If you ask anyone about what is the primary obstacle to the success of African-American males in American society the most ubiquitous response would be discrimination or institutionalized racism. Another popular response is to scapegoat African-American women. However, I have observed that the greatest threat to the success of the African-American male is another African-American male.
I have known of young black males who want nothing more than to go to school and get an education, but in an inner-city neighborhood it’s a dangerous affair. The African-American male student faces a lot of opposition from within their own neighborhood school, and I’m not just talking about teachers. If they make good grades, they have to make deals with the teachers to try to help them hide it from other students, even their so-called “friends”. They wear their pants sagging, not because they want to, but because they fear what will happen if they break from the trend set by the popular crowd and try to do something different. It’s dangerous to stand out, to appear intellectually curious and to have goals and ambitions. It’s called “acting white” or “being a sell-out.” Young black males who want an education have to be careful, not just because they are afraid of being bullied, but rather being killed by another black male. This is not hyperbole. It’s the truth.
Forget about those guys with the white sheets and fiery crosses. The boogey man of the Klu Klux Klan died a long time ago. In fact, most racially motivated murders of African-Americans are few and far between, however, intra-racial violence has exploded within our African-American community. It seems like almost everyday I hear about the death of a young black man at the hands of another young black man. Our young men killing each other over gang feuds and over drug wars. They are killing each other over looks and imaginary slights. They are killing each other in drug and alcohol-fueled rages; killing each other over status items and in domestic disputes. Older men are killing younger men and vice versa. Young men kill each other. Some men even act out violence against the precious little ones: their girlfriend’s child or even their own flesh-and blood. I would say 60% of the black men in jail are there because of what they have done to another black man.
Our black men are the ones perpetuating the violence through music and movies. Black men are spewing hate against other black men in the violent lyrics of rap songs. They openly advocate and endorse the murder of other Black men. These songs tell our young black boys “your life isn’t worth anything”, “you’re just another nigga”, “you’ll never be anything except a thug or a drug dealer” eroding the self-esteem of the youth. Black men are belittling Black men in the media by creating racist movies like “Soul Plane” and “Who’s Your Caddy” full of racist stereotypes comparable to blackface. Instead of banding together to support each other, black men tear each other down. The most recent (though not the worst) example of this was the public feuding between Spike Lee and Tyler Perry.
Black men are even a danger to themselves. One year, David Ushery worked on a series for the Channel 7 Eyewitness News about how successful African-American males were killing themselves in large numbers. This was the only station to report these findings. Our black men are committing suicide in alarming rates and it’s not being discussed widely in the media. There has even been a phenomena of brothers egging on police to shoot them which has been termed “death by cop.”
So what is causing African-American males to be so self-destructive. I would say to get a better understanding one should read Black Bourgeois by E. Franklin Frasier and The Miseducation of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson. After reading these we learn that the black on black violence is caused by nothing but self-hatred. Black men hate other black men. Why do Black men hate Black men? It’s simple: because it’s allowed.
The institutionalized discrimination in the form of nepotism and patronage serves to crush the psyche of African-American men. In America, the African-American occupies lowest rung of our caste-like society. We have the highest rates of unemployment, incarceration, high school drop-outs (actually, we’re second to Latinos in this area) health problems, out of wedlock births and just about everything else negative. Oppression makes black men frustrated and angry (as it would any people) and they need a conduit for that rage. The only target they are allowed are other Black men.
Think about it. When was the last time you heard of any gang members getting into it with some white guys eyeing them on the train? When was the last time you heard about some black kids crashing a white kid’s party and shooting up the place? Have you ever heard of a group of black kids beating up a white kid for his sneakers? All these young punks walking around, talking about how they’re stone cold ‘killas’, but pee in their pants when they’re in front of a white person. Why? Because they know without a shadow of a doubt if they so much as look at that white boy, the cops are going to put them in jail for a 100 years if they don’t kill them first. American society treats black crime and white crime differently. If someone reports a crime against a white person, it get an immediate response. If someone reports a crime against a black person, the cops will come when its convenient. Crimes against whites are given a thorough investigation. Crimes against blacks become cold cases rather quickly. Witnesses in crimes against whites are protected. Witnesses in crimes against blacks are often jeopardized by loose-lipped officers. So Black men turn their rage against other black men. It’s just easier.
Some would argue, that the problem goes back to American society. They posit that since American society doesn’t value African-Americans, African Americans don’t value themselves. Thus they infer that we have to wait until we earn the favor of American society before we can change things in our community. I beg to differ. I believe the larger culture will not value us until we place value on ourselves. African-Americans, men in particular have known about the legacy of self-hate for sometime. People have been talking about it since the Harlem Renaissance, but we need to stop talking about it and DO something about it.
The first thing I think we need to do is to get rid of the “white” measuring stick that we black people use all the time. Too many brothers worried about what the “white man” is doing. For example if I say to a young brother that maybe they should stop listening to the degrading lyrics of some of these rappers, they want to counter that white kids listen to rock music with degrading lyrics. You try to tell some of these brothers stop with the drug game, they want to tell you about the mafia and that “godfather” nonsense. They act as if since white people do destructive stuff, why can’t we? I say WHO CARES WHAT WHITE PEOPLE DO?!?!
