Tag Archives: Booker T. Washington

The Black Matrix: How the ‘Cool’ is Compromising the Lives of so many African-American Males

One of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history is found in Black Males 3“The Matrix” when Morpheus offers Neo a life-altering choice in the form of two pills; a red pill and a blue pill.

The choice provided Neo an opportunity to either continue living in a world that was “given” to him or seeing the world as it really is.

Although I admit to being guilty of engaging in hyperboles, however, this scenario resonates with my soul as I liken it to my “great awakening” at Prairie View A & M University (PVAMU).

There is no other way to describe my mindset when I arrived at PVAMU other than naïve to the current state of African-Americans. Much like Morpheus alluded to Neo, I “knew something was wrong but I simply could not put my finger on it.”

It was while at PVAMU that I met my own Morpheus, Dr. James Thomas Jones III; no disrespect intended for other professors such as Dr. Ronald Goodwin. However, when it comes to awakening me to the real world, I must pay homage to Dr. Jones as he most certainly gave me my red pill.

While majoring in History at PVAMU, I was exposed to Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Plan, seduced by the eloquence of W.E.B. BTW1Dubois and mentally set afire by Malcolm X and the Black Power Era. Put simply, I was forever changed by my exposure to what can only be termed ‘Black Genius’. Ironically, it was learning about the rough road that my ancestors had traveled that provided me a clear focus regarding my contemporary existence as an outcast among my African-American peers.

I grew up in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas; an area of the city that most would consider filled with urban blight. My aforementioned outcast status flowed from my innate desire to study history in an effort to illuminate my mind. Put simply, I quickly discovered that the pursuit of educational endeavors within my so-called community was not only frowned upon but also publicly discouraged by the vast majority of those around me.

One thing was certain if those around me found disdain with my pursuit of knowledge, their insatiable materialism had a much more intense effect upon my view of them and the entire Race. The ‘red pill’ allowed me to see that my contemporaries had swallowed the ‘blue pill’ and therefore had no means of being able to even realize the error of their ways. There was no doubt at all that the vast majority of those around me were not heeding Lupe Fiasco’s warning to not overdose on “the cool”.

It does not take much analysis to realize that African-Americans have a vested interest into a “matrix” of materialism that not only shuns black males collegethe development of the mind but also takes the historically unprecedented step of being outright hostile to such endeavors. It is this inability to prioritize that has so many within our midst living to impress an uncaring world with trinkets while the things that should matter continually worsen over time.

I avoid using broad strokes when painting my people with all of my being, however, the conclusion that the vast majority of my peers, regardless of their socioeconomic status or educational attainments, have more respect for “trap niggas” than those who are diligently working to re-build our community is obvious.

What a shallow people we have become.

In a recent article on this site titled, “Falling To Answer When Opportunity Calls” Dr. Jones issues a much-needed call for an black males 2African-American cultural Renaissance. We should view this as a call to action reminiscent of when Morpheus asked Neo, “Now you see what the Matrix is. What are you going to do about it?” Although I can only speak for myself on this matter, I plan to definitively respond to this call by diligently working to revert African-American culture back to its roots of respectability, intellectual pursuit, self-help, and politico-economic collectivism.

Consider this a public pledge to end the cultural dysfunction that makes ignorant behavior being ‘cool’ and intellectual thought the opposite. It is my, and your, duty to awaken our people from this daunting trance and turn them toward more productive endeavors. We can no longer afford to equate achievement for African-American males with rap lyrics and jump shots. As stated in the book of Jeremiah, truth “is like fire set up in my bones”, and I must tell all of my people. We must awaken, the time is now.

Patron Payton

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2016

Genius Revealed in Time: Tupac Amaru Shakur’s True Brilliance is Being Further Revealed as His Time Away From Us Continues

I have experienced enough life to realize that the vast majority of people are not only unoriginal, but also prone to pattern themselves behind some person that they have little intimate knowledge of Pac 1beyond their existence under what amounts to a blinding spotlight that exaggerates their insignificant presence. Honestly, this is not a process that is endemic to this latest generation, truthfully every American generation has done the same.

Consider the public personas that African-Americans have patterned themselves after throughout the 20th Century; Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, Minister Farrakhan, Muhammad Ali, George Clinton, Parliament, Richard Roundtree, RUN DMC, Rakim, Ice Cube, and Tupac Amaru Shakur.

