Tag Archives: Black Men

Thug University: How the Posturing of some Black Males on Collegiate Campuses Must be Challenged

One of the more peculiar inside jokes shared among those raised in “the hood” is that when someone is sentenced to prison, this individual is on his way to ‘college’; meaning he is away from the community receiving an education in criminality and bound to return with an advanced criminal skill set. President Barack Hussein Obama’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ is an initiative aimed at preventing such college visits.

The African-American community has known long before President Barack Hussein Obama arrived on the national political scene that obama2there was a crisis concerning Black boys. I know that these initiatives have been around for at least thirty-years as I was previously a participant in such programs. Considering that Malcolm X’s admonishment that a person is merely the sum of their life experiences, I attribute a portion of my current success to such initiatives.

My participation with outreach programs specifically aimed at uplifting African-American males provided me with my first opportunity to visit a collegiate campus, attend/participate in an academic conference, and receive mentorship at both the undergraduate and graduate levels by unbelievable faculty members at THE Ohio State University, my alma mater.

With hindsight I can attest with extreme clarity that it was the latter occurrence, the opportunity to be mentored that has proven most beneficial in regards to my future endeavors. It was during mentorship sessions that I learned how to “be” inside of a collegiate classroom, an academic conference, a workshop, and a symposium; just as importantly, I had lessons my parents had taught me reiterated behind closed doors that I had done absolutely nothing to earn the opportunities being placed in front of me, it was an extended line of my elders who had facilitated this moment, and since I had not created these opportunities, I had absolutely no right to behave in a manner that would cause these opportunities to cease. Put simply, we, meaning a larger community, have worked tirelessly for you to even be allowed to compete in the collegiate arena, don’t you dare get out there and embarrass us at any moment, at any time, or for any reason.

Such experiences and mentorship makes my current status as a tenured professor of African-American studies surreal. I am on the other side of the desk and charged with the responsibility to keep the tradition from whence I emerged alive and well.

Although I, and many of my colleagues, concentrate upon keeping the traditions going; the truth is that the process of mentoring today’s African-American male collegian is markedly different from anything I could have imagined. Ironically, I have had an up-close view of the dynamic decade long process that facilitated collegiate campuses transformation from institutions of higher learning to what can be best termed “Thug University” for a significant portion of African-American males.

From the stage that I lecture on, I can attest that the past decade has been a period of dynamic change in regards to the African-American male persona on collegiate campuses, a shift that has been greatly prodded by Hip-Hop Culture. Put simply, much of the ignorance infecting so many African-American male collegians is an outgrowth of Hip-Hop Culture, Rap Music and Videos in particular.

As previously discussed, I participated in several initiatives aimed at saving ‘the endangered black male’. The logic behind such initiatives Collegewas that there needed to be some mechanism that provided “historically marginalized minority populations” access to higher education institutions. The most significant obstacle preventing our inclusion was an entity referred to as institutional racism; meaning, that the entire system operated in a manner that individuals such as myself, regardless of our best efforts, would never gain access. To their credit, policy makers and government officials took decisive action by allocating funds for African-American male initiative programs that worked to combat occurrences of institutional racism.

I am certain that those battling for our inclusion during the eighties considered their battle with institutional racism a Herculean effort, little did they know, a few decades later there would be a far more enchanting enemy that would make earlier battles with institutional racism look like taking candy from a baby.

The latest frontier in the battle to save African-American males must be fought against a much slicker enemy, one that the vast majority of African-American males admire, embrace, and seek intimate knowledge, that enemy is Hip-Hop Culture.

Despite the plethora of outreach programs being created to influence/guide African-American males down a productive path, the truth is that for a significant population of our males, rap icons such as Rick Ross, YG, and Young Jeezy hold more sway over their values and worldview than any initiative could ever hope to. Now this is by no means suggesting that such initiatives need to be ceased, as many participants, such as myself, will maximize the opportunity, however, the administrators of such initiatives are in for a rude awakening if they believe that exposure to collegiate campuses or professional mentors is sufficient to stem the omnipresent, seemingly omnipotent, influence of today’s rap artists on this latest generation of African-American males.

