especially when we were planning to meet in a public space; anyone who knows Floyd will tell you that he has no problem pitching a tent and behaving as if he is the featured presentation in a three-ring circus. There was no doubt in my mind that if provoked, Floyd was going to behave as if he were an absolute fool.

When asked about their favorite ice cream, most Texans will begin to tell you about Blue Bell Ice Cream. And I must be honest with you, when I first arrived in Houston, I thought that Blue Bell Ice Cream was heaven sent, that is until I tasted Hank’s Ice Cream. There is no reasonable comparison between the two. Put simply, Hank’s Ice Cream puts Blue Bell to shame.

I soon learned that not only was Hank’s Ice Cream a superior product but also it was an African-American owned business started by a very industrious man named Hank Wiggins in 1985. Hank, a graduate of Prairie View A & M University, hailed from Caldwell, Texas, and met financial success in Houston, Texas, by opening up what old-timers would call a jitney shop, today we call it a Taxi Cab service.

Apparently, Hank made ice cream for his family for years and always expressed a desire to open an ice cream shop to his wife, Okemah. It was a mid-eighties economic downturn that provided Hank an opportunity to realize his dream of opening an ice cream shop.

For me, Hank’s Ice Cream shop possesses everything that I desired in business: quality product, Black-owned, and reasonably priced. What was there not to like?

After watching the clock in my office, it was with utmost glee and exuberance that I left the office at approximately 11:30 and headed toward Main Street. Hank’s Ice Cream shop, located at 9291 Main Street, was this week’s meet-up location with Floyd at high-noon for yet another battle.

Upon arrival at Hank’s Ice Cream shop, I entered a venue that I always wished could serve as the standard template of hospitality and service for every African-American business. The notable welcoming environment that one finds at Hank’s Ice Cream Shop is not only comforting but also one of the greatest tips of the hat to its creator who has since transitioned to be with the ancestors. It does not take one long to glean an understanding that the employees of Hank’s are several generations of the owner’s remaining family members.

It did not take long before I had not only secured a towering vanilla ice cream cone that took me back to my childhood years. I found a seat in the corner of the establishment and began ravenously consuming it as if nothing else mattered. There was no work splayed before me, as is the usual case, Hank’s Vanilla Ice Cream demanded and received, my singular attention.

My singular focus caused me not to notice Floyd when he entered the establishment. Before beginning what I already sensed would be a round of extreme foolishness, even Floyd was compelled to secure some of Hank’s delicious ice cream before taking a seat.

In a few moments, Floyd, dressed in neatly creased khaki’s, an electric blue button down shirt, and his signature shiny shoes, plopped down across from me and began to lick his towering ice cream cone of Butter Pecan. As is his usual pattern, Floyd started in on me very quickly, but not before flashing that damn ‘Foolish Grin.’

“You see that right there. That’s how I know that you ain’t got no style. With all of these flavors, you picked ‘plain Jane’ Vanilla. I tell you, no style at all. None at all.”

Although I was enjoying my ‘plain Jane’ ice cream, I knew that I needed to respond to Floyd’s jab or run the risk of him considering my non-response as a sign of weakness. Prior experiences with Floyd had convinced me that if he were nothing else, he was an intellectual bully who eagerly pounced upon those unwilling to engage him. I responded with a short quip of,

“Nah Floyd, you looking at this thing all wrong. Before there was any such thing as Butter Pecan, there stood Vanilla. Before Chocolate, there stood Vanilla. Sometimes you need to pay homage to your foundations.”

After hearing my response, Floyd’s only response was a playful, “Oh, Nigga please.”

Both Floyd and I knew that the conversation we stood on the precipice of having was a long-overdue and controversial one that had stood like a sore spot between us. From my perspective, there was no point in dancing around the matter; during such moments I always preferred to jump directly to the heart of the matter. However, for strategic reasons, I needed for Floyd to broach the topic.

In a blatant attempt to bait him into the apparent discord that had grown between us regarding of all things, education, or more directly the utility or transformative nature of education for African-American males. I feigned ignorance and asked Floyd,

“So why did you want to meet? What’s up?”

Predictably, Floyd anticipated my move and slid me a copy of African-American News & Issues opened to a recent editorial that I wrote with a particularly harsh tone aimed at addressing a pernicious issue currently affecting African-American males. Although he has repeatedly used this tactic, I honestly did not foresee Floyd using my words against me regarding this matter.

THUG UNIVERSITY:

REFLECTIONS ON AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALES NEW MILLENNIUM EDUCATIONAL PRIORITIES

One of the more peculiar inside jokes shared among those raised in “the hood,” meaning lower-middle-class, working-class, and poor neighborhoods occur when someone has been arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison. It is at this moment that others affectionately relate that he/she is on his way to ‘college’; albeit, not to pursue a traditional Liberal Arts degree, rather, a B.A. in criminality or possibly an M.S. in the robbery of black folk. All agree that the convicted will return from “college” a slicker confidence man or bolder burglar. Many of my peers chose such an educational path.