Make no mistake about it, the iconic figures placed before Black America do matter, particularly as they simultaneously reflect not only our current position, but also offer significant insight into the direction that we are heading. Unfortunately, when such figures are in our midst we often fail to understand their voluminous cultural influence. Undoubtedly, the influence and importance of such individuals is not truly understood until they have disappeared.

These thoughts rose to my mind when I realized that if he had not been murdered by our people, Tupac Amaru Shakur would be 45 years old today. One can only wonder what Tupac would have been today, however, the more important question revolves around what has happened to Hip-Hop in his absence. The decline of Hip-Hop Culture and Rap Music in particular speaks volumes about Tupac’s brilliance and influence upon the Hip-Hop community.

Since Tupac’s murder we have gradually seen the decline of “conscious” rap and the rise of a materialistic, ends-justify-Pac 5the-means culture that has instilled within our people the idea that it is not the quality of life and the principals that one stands upon that denotes a quality life, rather a successful life is best measured in not only the adoption of Eurocentric values, but also the pursuit of designer labels and items that have little value beyond it providing an individual the opportunity to shout to others, “Nigga you ain’t up on this.”

Into the colossal space that Tupac occupied has appeared a vaudeville circus of rappers who are best termed by an old KRS-ONE lyric of “I’m so and so! I’m this! I’m that! But they’re all wick, wick, wack.” Sadly it appears that it is only now in his absence that we are able to truly understand Tupac’s influence upon our culture as we have yet to say other emcee’s who have been able to tow the fine line between politicization and the ability to remain not only relevant to our people, but also direct their minds toward something more substantial than a “Beamer or a Benz”.

There is no more recent example of the length that the Hip-Hop Community has gravitated from its political roots than a run-in that I had with a young brother last night while performing the mundane task of pumping gas. As I pumped my gas, a young brother who Pac 3appeared to be in his late-twenties screams to some unidentified person in his vehicle, “Turn that shit up!!!!!!” He then begins to perform a dance that was eerily reminiscent of something that you would see in a far-off African village by a ‘Witchdoctor’ that included intricate hand movements that could have only been some desperate attempt to ‘throw gang signs’; everyone pumping gas just stared peculiarly. One of the white patrons approached me with a humorous look and said, “There goes the future of America.” I privately mused, “Nah, there goes the future of Black America.” Absent of an understanding of how to conduct oneself in public, brash, braggadocios, and truly not giving a fuck about me, you, or any portion of Black America. I could only muse, “Is this hip-hop?”

On what would be his 45th Birthday, I have no choice but to salute Tupac Amaru Shakur for all that he did for our people, including the complexities and contradictions that appeared to fit him like a tailored suit. His genius is truly missed. There is quite possibly no better evidence of his voluminous influence is the reality that we are now living in a cultural moment where in the words of Redman, “All the monkeys have come out.” And they have seized Hip-Hop Culture and chosen to prostitute her out to anyone willing to bid upon her. They should all be ashamed.

Rest well Pac, real Hip-Hop heads have not forgotten you and most pray that you will return, even though we know that you fight against the idea of re-incarnation, to help correct this mess that they now call Hip-Hop.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

Repeating the Past Because We Refuse to Listen to Our Prophets

The National Urban League recently released its annual report on the ‘State of Black America’, this year’s report is titled ‘Locked Out: Education, Jobs, and Justice’. There is no doubt that the title of the report is foreshadowing for its contents as the document reveals a continuation of historic racial disparities across a host of areas: education, housing, employment, wealth, and income.

Marc Morial, the President of the National Urban League, related accentuated the reality that the 2016 report mirrors those from previous periods.

According to Morial, “the similarities of the United States of 1976 and the United States of 2016 are profoundly striking. We are now, as we were then, a nation struggling to overcome the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We are…facing growing pressure to slash human needs programs for the poor, who are demonized and characterized as lazy slackers trying to cheat the system.”

Morial appropriately issued substantial commentary that highlighted the reality that economic problems are only “one of the many injustices that keep our cities locked out.” However, economic matters continue to be a central issue that much of Black listlessness pivots upon. According to ‘Locked Out: Education, Jobs, and Justice’, African-American employment has consistently existed at a rate that is twice that of whites, this unfortunate reality remains even when one controls for educational background.

The gap between African-American household income and that of whites has remained steady over the past forty-years at 60 cents for every dollar whites earn. Also notable is that the African-American poverty rate has remained nearly unchanged over the past forty-years. More troubling is the fact that the home ownership gap between Blacks and whites has grown six percentage points.

