Countering the Thug Consciousness in Young Black Males.

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( Mentality. Mind-set. These two words point to a type of approach to a given task. A basketball player must have the right mindset to play the game at an optimal level. A politician must approach a town hall meeting with the correct mentality if he or she wishes to connect with constituents on more than a granular level.

Either approach is a type of consciousness.

As a mentor, I’ve come across hundreds of young men in our community, from fifth grade up to high school through young adult age groups. These encounters included one on one as well as group interaction.

The dominant characteristic I have run across in these young brothers is one of non-chalant disengagement. Too often, they subscribe to an identity marked by staged behavior, masking their true intention with what authors Richard Majors and Janet Billson termed “cool pose” (Cool Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America, Touchstone 1992).

While most black adult men are not thugs, too many of our young black males have adopted the consciousness of ‘thug’ life to communicate their wants, needs and expectations. In far too many cases, this identity is beginning at alarmingly early ages.

‘Thug’ life is the adversarial behavior adopted by some men as a means of communicating an antisocial attitude toward the greater society and made infamous by imagery associated with cinematic and music presentation.

How must our young black men approach the peculiar task of living while black and male in America without taking on the peculiar and often negative antics of thug life? We must develop the consciousness necessary for academic and personal success that will motivate and inspire our young black males to achieve in spite of the odds against them. The pillars of this consciousness are communication, conflict resolution and community service.

Mindset versus identity.

In many ways and in many of our communities this is happening – but not enough!

We tell our kids to be different, to excel in what they believe to be the best route for success. The problem is these young, immature mindsets are given to latch on to the most convenient means to forming an identity – so why not the ‘thug’ life, the lingua franca of the streets.

One of the most significant factors surrounding the rise of the thug identity is the decline of church attendance by black families over the past two decades.

Church attendance for blacks has been declining for years, especially impacting the homes of single mothers raising sons, while the imagery of thug identity has coalesced in the media and cinema (e.g. the rise of hip hop, high viewership of films such as Menace to Society etc.)

It would be simple to argue that the decline in black church attendance is due to the insufficiency of what the black church offers in terms of ministry for black males. Unfortunately, in most cases, that may very well be the case.

What harm, though, can an environment where Christian ethics and morality is taught on a consistent basis, do to a young man? Moreover, what is the alternative to not placing a young mind in a church environment? Watching television? Xbox?

The point is that just the mere exposure of black young males to a church environment evinces some degree of positive results. According to a recent study, black boys who attend church are 30% less likely to engage in a life of crime.

Think about that. You reduce by thirty percent the likelihood of your son reverting to ‘street life’ as a means of getting what he wants by simply exposing him to a church environment. Those who do not place their children into a positive position for successful outcomes do more harm than good to those children.

When I was a kid, church was not an option; my two older brothers and I were in church practically every night of the week and all day on Sunday. Back then, it wasn’t what the church offered, it was just the fact that we were in church that mattered.

We need a fresh approach to responding to the crisis of our young black males. Maybe, though, that ‘new approach’ just needs to be rediscovered.

Staff Writer; W. Eric Croomes

This talented brother is a holistic lifestyle exercise expert and founder and executive coach of Infinite Strategies LLC, a multi-level coaching firm that develops and executes strategies for fitness training, youth achievement and lifestyle management. Eric is an author, fitness professional, holistic life coach and motivational speaker.

In October 2015, Eric released Life’s A Gym: Seven Fitness Principles to Get the Best of Both, which shows readers how to use exercise to attract a feeling of wellness, success and freedom (Infinite Strategies Coaching LLC, 2015) –