The Disposability of Black Men

Black men are brutally murdered and systematically incarcerated. Is this genocide?

Death gives a shit about your color
But yet I see me dead young brothas
I’m going crazy out here
Seein 24 Brothas die by the end of the year
—Spice 1, “Welcome to the Ghetto”

Being black in a culture that denigrates blackness is tough. —Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

The Black Death

After a day of violence on the streets of Chicago, a mother of four whom had already lost three of her children to gun violence was informed that her remaining son had been shot to death. Meanwhile, four other individuals were killed on the same day as the homicide count in Chicago exceeds 500.

Often missing from news accounts is the fact that many of the deceased are African American males. More frightening, this trend is not unique to Chicago, but mirrors national statistics.

In their review of the literature, researchers Angela Hattery and Earl Smith reported that Black males, especially those between the ages of 18-24, represent the largest homicide victimization group at 91.1 per 100,000. Furthermore, the deaths of young Black males seldom sparks national outrage; at best, societal reaction to such news is met with ambivalence.

America’s infatuation with viewing African American men brutalized

I also feel that part of society’s seeming ambivalence towards the death of Black males is due to the role of Hollywood cinema and media. American culture is replete with cinematic images of Black men being brutalized and ultimately disposed. Consider the 1992 Oscar winning film “Unforgiven,” where Morgan Freeman’s character is beaten to death by the town sheriff played by Gene Hackman.

In a sense, African American men who are incarcerated are at risk for becoming “virtual non-citizens,” with limited ability to significantly affect society’s economic and political institutions.

The movie “Training Day” starred A-list actor Denzel Washington as a crooked cop who was ultimately shot to death in one of the movie’s closing scenes. For his service, Washington was awarded with the most coveted award in Hollywood, an Oscar.

Fellow A-list actor Will Smith is yet to win an Oscar, however he has starred in several major blockbuster movies including “Seven Pounds” and “I Am Legend.” According to one movie review site, “I Am Legend” remains the highest grossing film in which Smith played the leading role. Both movies end with his death, an apparent suicide in the former, while he died protecting another character in the latter.

To be fair, Smith, Freeman and Washington have starred in high-earning movies in which the plot did not involve their eventual demise. Nevertheless, there appears to be trend, both in Hollywood and in mainstream media, of creating images of Black men being killed, tortured or beaten. Furthermore, it is my belief that such images desensitize the viewer to violence against Black men and significantly impacts our reaction to hearing about such violence.

Modern Genocide?

Angela Hattery and Earl Smith reported that African American men make up nearly 45% of the incarcerated population, with roughly one million Black men imprisoned. There are also sentence disparities along racial lines. When charged with an offense, Black males are more likely than White males to be imprisoned and receive longer and more severe sentences for the same crime.

Additionally, the consequences of such high rates of young Black males being imprisoned reverberate throughout the community. Many of these men are imprisoned at a time when they are most likely to contribute significantly to the financial sector and produce families of their own. Even upon release, they remain well behind their peers in lifetime earnings potential.

Furthermore, a racially profiled system seems intent on hurrying young African American males to their institutionalized fate as these individuals are more likely to be randomly searched and have force used against them by authorities.

Hattery and Smith equate penal system institutionalization to present-day genocide, in that both operate to eliminate individuals from society. Being incarcerated restricts and severely limits future opportunities for professional productivity. In a sense, African American men who are incarcerated are at risk for becoming “virtual non-citizens,” with limited ability to significantly affect society’s economic and political institutions.

Meanwhile, Caucasian Americans remain more likely to commit white collar crimes, which harm millions with job, insurance or pension loss. Despite the systematic impact of their crimes, it is my view that their offenses are met with less societal stigma.

Systematic Eradication?

Are the facts above sufficient to conclude that Black men are being systematically eradicated? Such a conclusion may be too much of an oversimplification, however, there is no question that widespread intervention remains critical. The problems described above have persisted for quite some time, and frankly, I’ve said very little that’s news. The more relevant question is, what are we going to do about it?

Attention must be paid to systematic oppression. Despite the recent re-election of a bi-racial president, racism remains a staple of American social politics. Such biases appear pervasive within American criminal justice system and more must be written, discussed and intervened upon in order to challenge the racial disparities existing among the prison population.

Criminal Justice Transformation

The legal system seems more intent on criminalization than rehabilitation. And this is true regardless of cultural background. This approach fails to prepare the individual for exiting the legal system therefore he emerges, at times more ill-equipped to demonstrate competence and with fewer of coping skills, as he had upon entering prison.