The National Urban League report courageously asks questions regarding the Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama and what it obama2actually means for Black America. According to Morial, “As President Obama wraps up his final months as the nation’s first African-American commander in chief, we begin to assess the progress Black America has made under his administration. How well has the nation recovered from the worst economic crisis it has seen in generations? How much closer are we to the very important goal of universal healthcare coverage has the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – gotten us?

The 2016 National Urban League Equality Index tells an all too familiar story of persistent racial disparities in American life, making clear that the historic Obama presidency has not been a panacea for America’s long-standing race problem.”

There is a popular axiom that states, ‘A fool and his money shall soon part.’ There is quite possibly no more succinct means of describing the current economic state of Black America. Put simply, we have been foolish, if not completely reckless in regards to our collective economic dealings. Things are in such a state of disarray that a reasonable person would question if the term Black unity is an oxymoron.

The issue of economic collectivism among African-Americans is a topic bantered about in venues varying from Black Nationalist gatherings to Black barbershops/beauty salons. All seem to agree that in regards to collectivist economics, the Black Community has been in a downward spiral since our educated class decided that their path to survival was via assimilating with a economically unified white community that has historically displayed via every means possible that they had no desire for any relationship, outside of an economically exploitative one, with Black America.

One is left pondering how Black political leaders, business people, intellectuals, educators, clergymen, the population that William Edward Burghardt Du Bois characterized as the Talented-Tenth allow dubois2this to occur? Were the elite too preoccupied with accumulating material possessions to comprehend the mounds of evidence that made the words assimilation synonymous with economic servitude? Were they focused upon giving their offspring everything they never had and in the process failed to provide them either the crucial elements that facilitated their success or the understanding that the descendants of enslaved people are eternally inextricably linked with each other? It appears that African-American leaders are the only racial/ethnic leadership group that has failed to deliver the point that collectivist economics is crucial to group survival. Failure to understand this reality places African-Americans in the peculiar predicament that the great Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes expounded upon in his poem, I, Too

I, Too 

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.

Tomorrow,hughes2

I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”

Then.

Besides,

They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed –

I, too, am America.

(Langston Hughes)

One of the most amazing occurrences in today’s highly contemptuous battle for survival in a rapidly diversifying nation has been African-Americans inability to understand that economic survival, let alone prosperity or winning, hinges upon collectivism and group cooperation; and until those lessons are learned we will continue to dine in the kitchen that Hughes writes about, eagerly waiting for a kind invitation to dine at the table of America. That invite has never, and will never, come out of kindness. Put simply, life is analogous to a board game where players, meaning various races and identities, attempt to increase their holdings [political and economic power] through strategic maneuverings, the ability to coordinate with other players, who are invariably receiving some benefit from the coordination, increases one’s opportunity for success.

Considering this analogy, it appears as if other groups — Alternative Lifestyle [Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer], Women [Wealthy, Middle-Class, Working-Class, Asian, Latina, White, Black], Asian [Chinese, Japanese, Filipino] Latina [Mexican, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Cuban, Dominican] White [Irish, Anglo-Saxon, Russian, Italian, Polish, German] — are able to make decisive logical moves on this crowd game board and forge alliances to advance their interests.

Now, it is not that persons of African descent [Nigerian, Jamaican, African-American, Ghanaian, Black Brits, Haitian, Cuban, Brazilian, Caribbean] are not involved in the game, it is that they are the least likely to forge an alliance with other groups, including their own racial group. Predictably, their attempt to navigate the game of life solo leads to not only frustration, but also the total loss of their political power and total dependence upon others for material survival; they become in a word, parasitic.

In time, this population will make what they consider a logical move to get in the game, a decision that drives home just how uninformed they are in regards to how this game is played, they will shun others in their racial/ethnic group and attempt to join with another group, thinking that such is an appropriate strategy to extricate themselves out of an increasingly deep hole. Little do they realize, they have made what is akin to a Faustian deal that guarantees them nothing more than a few politico economic crumbs that the larger players will offer them once their appetite is satisfied! In their defense, I must add that the primary reason they never turn within their own group to forge coalitions is because they have been taught in classrooms, media, and through experience that, “Niggers don’t know how to handle no business.” The vast majority of movers and shakers within the Race will relate such feelings as they bask in their self-created position as the only Negro who is about making moves; we all know that this fool, thinking that they can take on the world alone, what they invariably discover is that they are simply busy with their myriad pyramid schemes and quick rich scams that are actually enriching other groups.