And the funny thing is, these same people never want to copy any of the positive “white people”. They all want to be like some mafia personality, or some self-destructive, ignorant white celebrity or media big-mouth. Their whole thing is, “if the white man can do bad things and get away with it, then so should I!” I ask, ‘why would you want to do such awful things and get away with it?’ Do you really want to be a douchebag? Is it your life’s goal to be a despicable human being? Really? Really?
Then there are the others, the black males that want to impress white people. These are the “keeping up with the white man crowd”. If the white man has a big house, I have to have a big house. If the white man has six PhD’s, I’m gonna get six PhD’s. If the white man has a white wife, I have to have a white wife. If the white man has a red car, then I have to have a red car, too. They don’t’ achieve because they want to build a strong African-American legacy, they just want to be like a “white guy”. Again, I say to such a person WHO CARES WHAT WHITE PEOPLE HAVE?!?! Do you really think wannabees impress people? Do you really think wannabees get respect? Think that kid in high school who was just dying to be with the A-list clique. That kid that followed them everywhere, and tried to do everything they did, hoping that one day they would let him/her in. You know, the pathetic kid? Secondly, what if you achieve all that so called “success” and they still won’t let you into the clubhouse, what will you do? Or what if you get into the clubhouse and you do something they don’t like and they revoke your “honorary white guy card”? According to David Ushery, they end up offing themselves or doing something really self-destructive (see O.J. Simpson). Overall, why work so hard to be another person’s puppet. Just doesn’t make sense.
My next gripe is with the brothers that get caught up in the game of one-upmanship. They’re constantly keeping tabs on what the white man is doing and what our culture is doing and are ‘running a race’ with white society. They have to prove that African-Americans are just as good as whites, at everything. They like to spend a lot of time arguing with prejudiced white people about all the wonderful things African-Americans have done and how we’re comparable to whites. By golly, they’re gonna convince ‘em. They’re gonna show ‘em. I say ‘STOP ARGUING WITH THESE PEOPLE!’ News flash Black Men: You don’t have to prove anything to the white man! Who cares if they think they’re better! Just because someone from one culture thinks they’re better than someone from another doesn’t make it true! And I don’t care what they say! A lot of the things these racist and prejudice people always bring up to ‘prove’ African-Americans are inferior, are revisionist history (fairytales), and pseudo-science (superstitions from a mad-scientist lab) that aren’t even worth the efforts to refute them. Honestly, no matter what we do the racist and the prejudiced are going to piss on it. It’s a pointless waste of time to even engage them. The white people who are carrying these grudges and gripes are not doing so because they’re ignorant. A lot of the people who hold such beliefs are college educated and have degrees. People hold racist/prejudiced beliefs because it benefits their ego. When we are constantly try to prove stuff to them, all it does is affirm their erroneous notion that they are the ones who have the power to validate us. NOT SO!
The one-upmanship brothers are always beaming with pride when an African-American wins an Oscar, or an Emmy, or when Tiger Woods wins the Masters. They’re beside themselves when a black person gets into Harvard. They could care less who wins an Essence Award, or an NAACP Image Award. They don’t care who gets accepted to Howard, or Fisk, or Morehouse. After all, these are only the Black awards and Black institutions. Wake up black man! Our awards should mean more to us than any of the others. Our institutions should get our full unwavering support. Our validation needs to come from within our community and not without. I cringed when I heard that Halle Berry was screaming “The doors are finally open!” when she won her Oscar. I mean, really. The doors have been open for quite some time. There have always been exceptional black actresses, Halle! I hate to go against my own rule and take out a white measuring stick, but just to prove a point: Do you think Taylor Swift is having sleepless nights because she hasn’t won a Soul Train award yet? If Taylor Swift won a Soul Train award, do you think she would be screaming “The doors are finally open! Whites really do have rhythm!” She probably wouldn’t bother showing up to accept it because WE don’t even take it seriously! Stop looking to the mainstream to affirm who you are! Mainstream American society will not affirm you because in doing so, it will have to condemn itself, and that’s something it’s not about to do.
Similar to the black men above are the ones (usually older) that are constantly like “Oh what will the white people think?” Don’t participate in that march against injustice, your employer will think you’re a radical. Don’t wear braids or dreadlocks, it makes “white people” uncomfortable. Don’t talk about the discrimination you see on your job, that’s using the “race card”. Economic independence! That’s a taboo topic, don’t say anything or the white CIA guys will get mad! They might kill you like they did Dr. King! I say WHO CARES WHAT WHITE PEOPLE THINK?!?! I mean seriously, some of us, every time we do something there’s the voice of some white guy in our heads that telling us what is and is not acceptable to ‘white people’. Stop listening to that voice!!!