The so-called war on drugs has been an abysmal failure. Because of the bias existing, people of color suffer more of the casualties of the war on drugs, making it a matter of social justice to end this failed war. I think we need to take a serious look at the criminal justice system and what determines serious crimes and sentencing. The penitentiaries are overflowing with drug users and abusers; it is my belief that these individuals should receive rehabilitation services aimed at skill building and reducing addiction, as opposed to stuffing our jails with non-violent offenders.

Gun violence and the easy accessibility of guns have to be part of this narrative, and yet it’s fiction to think that tighter gun control legislation will create a utopia or significantly reduce the high numbers of Black men imprisoned.

Education

As clichéd as this may sound, more has to be done to assist the educational plight of young African American men as there are strong correlations between academic success in childhood and long term success and adjustment during adulthood. This includes promoting those programs that are already doing their part to reduce the dropout rates among African American males. Organization such as 100 Black Men and the Urban League are two of the most well known organizations committed to assisting the psycho-social efficacy of minority youth.

Yes, white supremacy should be confronted, as should the biases within the criminal and mental health systems. I also believe it is fair to state that a patriarchal society underlies each of these mechanisms as well. Nevertheless, change often comes from the ground up, and it is on that level where we must seek to understand what programs or approaches have and continue to be successful and how can we continue to implement such programs.

The Strength of Black Men

Black men are not disposable. We are collectively and individually growth oriented, resourceful, tenacious and precocious. This is why a history marred by white supremacy has failed to destroy the overall productivity of our community.

The psychologist in me believes that too often we are asking the wrong questions. Sometimes I think that when trying to understand how we can assist the plight of Black males, we’re asking the wrong question. Instead of strictly asking what are the problems which such individuals face en route to adulthood, we should also implement a more strength oriented approach that asks: What are the programs that are already working for Black youth?

Media and Racism

Finally, in reference to the media I should acknowledge that there are several films which promote healthy relationships and exploit the heterogeneity within the Black community. However, those films which perpetuate images of Black men under assault should be confronted and more critical analysis should be written on the impact of such images. Authors like Mark Anthony Neal, bell hooks, Michael Eric Dyson and Patricia Collins are a few of the researchers who have tackled this complex issue and have much to teach about harmful images of Black males.

There is no question that the negative images of Black males in the media, African American male homicide rate, and rates of Black male imprisonment must be confronted, and examples of Black men achieving academic, personal and professional success presented to counter the pervasive negative image of Black men. When we do so, we must ask: What resources assisted these individuals with productivity, and how can we utilize mechanisms already at work in order to assist the lives of other African American males?

 

Read more on The Disposability of Men on The Good Life.

Image credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University/Flickr

About Billy Johnson II

Dr. Bill Johnson II is a Psychologist and author of "Intimate Partner Violence: A Culturally Competent Approach to Clinical Training and Treatment". He writes about domestic violence, racism, mental health and the the impact of traditional masculinities on men and boys. Dr. Bill is dedicated to becoming a more compassionate, loving, and forgiving human being. In his spare time he is working on his dance moves! You can follow him on twitter @drbill2012.

Comments

  1. Tom B…Whats up? Damn man,sorry to hear about your injuries,keep movin’.

  2. Joan…Hi Joan,how goes it? I’ve been busy working and writing and coaching-it’s the playoffs for O-High.I needed a break anyway.

  3. Bill Johnson II says:

    I want to thank everyone who has spent time and energy responding to my article. I am going to attempt to respond to a few of the comments or what I feel are some of the major themes that have come out of the comments. As someone that both writes avidly as well as reads voraciously, my time is important and I find that an article has to have a significant impact on me to elicit a written response. It may be that I am very angry or frustrated by the content, or I am excited and satisfied with the author’s words, either way, I consider every response important to me because you were willing to take time out of your day and write a comment.

    I agree with a number of you who have noted that the majority of Black men are killed by Black men. “Black on Black” violent crime are a tremendous problem and although there has been numerous books and articles written on the subject, there is without question a need for more research and ultimately understanding and intervention in order to curb the frequency of such behavior. For those of you who raised this issue I greatly appreciate you holding me accountable, for on reflection I do believe I should have made this fact apparent within my article. However, to be clear at no point in my article did I (subtly or otherwise) imply that the bulk of Black men are killed by White men (or White people generally).

    Speaking of literature on this topic, Amos N. Wilson’s book “Black-On-Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination” is an absolute masterpiece on the topic author comprehensive light on the issue of Black on Black homicide and the intrapsychic and systematic dynamics influencing such behavior.

