Stumbling Out Of The Blacks: African-American Males And Flawed Cultural Priorities. : ThyBlackMan

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Stumbling Out Of The Blacks: African-American Males And Flawed Cultural Priorities.

September 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Education, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( Years ago, I was honored to listen to Judge Greg Mathis, a native of Detroit, Michigan, as he delivered a keynote address regarding “the endangered black male.”

As I listened to Mathis talk about his prior existence as an “endangered black male,” a situation that the famed Judge freely admits he was partially responsible for, my mind drifted to the issues that envelope so many black males regardless of age.

Although I am sure that Charles Dickens did not have black males in mind when he penned the classic phrase “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” There are occasions when it appears that black males are the focus of Dickens reverberating phrase. As a Professor of African-American Studies, there is no more sobering realization that it is the best of times and the worst of times than when I am standing in front of a classroom that is increasingly devoid of black male collegians.

While it is impossible to refute that the opportunities available to black males are far greater than they were twenty years ago, it is equally unreasonable to argue that there are fewer black males positioned to access such opportunities. The above failings are attributable to a host of issues ranging from personal inadequacies through racial bigotry and institutional racism.

I have always been disappointed to find that with all of the trials-and-tribulations black males face, so many of them bypass realistic opportunities during their rush to an unforgiving path leading to nowhere. A recent conversation with a disenchanted black male student served as a much-needed reminder that far too often many young black males cannot get out of their own way.

The alluded to conversation between this young male and myself were contextualized by a haze of marijuana and cell phone interruptions; obstacles that most adults would not dare even to attempt to conquer as a pre-requisite to providing advice to wayward youth.

After a bit of small talk regarding rap music, this young man shared what he was unwilling to do, a subtle hint of what I should expect from him during class time. Considering that this was our initial encounter, I had no choice but to believe that he was truthful about plans to rarely attend class, complete assignments, or complete assigned readings. This young man who “reeked of marijuana” in a fashion that reminded me of Pigpen, the Peanuts character that carried an interesting aroma with him as if it were a shadow, unashamedly stated, “Doc, school just ain’t my thang.” My feelings vacillated between being offended, shocked, amused, and puzzled.

Although I would like to say that this is one of the few times that I have had to deal with a student whose “logic” was severely hampered by a combination of alcohol and drugs, such would be a blatant lie. Most people who have seriously dealt with black youth will tell you that this young man is not a rarity.

It is this population that Judge Mathis was addressing during his keynote address when he charged “If you want to do drugs or sell drugs, you know where they do that at, so go there; don’t come onto a collegiate campus with that mess. If you prefer such a lifestyle, go and live with those who harbor the same values that you do. Don’t come onto a black college campus and try to be the dope man. Ghetto behavior and value system belong in the ghetto.” Of course, the audience received Judge Mathis’ comments with boisterous applause.

Each encounter with such young men leaves me with a host of questions. However, there is possibly no more pressing one than “Young brother, what happened to you during your brief time on Earth?

The above question is a particularly important one that seeks to understand why so many young black males have become convinced that a drug-infested, vulgar, disrespectful, misogynist lifestyle and worldview is the personification of what a “black man ought to be and ought to do.

The alluded to black males have a severely flawed cultural frame of reference. Unfortunately for so many young black men, our cultural frame of reference is not only crucial to our understanding of the world but also holds the potential to serve as the primary determinant in our failure. Verification of this point is found with anyone who has achieved anything in life as they will tell you that their success was not accidental; instead, a by-product of a developed recipe for success that they used to turn their dreams into reality. When viewed through this lens, it seems ludicrous that any sane person interested in bettering their life would seek to convince themselves that adherence to a backward culture resting on heavy use of marijuana, poor school/work attendance, amoral behavior, and a shocking hostility toward intellectualism are ingredients in any recipe for success.

If nothing else, life experiences have taught me that a crucial step in maintaining my sanity is picking and choosing my spots. Those life principles led me to not intrude on this young man’s flawed philosophies of “What a black man ought to do and ought to be.” I have learned that it is nearly impossible for a small segment of black males to free themselves from the mental and cultural chains that have been restraining them for so long that they are unaware of their existence.

That compulsion to uplift young black males remains; I guess that I will try and try again with others that I come across.

Staff Writer; Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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One may also connect with this brother via TwitterDrJamestJones.

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