Fortunately, many career paths and opportunities, including initiatives to save African-American males offer realistic alternatives to incarceration. The alluded to actions serve as a constant reminder of the national crisis facing African-American males. Personally, such initiatives facilitated a host of “firsts” for me: my first collegiate visit, my first academic conference, and a similar program — the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) — paved the way for graduate school. Such outreach programs made the mentorship I received from Dr. James N. Upton during my undergraduate tenure and Dr. Paulette Pierce as I pursued my first Master’s degree at THE Ohio State University all the more necessary. The mentorship mentioned above was critical to my academic success as I learned how to “be” inside of collegiate classrooms, academic conferences, workshops, and symposiums.

Consequently, my current station as a tenured professor is a bit surreal. I am now on the other side of the desk and charged with mentoring the next generation of African-Americans. Unfortunately, I am finding this process, particularly in regards to African-American males, increasingly difficult. Put simply, this latest generation of Black men does not appear to be particularly interested in academics, politics, or intellectual thought. In fact, I have watched as many of my current students have done their best to transform institutions of higher learning into an entity best termed ‘Thug University.’

The stages I lecture upon on a daily basis have provided a clear view of the drastically altered demeanor, preparation, goal structure and behavior of many African-American males. From my perspective, the driving force behind this transformation is a flawed understanding of Black manhood.

As previously mentioned, I participated in several initiatives aimed at saving ‘the endangered black male.’ Such programs operated out of the belief that there was a desperate need to provide “historically marginalized minority populations” access to higher education. According to those fighting on our behalf, the most significant obstacle preventing our inclusion into said higher education institutions was institutional racism; meaning, that institutions of higher learning operated in a manner that individuals such as me, a first-generation collegian, would never gain access.

I am confident that those battling for our inclusion during the eighties considered their foe, institutional racism, unconquerable. They never imagined that a decade later a more menacing enemy would arrive; an enemy that makes institutional racism appear juvenile. The latest opponent in the battle to save African-American males is a ‘siren’ that has mesmerized Black men. This enemy is best termed Thug Culture, a lifestyle propagated and delivered to our young people by contemporary rap stars.

For a significant population of Black male collegians, rap icons such as Rick Ross, YG, and Young Jeezy hold more sway over their values, aspirations, and worldview than Du Bois, Baldwin, Hughes, King, X, Newton, or Obama could ever hope to. Mentors of today’s African-American males are in for a rude awakening if they believe that mere exposure to collegiate campuses is enough to repel the omnipresent, seemingly omnipotent influence of today’s rap artists on the values and goal structures of African-American males.

Such an assertion pains me as Rap Music is dear to my heart. In fact, I was politicized by eighties Rap Music; Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Boogie Down Productions Edutainment, Brand Nubian’s One for All, X-Clan’s To The East Blackwards, and Paris’ The Devil Made Me Do It significantly altered my mind. However, the youth culture of my generation was not only politically progressive but also created by African-Americans to serve Black interests. Unfortunately, the days of yesteryear are long gone.

Things have turned so sour within some urban enclaves that African-Americans have begun to fear their own. The Notorious B.I.G. stated as much in his tour de force, Things Done Changed “Back in the days, our parents used to take care of us. Look at ‘em now, they even fucking scared of us.”

Why should previous generations of African-Americans not be concerned about this latest expression of manhood considering its proclivity for drug abuse, alcoholism, misogyny, profanity, immorality, and anti-social behavior? All characteristics, I might add, that are foreign to the way that persons of African descent have historically lived.

African-American male collegians who are in the throes of a nihilistic homo-erotic thug culture fail to realize that they are an aberration to historical manifestations of Black manhood. Their entire existence contradicts esteemed traditions of honorable, smooth, articulate, educated, well-dressed brothers who occupied leadership positions in their public and private lives. Today, the smooth suave and debonair African-American man have been replaced by young people whose lack of style, and trust me style is not achieved by one foolishly purchasing overpriced gaudy European clothing, is rivaled only by their inability to articulate a coherent thought.

Surrounding African-American collegians desperation to be included in ‘thug culture’ is an often ignored query of ‘what is the payoff for relinquishing long-standing African-American cultural traditions for niggardly behavior?’ Apparently, the payoff for African-American male collegians is the opportunity to earn ‘street credibility’ among Common Street hoodlums whom they desperately seek to emulate.

If nothing else, I wish that the young men I view from the stage realize that they are the best that our Race has to offer and they’re allowing the “streets” to influence their cultural values significantly and goal structures make as much sense as a tail wagging a dog. Young collegiate brothers, you are supposed to be the head and not the tail in regards to setting the values, priorities, goals, and future direction of our community. Hence, you are now center stage, the spotlight is shining on you, and we are eagerly awaiting to see if you will assume your rightful position as the next generation of educated “Race men” or will you prove cowardly and continue down a path of aberrant behavior that none of those who came before you would either recognize or celebrate.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Although I did not necessarily have to read the editorial, hell, I wrote it. I most certainly knew its contents. To appease, Floyd, I reviewed the words that I had pinned during a particularly frustrating moment in my life; frustrations that flowed from the seeming inability of many African-American males decision to not ‘turn the corner’ toward success.