    Furthermore, my reference to genocide was directly in relation to the large numbers of Black men incarcerated. I stand by my words that the prison system and indeed the legal system both are in need of major reform. No longer can we be content top simply “house” men of any race for issues related to abusing drugs. More must be done in the way of rehabilitation in order to reduce rates of recidivism. Furthermore, more programs are necessary in order to re-acculturate such individuals back into society after they have completed their time. The fact that such individuals leave imprisonment without the ability to impact the political system and well behind in their ability to impact the economic system led Angela Hattery and Earl Smith to question whether this was similar to modern day genocide. I stand by this correlation and believe it indeed has merit.

    In reference to issues of racial bias within criminal justice, there are numerous articles and books which have consistently shown that Black men serve more time than White men for comparable crime. I believe that this points to biases inherent within U.S. society in general and the penal system more specifically.

    Again, I do take on board those of you who confronted my declaration that more White men are guilty of White color crime than Black men. I thank you for keeping me honest and holding me accountable.

    I further made and stand by the argument that the murder of Black men is not often met with societal outrage, for if it were, I do not believe we would see Black men killed at such significant numbers every year.

    I agree with those of you who stated that this apathy is also gendered in that the death of men more generally does not receive the same attention as women. I would add that I encountered one study which demonstrated that the homicide rate of both White and Black women has decreased over the last 20 years, while the number of Black men killed has increased over the same time span.

    Ogwriter, I again believe that you and I are largely on the same page involving this issue. Further, I also appreciate your willingness to comment on this issue and to introduce important points that I neglected in my essay. As I have said to you before, I am glad that you have dedicated your life to assisting children and especially young boys with growing to be productive men.

    Again we differ on our understanding of the role that feminist therapy/theory can play in assisting us with understanding masculinities across the color continuum. I stand by my belief in the ability of feminism to teach us much about gender based oppression among other issues. I would add that this approach to therapy is not limited to exploring sexism. For example, Object Relations therapy, which has strong feminist underpinnings, talks considerably about the role of childhood, parent-child relations, child abuse, and childhood attachment. This therapy also discussing gender dynamics and the context of patriarchal socialization (which I know you disagree with).

    • Bill…What;s up, I hope you and yours are well. I want to clarify something about my theories on teaching masculinity and how I raised my sons. I don’t teach boy’s how to be men, I teach them how to be good people, which in my view is inclusive of being a good man.
      Following some hardcore formula makes little sense because life doesn’t follow the rules and once one wraps themselves in an identity that gets destroyed, there is chaos left. One day one may be working and the next, because of layoffs, may be at home raising the kids. Gender constraints on masculinity and femininity, in this world are ludicrously outmoded.What I do teach boy’s is that their version of manhood is theirs and can’t be taken away from them.
      My experience with masculinity in black culture is that it is impermanent and can be taken from you for breaking the rules.This in my view and experience causes tremendous anxiety that is hardly noticed by men or women.Black culture-men and women- is obsessed with issues of masculinity and I wanted to free my sons from this nightmare.

  4. Ogwriter, I have a question for you. Do you believe that there is going to become a positive turning point or that the male African American is leading the way to where all males societal and family structure will be in 20 to 50 years?

    • Rick…I might rephrase your point, in that African American men aren’t leading the way but are a measuring stick for men that can be used to judge the condition of men in general in America.This is because the same forces that affect him are usually more profound in relationship to his ability to deal with them because of his historical lack of status.For instance, black men (and poor men) have been struggling with issues of masculinity from the moment they came to America.Why? Because any man knows that masculinity and a steady paycheck go hand in hand. I mean if the Constitution says that you are an animal and everyone has the legal right to treat you as an animal this is powerful stuff to have to contend. Let us not forget that even free blacks were considered inferior. So, not only are you not a human being but you are animal. Yet, black men were expected to still be men—if not supermen- and that’s the bizarre, schizophrenic, impossible way they were judged. All of this happened against a backdrop of hate that made it easy for him to be disposed of. Remember, for humans, before they can destroy you, a public case must be made,whereby the object to be destroyed, is overtime relentlessly discredited for the express purpose of dehumanization. And if it is not really a human being then destruction-disposing- is easy. It seems quite clear to me that white men have experienced a major loss of status in America, have been dehumanized, have insecurity because of lack of resources and uncertainty about the future and his role in it and is being by a standard is being judged by a standard of masculinity that is contradictory and at odds with his reality. I think the recent economic crisis was a major catalyst in prompting the awakening that I am witnessing.

