It never ceases to bewilder me as an African American male whenever I see articles written by Whites describing my reality—so much for my freedom of speech. Sometimes it is quite distorted and completely subjective.
All too often, young Black men are depicted as angry individuals, resonating toward a criminal life of selling or using drugs—irresponsible or absent when it comes to taking care of their children, which are usually born out of wedlock. They are depicted as lacking the motivation and drive to pursue secondary education; disrespectful and abusive toward women, especially Black women; devoid of decency and morality; and often shown as likely felons destined to be incarcerated.
These negative and profane depictions are constantly and relentlessly being thrown into the heads of young Black men subconsciously or subliminally by a predominately White controlled media. Negative portrayals of young Black men are relentlessly projected on TV, in movies, and blasted onto the front pages of our newspapers. It is no wonder that Black young men are feared by other races, even their own.
There may be some truth that some of us, like all men, regardless of their race, fall into some of these categories. But is it fair to paint all African American males with one paintbrush? To the contrary, I can relate to more African American males defying the negative characteristics the media projects upon them. They have a positive and optimistic outlook, regardless of how the cards may seem to be stacked against them.
I’m not saying there are not some young Black men who swelter in poverty and hopelessness, adhering to the degrading practices expected of them from a manipulative and calculating oppressive system. I will be the first to say, I do not condone unethical and criminal behavior just because you are destitute or poverty stricken, but we know it is prevalent in certain areas. And the truth is that you can find deplorable behavior in any ethnical or racial group of men. It seems all too often, the media goes out of its way to highlight the shortcomings they find in a selective group of males.
There have always been African Americans impervious to the lies of inadequacy and inferiority hurled towards them by their oppressors, knowing the truth only motivated many of them to work harder praying for the opportunity to dismiss the degrading myths. If one remembers, historically before integration, Blacks worked together forming their own businesses and supporting each other to sustain and prosper in their own segregated communities. It was a form of self-survival arising from a highly racist and discriminatory time.
However when you go back and study the times, some would argue that Blacks fared better economically before integration than in any time in United States history—regardless of the barriers facing them from a predominately oppressive society. Black men were the backbone of their families.
We had more successful Black entrepreneurs and businesses supported by the Black community. We had nuclear families with fathers and mothers and relatives intact rearing children. The church was regularly attended and served as our refuge for spiritual and political motivation. For the most part, we knew our history, and we were united in seeking the basic opportunities and liberties afforded to other citizens of the United States of America.
Our oppressors were adamant in working harder to break up the unity that they saw occurring in the Black community. Our oppressors’ major plot was to destroy the Black home, which they saw as the strength of our unity. This downwards spiral has been successful and even continues today with future attempts toward emasculating Black men. One of the major objectives was in turning the Black woman against the Black man by offering Black women economic advantages over the Black man causing Black women to further belittle and emasculate Black men.
While the efforts to destroy the Black man may be obvious to some, out of the ashes have risen the future and promise of our continuance and resilience as a people. We have some of the sharpest, brightest, and career driven Black young men among us who are reaching unprecedented heights in their areas of interest. They are conscious, driven, and committed to excellence.
I have been fortunate to see some of them grow up to be doctors, layers, engineers, educators, health care providers, technology specialists, police, firemen and entrepreneurs. These young men (as well as women) are fearsome and are going forward not looking back. They defy the negative stereotypes and are working on developing a Black economic base where we will not just work for others but own and run our own businesses. So much for attempts by negative media to define Black males. I was taught if you are going to tell the truth, tell the whole truth.