The reasons for considering African-Americans economically parasitic are obvious, however, a pressing query remains; that being, why does it seem that only persons of African descent remain steeped in these dire straits. And more importantly, what is the solution to reversing this unfortunate reality?

The path for group empowerment is always the same; groups close ranks for a period, mobilize their economic resources, and focus their energies upon hard work and educating their men, women, and children with an eye toward political power, economic self-sufficiency, and a liberating theology.

Despite the reality that such uplift programs occur within the public sphere, many African-Americans are naïve enough to believe in an ethos of individuality. There logic is that if they work diligently as an individual they will succeed; nothing could be further from the truth. I had a professor who once highlight the fallacy of such thought when he remarked, ‘If hard work were all that you needed to succeed in America, Black folk would run this nation because no one has worked harder than us’; hard work and diligent effort, although a part of the equation, is in no way the entire equation. I must admit that I am amused when Conservative groups such as the Tea Party stand in the midst of their collective group and advise others to seek political power and economic freedom individually, please do not be seduced by the lie of either American individualism or laissez faire, let alone trickle-down economic schemes that other groups endorse. They are actually collectively mobilizing their political resources to enjoy the fruits of their labor individually.

Considering the current position of African-Americans, it is foolish for us not to focus our energies upon studying, mobilizing, and then executing a plan to help uplift the race. Failure to do so will most certainly result in a continuation of the dire consequences currently affecting the community.

Please remember that life is like a game, with multiple players with the same goal, securing as much political power and money to not only operate today, but also to flex theirmuscles when need be and force others to do what is not necessarily in their best interests. It will not be until we understand that other groups are not only organized and executing plans that not only accentuate their strengths, but also exploit our collective weaknesses that we will even begin to be prepared for this game. The question is, how long will we allow the game to operate before we begin mobilizing our game pieces and develop a plan to decisively enter the game in a way that matters?

So the question remains, are African-Americans prepared to not only understand the game, but also participate in it at its highest levels? Or will they continue to serve as little more than relatively insignificant pawns in a chess game. It is only through issuing a significant challenge to the prevailing economic power structure that African-Americans have any chance of surviving, let alone flourishing, economically. And there is no doubt that it is impossible to even issue a challenge until we are able to unife, close ranks, strategize collectively, develop and then execute a logical plan aimed at uplifting the race. Failure to do so, will eventually lead us to be wiped completely off of the board of this game called life and signal our collective failure at issuing any challenge to the prevailing economic tyranny that we have experienced since integration occurred.

James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.

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Why African-American Males Educational Shortcomings Compromise the Entire Nation and What We Can Do About It

I already realize that you are going to tell me that I cannot afford to grow weary regarding my efforts to uplift African-American males. However, it would be misleading to state that I have not tired of a Mother 2situation that reminds me of a never-ending cycle of frustration and disappointment. And what makes the contemporary plight of African-American males all the more difficult to comprehend is that we, meaning a wide-swath of individuals of varying races/ethnicities, political leanings, and class positions have done our best to reverse what all agree is a troubling trend.

Yet there has been little progress.

Although there are personal victories that we cherish, such moments are relatively rare and rapidly evaporate in the face of the next ‘national study’ that cruelly reminds us of the vastness of the crisis we are facing.

There is no doubt that the most daunting moment that those who fight for the uplifting of African-American males face is when the latest ‘national study’ appears; after all, such documents illuminate the entire battlefield, a perspective that the foot soldiers who fight daily on the on the frontlines rarely see. In many ways, these ‘national reports’ are akin to an intelligence report informing everyone of how well, or poorly, the war is actually going.

The latest ‘intelligence report’ regarding African-American males has arrived from The Council of the Great City Schools, a consortium that includes many of the nation’s largest urban public school systems.

Whoever constructed “A Call for Change: The Social and Educational Factors Contributing to the Outcomes of Black Males in Urban Schools” was not coy when they termed the current plight of African-American males a “national catastrophe.”

I am certain that there are many who naturally question this characterization; however, the facts contained in this report are in a word, startling.

  • By the fourth grade, only 12 percent of black male students read at or above grade level.
  • By the eighth grade, only 9 percent of black males read at or aboveblack males college grade level.
  • African-American males are nearly twice as likely to drop out of school compared to their white peers.
  • In many urban areas, African-American males drop out of high school at a rate of nearly fifty-percent.
  • The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) critical reasoning scores are an amazingly 104 points lower than their peers on average.