The above assertion is particularly disconcerting for someone who to this day holds Rap Music near and dear to my heart. I was literally incubated by Hip-Hop culture and its musical wing, Rap Music; entities that paved the way for first my politicization and my pursuit of a career of the mind.

Outside of my parents voluminous influence, my mind was molded by 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. As I reconstruct my past, it is clear that the youth culture I was steeped in was not only politically progressive, but also created by young African-Americans to serve the interests of young African-Americans. Unfortunately, the days of yesteryear are long gone.

If the saying that a tree is best known by the fruit it bears is true, one needs to look no further than the current state of young African-American males to discern that Hip-Hop culture is doing untold damage by curtailing their worldview and opportunities.

As stated 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.” The antics/attitude/actions of African-American males have made many of their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles scared of them. Why should previous generations not be afraid of these recent manifestations of African-American manhood with its proclivity for drug abuse, alcoholism, misogyny, profanity, sagging pants and anti-social behavior? All foreign characteristics to how the majority of our people have lived throughout the annals of time.

Unbeknownst to the young men who are attempting to serve two masters, one being the altar of collegiate studies and the other the altar of ‘keepin it real’ Hip-Hop Culture, they have signed up for an sagging pantsimpossible task; in fact, it will the latter of the two that will always win out as it invariably taps into the carnal nature of mankind. The young men currently in the throes of a nihilistic homo-erotic thug culture fail to realize that they are an aberration to the way that educated African-American men have lived for centuries. The alluded to individuals entire existence contradicts storied traditions of honorable, smooth, articulate, educated, well dressed brothers who were in leadership positions in both their public and private lives. The smooth suave and debonair African-American man has been replaced with young men whose lack of style, and trust me a measure of style is not conveyed by adorning one’s body with overpriced gaudy European clothing that was not created with you in mind, is rivaled only by their inability to verbally express themselves.

The proverbial elephant in the room regarding African-American collegians desperation to be included in this type of lifestyle is an often ignored query of ‘what is the payoff for relinquishing long-standing African-American cultural traditions in favor of adopting behavior that would shame a nation of uncultured savages?’ Apparently the impetus behind the actions and mindset of so many African-American male collegians is a pursuit of ‘street credibility’ among those that they consider, or desperately desire to be like, uneducated criminal-minded thugs and hoodlums.

It is my fervent hope and prayer that African-American collegians quickly conclude that there is no salvation for them to be found in the streets of America, let alone any feelings of admiration to be hewn from a segment of society, criminal-minded African-American males, Gangster Disciples1that loathes their existence. If nothing else, I wish that the young men sitting in my classes realized that they are the best and brightest that our race has to offer and their allowing those who have less education than they do to direct their cultural values and goals makes 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 for our community. So take your rightful places as the trend-setters and leaders within our community. Only you can reverse this tide of cultural dysfunction and flawed political priorities.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

#ManhoodRaceCulture

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“It ain’t my fault!!!!!!!”: Black Men Respond to the Insinuation that they are Responsible for Declining Marriage Rates in Black America

The swift and poignant response I received after a recent post linking the cause for spiraling marriage rates in the black community to the steeply declining numbers of young, educated, and professional black men unleashed a long-simmering anger of outrageous ferocity.

As I began to receive calls and read emails regarding the posting, it did not take me long to realize that black men had long ago tired of being blamed for the failings of the black community, particularly failed marriages and the unprecedented increase of single female-headed households. Put simply, accomplished black men are no longer willing to silently carry the bulk of those social maladies alone, if at all. The emotional intensity of the alluded to responses was so significant that I felt compelled to revisit this topic sooner, rather than later.

The public protestations regarding my earlier posting emanated from a cross-section of Black America, male and female, young and old, formally educated within the academy and those who earned their stripes via the school of hard knocks. I personally knew a few of those who responded, others I had no prior exposure to beyond sporadic social media postings. Nevertheless, engagement with this highly diverse population of Black America made one thing painfully clear, this conflict over love and matrimony is Black America’s latest internal Civil War, a conflict that has raged uncontrollably over the past fifty-plus years.

It may have been my pre-existing relationship with many of the responders that led me to consider their impassioned protestations over the data included in my earlier posting as more than irrational complaining. The referenced data base that pointed to young, educated, and professional black men as the primary reason for declining black matrimony rates raised the ire of all responders in an uncommon way.