“Now what is your problem with me questioning if education is of any use to these fools?”

I initially attempted to explain to Floyd that he was focusing on the most unfortunate and damning aspects of what I wrote.

“Nah Captain, I am focused squarely upon what you wrote. Those are your words. Even you question if education is wasted on them.”

“Well, there are times, trying times I might add that leads one to question exactly what level of impact education is having upon some African-American males. I simply think that we have not done the best job of balancing educational pursuits and maintaining our cultural identity.”

“Cultural identity? What cultural identity? Oh, you mean what these fool call ‘keepin’ it real?’”

I hated it when Floyd mocked my position in such a manner. However, there was nothing that I could do about it at this particular moment; he created a significant, nearly impossible to overcome, advantage when he used my writings against me.

“Bruh, let’s face facts. The vast majority of these fools out here in these streets are more interested in pretending to be some gangster or pimp. It appears that the only difference between the street thug and the college student is where they are doing their dirt. That’s the ONLY difference between the two.” 

“C’mon Floyd, there is no way that you believe that. We have many African-American males in college who are not only brilliant, but also reaching landings that neither you nor I will ever approach. All that I was saying in the editorial was that they should not allow the streets to unduly influence them toward ignoring the fabulous opportunities before them.”

“You know I hate it when you try and hide behind your words and don’t say what it is that you mean. Quit talking about the streets and call it what it is. You mean this damned Hip-Hop Culture. Because that is where they are getting this foolishness.” 

As much as I wanted to disagree with Floyd, I knew that he was correct in this matter. Hip-Hop Culture was a major obstacle facing this latest generation of African-Americans as it seemingly touched every facet of their lives from their appearance and speech to their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Such influence would not be such a major issue if African-Americans still controlled what I frequently term the Nuclear Bomb of popular culture; however, the harsh reality is that we do not control either the images or the messages that are continuously shared with our children on a twenty-four-hour basis.

“It might be time for you to face the fact that these rappers have more influence upon Black men than even you do. Hell, it is not a stretch to say that they have more influence than their teachers and professors, and maybe, just maybe, they might have more influence than even their parents. It’s sad, but true.”

Floyd’s observation stung for one simple reason, he was absolutely correct. Unfortunately, African-Americans affinity for Rap Music which began for the vast majority of our people with either the release of the Sugar Hill Gang’s ‘Rappers Delight’ or Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s ‘The Message’ did not cease when the culture was taken over by white record executives and companies.

“Now Floyd you know that the vast majority of the things that these kids, and yes they are still kids, are out here doing is due to them following trends and fads.”

Apparently, I had said something to set Floyd off because his face communicated an obvious disdain and disappointment, if not anger.

“Kids? Kids? You think that these fools out here are kids? Well you keep hanging in the city and you will more than likely get a chance to see how kid-like these Niggas are. Man, they are committing violent robberies at the ages of thirteen and fourteen. Nah, they haven’t been kids for a very long time.”

“And whose fault is that Floyd?”

“Damn it, man, can’t you understand that it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. All that matters is that it is. And trust me when I say this, it ain’t going nowhere neither. This foolishness is here to stay.”

“It starts in the home and just grows worse and worse. That’s why I am telling you that education is largely wasted upon Black males. They not only can’t hear the teacher, they ain’t trying to hear the teacher.”

Although I never wanted to concede defeat in a debate to anyone, most of all to Floyd, I realized that there was an element of truth in his argument. Someway, somehow, somewhere along the line many African-American males, I refuse to say all, had lost their way and began devaluing educational pursuits and replaced what can be best termed traditional values with gangster fantasies that had their genesis in some white A & R record executives office.

Sensing that I didn’t have a logical response to his assertions, Floyd smiled with that ‘Foolish Grin’ like a Great White Shark circling some much-desired prey. Moving his hands as if he were conducting a symphony orchestra, Floyd stated

“And the truth prevails yet again.”

I shook my head at his foolish behavior and prepared to rise from my seat. Just as I stood, Floyd began to speak.

“Man, I know that you ain’t trying to leave without getting some of this ice cream to go.”

Floyd was correct in his observation; I always got a couple of pints of Hank’s to go.

“Sooooooo, I thought you might want to get me some as well.”

Although blessing Floyd in such a way was not at the forefront of my mind, I shot him an angry look and made my way back to the counter. When I made it to the counter, I heard Floyd shout out,

“And get me something with some flavor. Butter Pecan, Chocolate, Mint; not that bland stuff that you like.”

I could only shake my head at Floyd.

After purchasing both of us a few pints of ice cream, I handed Floyd his portion as we headed for the door. To my amazement, Floyd was walking toward my vehicle with me. Although I was uncertain what this meant, it became clear when Floyd shared,

“Now I know that you are going to give me a ride home. Otherwise my ‘Hank’s’ will be done melted by the time I get there and you know that would be a shame.”

He had gotten me once again! My only recourse was to shake my head before I unlocked his door.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.