Although the exact date that Pastor Johnny R. Heckard shared the message eludes my mind, that does not matter because it is much more important that the sermon’s content remains prominent in my mind.
As was his tendency, Dr. Heckard used an unconscionable, yet scripturally grounded, verbal assault to admonish the Mount Calvary Baptist Church congregation, particularly the males, that one of the most troubling aspects of Black America is the manner in which the roles of African-American men and women have reversed.
The entire church shook as Rev. Heckard’s baritone voice boomed “We now have men asking women, ‘Do you make enough to take care of a man like me?’” As one would expect, this piercing question elicited a symphony of ‘Hallelujah’s,’ ‘Preach,’ and ‘Walk with it’ from the overwhelmingly female audience. Ironically, the overwhelmingly female congregation filled with women who never realize that they are partially responsible for the production of son’s who will become worthless African-American males, as well as hurriedly “laying down their religion” to allow a financially and emotionally parasitic grown man into their lives.
For me, Pastor Heckard’s sermon was surreal as it was a powerful rebuke of a cast of characters I recently encountered in a local barbershop, a place that could also be called the black man’s country club.
Anyone who has been to a real black barber will tell you that you are destined to engage a cast of characters with incredible stories regarding life. Without fail, there is always a few ‘brothers’ present who will share stories regarding their refusal to support the women in their lives and the inventive methods they use to escape responsibility for the women in their lives.
Although hilarious at the moment, upon reflection these tales sadden me because I realized that there are a silent woman and children in the background of each story. African-American males dereliction of duty routinely compromises the present and future opportunities for the women and children that rely on them for things that extend further than financial contributions. There is no possible way that any attentive introspective person could listen to these fantastic barbershop tales and not realize that as Dr. Heckard’s sermon pointed out, the dynamics between black men and women have dramatically changed.
Unfortunately, I am uncertain if even Dr. Heckard’s criticism would have caused even a moment of self-reflection upon the most dynamic performers one finds in any local barbershop as they appeared to be devoid of either a sense of pride or an inkling of morality. If nothing else, the alluded to individuals were a public testimony that so many African-American males had voluntarily retreated from the traditional role of provider and protector that Black men have traditionally occupied. The increasing numbers of such individuals highlight the depths of trouble that our community is experiencing at this present moment.
It appears that the days of the average black man being able to simultaneously occupy many roles that vacillated between displaying the ‘cool pose’ while among their peers, being the primary breadwinner in their homes, spending precious time with offspring, and being unconscionably chivalrous toward their wife are no more.
This abandonment of our traditional position within our community begs a simple question of, ‘Why has this occurred?’
A thorough answer to the above question is multi-faceted, complex, and involves shifts in the American economy, the African-American community, and the educational system that has simply not served as much utility to African-American men in particular. I am certain that you agree that this space is much too small to address each of these areas. So I will turn my focus toward the addressing of one of the essential parts of this problem; that being, the lack of socialization regarding manhood within the African-American community.
Although many have created complex formulas and equations relating to the extension of manhood from one generation to the next, in actuality the process is incredibly simple. Boys learn the duties, role, and expectations of Manhood and therefore how to ‘be a man’ by engaging and learning from Men. There is nothing racially specific about this as it is the same socialization process that occurs generation-after-generation around the entire globe.
Unfortunately for the African-American community, there has been a disruption in this tried-and-true socialization process that taught ‘What a man is and Ought to do’ for African-American boys and girls.
Although it is often not a formal process, any examination of the transference of manhood ideology reveals some form of a ‘rites of passage’ program that teaches agreed upon understandings of what it means to be a man in a particular society. The referenced ‘rites of passage’ training not only shows the expected duties but also constructs rigid parameters regarding activities that are impermissible. Generally speaking, any actions that result in hurt, harm, or damage to others are located in the realm of the impermissible and logically lead to the shunning of those who have even flirted with such things.
Indicative of the African-American community’s failure to instruct succeeding generations of black boys on what they should and should not do has been them making the realm of the impermissible and inappropriate their official residence. Making their dastardly lifestyle more damaging is the black community failing to banish those who have compromised it from its midst. Far too frequently, it appears as if their negative behavior earns them kudos from females who are also devoid of an understanding of what either a man or woman ‘ought to be and ought to do.’ Make no mistake about it, the selfish life that far too many African-American males have adopted damages the entire community.
Considering the blockage that has led to a significant segment of African-American males not receiving appropriate Manhood training, it is not surprising that we have devolved to an unprecedented moment in our history that sees immoral and misguided Black men viewing Black women, in the words of Dr. Heckard as a survival mechanism. And trust me when I say that such maneuvers are certainly not a positive manhood quality.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2016