Being a Black Man

As you may or may not know, the Washington Post is doing a series on being a black man in America today (you can listen to the report on it here at NPR.org) The series (and the accompanying survey) is mainly centered around black males, but I do believe some of the main points brought out in the NPR report are valid across the nation. One of the major things brought out in the report is the internalization of many stereotypes about black men in black men.

There is one account given about a black Brown University official who was in his car one evening and observed another black man approaching his position from down the street. He (being the guy in the car) instinctively put down the locks in his car, and was later very conflicted about his actions and his initial feelings toward the situation. Here he was, a black man himself, realizing for the first time his very own internalization of negative stereotypes about black males. The NPR report goes on to say that the Brown official recognizes that his response of locking his car doors wasn’t in response to that particular black male, but to the image of black men in general that he had internalized as a true fact.

One of the more interesting thing the radio report points out is that among the different segments of society – black males, black females, white males, and white females – black males are hardest on themselves. A majority of black males, both young and old, believe that black males as a whole focus too much on sex and sports, and not enough on job performance and education. We, according to the poll, are also more prone to believe that the “system”, as it were, is partly to blame for black males not getting ahead, along with us not doing much for ourselves to begin with. In other words, not only do we make things hard for ourselves, but we also have to deal with a biased system; and in a way, I believe that it is the current state of the system that lead many black men down the paths they ultimately lead:

1.) Over-crowded schools understaffed by unqualified teachers tends to leave a rather bad taste in the mouths of many black people in general, but specifically black men. Education is the foundation to a good life in this country, and it is systematically denied in large quantities to the poor and disenfranchised (blacks, Hispanics, poor Asians, etc).

2.) Gentrification of black neighborhoods lead to blacks pulling up their roots to move to inner city projects and dirt-poor ghettos where the only thing that pays well is the crime. Case in point. I have friends that live and go to school in Austin, TX. They’re currently renting a house in a specific neighborhood where they lived across the street from a black family. As such things go in college towns, there is generally an exodus of sorts of people moving off campus to live. Well, to support a school the size of UT, many neighborhoods have sprung up; but Austin, like many other urban cities, has limited space that has direct access to the campus; because of this fact, many black and poor white families are ousted by landlords who are selling properties to development and management companies who are looking to make a pretty penny by selling cheap, convenient housing to middle and upper class students able to afford to live off campus. This forcing out of families often-times causes families to move out of the better-performing school districts into the over-crowded, under-staffed schools of inner city communities.

3.) Due to spending many years in poorly performing schools, many frustrated black men and women opt not to go to college, or opt to attend the cheaper community college and a 2-year associates degree. This leaves many people with an inferior, or incomplete education, automatically disqualifying themselves from high-paying jobs that people with Bachelors and Masters can obtain. This, in turn, leads to families not having enough to move to better school districts, and the cycle continues.

My own personal experiences with being a black male, especially here in the south, have gone from the extremely mild, to the plain extreme. I’ve been pulled over, searched for drugs, and stopped for driving in my own, mostly white, neighborhood. I’ve even had a shotgun pulled on me by a young, white cop, simply for being “a big one”, as he put it. One of the things this poll conducted by the Washington Posts points out is that by-and-large, many Americans believe that life is getting better for black males, and that may be true, to some extent. There is, however, a very long way to go before myths and stereotypes are dispelled and the American populous is no longer afraid to look black males in the eyes as equals and as people.

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~ by Deuce on September 6, 2006.

2 Responses to “Being a Black Man”

  1. Your response is so disheartening. As I read what you wrote about the behavior of the boys in your new neighborhood, I found it extremely sad that these boys were not just boys to you that were doing the wrong things, but these were “black” boys.

    These boys’ behavior it seems, has been automatically been attributed to their race, though there are a mirage of other factors that could be involved. Poverty, poor parenting, poor decision making, poor role models, etc and etc.
    See children and teens for what they are- children and teens. Give it a chance to talk ‘to’ them and not ‘at’ them, and you might get somewhere.

    I’ve taught in schools in urban areas for almost 10 years, and 99% of the time, children/teens are reasonable and rational and will return respect when it is mutual.

    I hope that this message is useful to you.

  2. Hey Ice9,

    It is sad that you were pulled for being black in your mostly white neighborhood. The police are at times more criminal than the criminals.

    Half the time, at least where we live they don’t even do their job.

    To quote you below, leads me also to comment as follows:

    “There is, however, a very long way to go before myths and stereotypes are dispelled and the American populous is no longer afraid to look black males in the eyes as equals and as people.”

    We live in the South as well and moved here from “SW Florida”, which is really more Midwest transplant than true South.

    We moved here to a mostly black neighborhood in a city with a large black population as we did not want our girls growing up in some holier than thou white bread Disney-esque existance that we grew up in.

    However, and to your point quoted above, what we are seeing in our neighborhood is absolutely disgusting. We are constantly trying to explain the behaviour of the young black men to our daughters and we can’t.

    They litter constantly as they walk through the streets, sing rap and all it’s vulgarity in full voice thinking all the while that they are making some profound statement about blacks in general and all the while not realizing that they are not only an embarasment to themselves but to all people regardless of race.

    One guy tried to get my then 7 year old to smoke pot as he walked past our house. She refused.

    They show zero respect for people or their property, they drive on the wrong side of the road at extreme speeds and if any of these actions are brought to their attention you are immediately hit with a barage of vulgar insults or they “play dumb” as if they didn’t see the posted speed limits or didn’t know that littering their own neighborhood is not only utterly stupid but as well illegal.

    It is as if they are hell bent on pulling down the entire black culture. In some ways, if they can’t make it, neither should any other brother.

    They are their own worst enemy and this seems to escape them.

    Can you shed some light on this attitude and behaviour?

    I’m just one white guy without answers that make any sense.

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