Finally there are the people who have created a false dichotomy between white and black culture as follows:
broken home/baby momma/daddy nuclear family
slang, cursing, limited vocab, poor English well spoken, proper English
dance well/sense of rhythm can’t dance/no rhythm
well endowed not so much
natural athletic prowess athletic prowess if they work at it
hustler/schemer/ lazy hardworking
toilet humor artistic, urbane humor
It’s funny because the most of the attributes that they have falsely given to white people is basically how you would describe a normal decent human being, meanwhile they see their own culture in such a demeaning light. So sad they think a normal African-American is a total douchebag. In reality there are a lot of educated blacks who come from a nuclear family that has some money, who speak proper English and then some. Michelle Obama is one of them. Her father was a good black man who got a job, got married, and raised a nuclear family, all in the appropriate order. Conversely there are a lot of ghetto white people who are on welfare and have broken homes and their kids sell drugs. Black males who adhere to the false dichotomy need to stop watching television and get out of the neighborhood and visit places like Chelsea, or Alphabet City or the projects over on 9th and 10th Avenues.
Once you’ve gotten rid of your white measuring stick here’s what you should do:
1. Get saved – The first step to us valuing ourselves as people is by understanding that our worth comes from the fact that we were made in the image of God. He is a God who thought it was worth it to humble himself, come down to earth, suffer the infirmity of flesh, the indignation of the cross, and even death to save us from sin. Yes, this includes black males (even though the churches are filled with black females- c’mon guys, represent!). You can’t ever get down on yourself once you realize this. We need to be more preoccupied in how we appear before God and not “white society.” Yes, the white man seems to be in control but God IS in control. Don’t worry about what the white man can do for you. God can do a lot better. Don’t worry about what the white man can do to you. God can do a lot worse. Now I know some will say –No way that’s a “white man’s God”. If you do your research, you’ll find that God isn’t white and the majority of the people God worked through in the Bible were not white. They ranged the gamut of colors. In any case, the Bible doesn’t make many references to color cause it’s a non-issue. You know why? Cause if you love God, he’ll love you back no matter what color you are. In fact, He made you the color you are! You know why? Because he likes you that way! Don’t be bitter about God or the Bible because some men took liberties with the truth and lied (ahem - slave owners).
2. Read your Bible – Who ever said life didn’t come with instructions? Personally, if I were in charge of the world, every baby would leave the hospital with that little plastic bracelet and a Bible. No really! It’s not all washed up. You’ll find a lot of things in it make perfect sense. A popular misconception is that the Bible contains a lot of contradictions. I’ve read it from cover to cover and haven’t found any such thing! Trust me, it will change your life!
3. STOP WATCHING TV! – It’s all media non-sense. It’s supposed to make you feel less than so you will buy stuff to feel better. It’s also a brainwashing tool that is used to support the institutional discrimination that exists. Yes, even the history and science channel (note they never discuss our history or our scientists).
4. Make a self-improvement plan – Stop saying ‘I can’t’. Try. Even if you fail, at least you tried. Make it a learning experience. Take a self-assessment think about what you need to change to become a better person. Stop blaming other people. As long as you focus on others you’ll never do anything for yourself. You can’t do anything about other people, but you can do something about you. What ever you decide to do stick with it even if it gets difficult. And if you’ve got a drug or alcohol habit (even if it’s a little one) please think of squashing it.
5. Make an effort to learn about your own culture and share it with others. They’re not teaching African-American history, literature, religion, music, art, etc. in the schools. Go to the library, bookstore, internet and learn about you. African-Americans have done a lot of great things, even when we were slaves. Then share it with the kids in you’re community – they need it. Trust me, I’m a teacher. They’re not teaching this in school!!!!
6. STAY OUT OF THE CLUB!!! – Have you ever heard of anything good happening there? Really? Really?
7. Get involved in your community – unemployed? There are a bunch of places where you can volunteer your time including the public schools (if ever there were a place in need to strong black males, this is the joint), the city parks department, assisted living communities, libraries, hospitals, the National Action Network – that’s right, you can watch the corners at night with Rev. Al – for real!
8. Help a brother out – find some other black male in your community and really bond with that guy. A real friendship. Mentor a young kid you know who’s mom is struggling and dad has checked out. Got a job? If you hear of an opening, try to hook a brother up. Who cares if the boss thinks you’re being political. If he can put his friend’s cousin in the job, why can’t you recommend your man from round the way? You know a brother thinking of checking out on his responsibilities as a family man, encourage him to do the right thing.
9. Stop it with the screwing contests - Better to have one good woman who has your back than 12 who don’t give a rat’s behind about anything except cash. I’ve never thought it was a point for boasting anyway. Think about it. I mean really think about it. You mean you’ve had all those women and you weren’t really feeling any of them. Hmmmm. (mental note: If he asks you if you want to work out with him at the gym sometime, say you’re busy)
10. Give our ladies their props – If you bash the black woman, you’re only hurting yourself. Your mother is a black woman, your sister is a black woman, and your daughter is a black woman. If you hate black women you hate yourself! Stop blaming the women for your own shortcomings. If you haven’t met a good black woman, it just might be your own fault. Some guys have bad taste in women and then blame the women. It’s like the kids who eat too much candy and then when they get a stomach ache, they blame the candy. I’ll address this more in my next blog entitled “You can’t catch salmon with sharkbait”