I have heard such reports so frequently that I am not shocked by the information. Put simply, those who have done this type of work for any period of time know what the problems are and I am certain that we all agree that it is time to move beyond yet another quantitative study reiterating what is already known.

I have always believed that desperate times called for rather unconventional methods, particularly, if we are truly seeking to address what seems to be a seemingly intractable problem.

Let’s face facts; the vast majority of African-American males are not flourishing in today’s K-12 public school system. This problem is

made much more problematic by public schools system administrators’ who doggedly resist any alteration to what we all agree is a severely flawed educational system. Such individuals behave as if any alteration to their standard operating practices and curriculum is tantamount to an admission of guilt or culpability for the present plight of African-American males.

According to educator Damon Thomas, “We have to be willing to implement any program or structure to aid African-American males in their pursuit of education. It is criminal to have the ability to do such and not do it. I would say that there is nary an educator who doesn’t recognize the issue and understand that if we don’t intercede on the behalf of African-American males we are dooming them, and by-extension our entire nation to a perilous future.”

Although it can certainly be attributed to America’s checkered racial past, it is rare to meet American citizens who understand that not only are the contributions of African-Americans critical to the nation’s growth, but also likewise understand the reality that “a strong Black America makes all of America stronger.”

Booker T. Washington, ‘the Wizard of Tuskegee’, addressed this very matter in his most memorable public speech at The Atlanta Cotton
States Exposition on September 18, 1895. In the alluded to speech, Washington told a predominantly white audience the following regarding the contemporary plight of African-Americans and what was at risk for the nation if they failed to aid their self-improvement efforts. According to Washington what was facing whites was a decision that would result in them having,

Nearly sixteen millions of hands will aid you in pulling the load upward, or they will pull against you the load downward. We shall constitute one-third and more of the ignorance and crime of the South, or one-third its intelligence and progress; we shall contribute one-third to the business and industrial prosperity of the South, or we shall prove a veritable body of death, stagnating, depressing, retarding every effort to advance the body politic.

Although many may fight against this idea that the status of African-American males is inextricably linked to American politico economic progress, the truth of the matter is that the two are interwoven. American policymakers and citizens need to begin considering African-American males as an unused, yet extremely valuable, resource that is being wasted via a failing educational system and draconian penal system that has never-ending repercussions for all that are ensnared within it.

Consider the following for a moment. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (2014 Data), approximately 12–13% of the American population is African-American, however, we are an incredibly disproportionate 35% of jail inmates and 37% of all prison inmates. The following facts are likewise daunting and frightening.

  • A black male born in 1991 has a 29% chance of being incarcerated in prison at some point of his adult life.
  • One out of nine African American men will be in imprisoned between the ages of 20 and 34.
  • Black males ages 30 to 34 have the highest crime rate of any race/ethnicity gender and age combination.
  • In 2014, 6% of all black males ages 30 to 39 were in prison, compared to 2% of Hispanic and 1% of white males in the same age group.
  • The Lifetime chances of going to prison are 32.2% for Black males and 17.2% for Latino males, while only 5.9% for White males.
  • 1 in 3 black males will go to prison in their lifetime.

Considering such data, it appears that the American citizenry has a major issue facing it. They can continue to do what they have always done, meaning execute flawed educational plans that invariably lead many African-American males to incarceration at some point in their lives, or re-evaluate existing educational systems, pedagogy, and paradigms.

What makes this matter all the more frustrating is that we know what has worked.

  • African-American males have responded positively to
    Black male students.
  • African-American male students have engaged curriculum that Black Males 9includes them in a significant manner.
  • Male only African-American charter schools have achieved phenomenal results with Black Males.
  • Mentorship has proven critical to the educational and career achievements of Black Males.
  • ‘Rites of Passage’ programs have worked in not only socializing African-Americans regarding their collective history, but also serve as a crucial aspect in ‘grounding’ them in regards to future possibilities.

There is most certainly no doubt that the current system has failed African-American males, some even charge that the alluded to failure of the system is intentional.

One thing is certain, if we continue to do what “we always did, we will get what we always got.” And for America that translates into “…a veritable body of death, stagnating, depressing, retarding every effort to advance the body politic.” And I am certain that you agree that such a proposition dooms us all.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.

#ManhoodRaceCulture