After pondering on this matter, it is obvious that black men feel that the conclusions presented by the Brookings Institute presents a partial portrait of why so many educated black women are not marrying black men. One of the most poignant responses emanated from a former student who took significant issue with the insinuation that he, and those like him, held any responsibility for black women’s failure to find everlasting love.

There are plenty of single (gainfully employed) black men actively looking for black women…(I have found that) It’s nearly impossible to meet and develop a meaningful relationship with a woman that’s outside of your social circle. Most people I know that got married met their wife through friends or friends of friends.

As for collegiate women, I know some (grown) women that would club them over the head for complaining about their inability to find marriage-minded educated and professional black men. From ages 16-23 women hold ALL the cards. Men don’t really get the upper hand in the dating game until about age 26 and up. I think these women are just hopping on a convenient bandwagon to take the light off themselves and their poor choices in men.

The above sentiments were echoed by a Brooklynite school teacher. “C’mon, black women need to stop all of this complaining about there not being any good black men available” the educator lamented. “The truth of the matter is that for many of the sisters who are supposedly seeking an educated black man, they are their own worst enemies. I cannot tell you how many sisters that I dated prior to getting married (to a black woman) who quite simply were impossible to get along with, particularly if you displayed genuine interest in them without any significant problems. I mean after a while, who wants to be bothered with someone who is being difficult for the sake of being difficult. Oh, I forgot. They aren’t being difficult, they are being STRONG black women. Well, if that is what a strong black woman is, I don’t want any parts of it.”

As I read through the litany of comments, it became obvious that the experiences of so many educated black men are not reflected in data used by the previously referenced Brookings Institute study.

Yet another brother communicated his utter disbelief in what he termed the consistent lie that there are gangs of educated black women who are actively seeking educated, professional, and financially stable black men as husbands.

Please don’t mistake me, I’m not arguing the validity of math, but with so many of my patnas’ (sic) with college degrees, no kids, making good money and actively searching for a black wife it seems odd whenever I read things like this. If they’re in such high demand they’d be off the market, no? I won’t throw shade at the sistas, after all, they’re not some homogeneous hive mind but it’s worth noting that the attentions of some are usually grabbed by another “type”… IJS

Although many relationship experts attribute much of the discord between black men and women to “bad timing”, many African-American men refuse such escapism. A former college roommate offered the following analysis.

I have learned that far too often, black women are not seeking the good guy until they have been psychologically damaged, given a couple of children, and then decide that such associations are not working for them. When you think about it, there is no greater sign of a flawed set of priorities than the decisions that so many black women make regarding their personal lives. I actually had a female friend tell me that she would never settle in regards to her selection of a mate. However, over the past fifteen-years I have watched her select men that even Stevie Wonder could see did not represent any of the things that she wanted for her life. There was some type of disjointing that had occurred in her statements regarding what type of man she desired and the type of man that she welcomed into her bed. For her, settling meant finding a gainfully employed, educated, and professionally successful brother who was not about the B.S. Just crazy, I tell ya!” 

The black men who contacted me regarding the previous posting all agreed that researchers who focus solely on data bases are missing the mark and should turn their lens toward examining the socialization and priorities of black women prior to using numbers to explain such matters. “It is in this arena that they will find the actual reason that so many educated black women have failed to find suitable mates” according to a Houston-based Engineer. Indicative of such thoughts was the following litany I received from an anonymous brother who asserted that “in their own pursuit of success, black women have been socialized into believing that they need neither marriage nor black men. So it is predictable that women who have been raised to believe that they must be prepared to take care of themselves, by themselves, would hesitate, if not outright refuse to rely on black men in any situation. I know married sisters who have secretly hidden money from their husband, just in case things go awry. When you think about it, they are only married on paper, not in the truest sense of the word.”    

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once communicated the following. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” After hearing and reading the responses of many accomplished black men regarding their culpability, if not outright responsibility, for the declining rates of marriage for educated black women, I am certain that they agree with Disraeli’s quip.

And that most certainly ain’t no lie.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Homicide
  • Accidents
  • Suicide

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

  • Diseases of the Heart
  • Accidents
  • Homicide

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017