      I might also add that for Asian men, with some exceptions, this analogy doesn’t work as well.Even during the economic crisis, Asian men were not hit nearly as hard as white and black men were.And the high school where I work, the Asian young men aren’t in crisis like the young-men of color.However, I can’t emphasis enough that not ALL young-men of color are in trouble. I think there is something that can be learned from looking at other cultures and how they live life. To be honest the men that seem to be having the most trouble are those that come from cultures that have completely-men and women-bought into, without question, the mainstream American value systems. which is a loopy mix of nonsense.Which, for the most part, African American men have understood from day one.
      There are tons of books, poems, plays, stories written by prominent black male writers;Malcolm X, Franz Fanon, Claude Brown, James Baldwin, Leroi Jones and others, that have discussed , at length the problems with masculinity in America.

    • Rick…I realized I didn’t answer your central question, so I will give you my opinion. I don’t know exactly what the future holds as I believe there are multiple scenarios that can play out. I think what needs to happen, unfortunately, is something major that cuts through the bullshit, that galvanizes Americans across the lines that divide us. It must be something major and it must be painful because American is a culture of dynamic change;there is nothing subtle about it. Major events, like WW2 which quite unintentionally, moved along race relations and women’s rights are a prime example of this.Women wouldn’t have been working in those factories had there not been a “shortage” of male labor due to the war. And black men and Asian men and brown men serving in WW2 would be the catalyst that pushed the military to integrate before Brown vs.The Board of Education would end forced segregation in America. Change In America happens usually as a reaction to something else.

      I hope that as women, especially, “liberal women” continue to gain a higher profile in public life, running for political office, they will be forced to be more inclusive. I hope reporters will do their jobs, not like at MSNBC or Fox news, and hold these women accountable by asking them pointed questions about their politics, making sure that they serve all citizens. This is a lot to hope for, I know.

      This process can be expedited but I have little hope that it will happen. If I can be frank, I think white guys are blowing it, big time. The reason is due to their comparative position relative to other men in culture, they have the best chance of being heard and of helping others be heard but they are not very effective, if at all, at raising issues of concern about men. Name me one politician, from any party, that speaks of what’s happening to men and boy’s with a sense of urgency. The Goodmen Project does some good in this area, but it is clear that the agenda isn’t to encourage or support men to be more aggressive in confronting the forces that bind them and are negatively impacting culture. The Goodmen Project is the feminists man’s version of Albert Finney’s character in Network, who famously ranted, ” I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more! ” The contemporary version is,” I’m mad as hell…oh I’m sorry, was I talking too loud, I wasn’t trying to be abusive.”

      • ogwriter–I’m in love with you. I couldn’t have summed it up better. Other than tossing 800lb Medusas in the room and raising the BS flag on the blogosphere to challenge men and women to re-think the unilateralism of feminism, I feel helpless…the Army of One.

        This is exactly the milk-toast attitude that I’ve been trying to challenge “I’m mad as hell…oh I’m sorry, was I talking too loud, I wasn’t trying to be abusive [or insensitive, or sexist, or FILL IN THE BLANK].” Look at the responses and you’ll see men on the defense. I’ve never seen so much milk-toast apathy. Where is their backbone? It should be pretty embarassing when I have bigger cajones than most white men…I think it’s coming from white men, but I can’t see color in a blog…maybe that’s a good thing.

        • Joan…I’m glad you cannot see me blush… but if you look real hard. I’m stumped my dear-completely and utterly stumped at the lack of moral imperative and agency demonstrated by white men in this arena. To be fair, Bill Johnson who is black, isn’t much better at exposing or criticizing the hazards of unilateral feminism. He won’t criticize feminism at all acting instead as if it is the answer.
          For me, I can for the most part, read between the lines and yes, it is white men leading this particular charge, albeit from the rear in quiet voices. On a number of occasions I have put the question of this lacking to men on this site and haven’t gotten a single response. So the new questions for you and I is how does one keep going, how does keep the flood waters of frustration at bay?

          • Good thing you can’t see me dance…because if you look real hard, I’ll be the one blushing.
            I noticed that same thing from Dr. Johnson, I liked the premise of his article, but his support of feminism clouds the male issue and the race issue. There almost needs to be a clear break from feminism to solve the race issues and the male issue. This is a perfect time to wake up white guys. Our ecomony is a mess, were coming out of a depression, the Euro is failing, housing market is still hasn’t recovered, unemployment, divorce rates, a general social malise, and even the price of bacon is up…and that’s one of my favorite indulgences too. 🙂 Things have been unstable for the last several years.

            I hit my frustration points and I stay away for awhile. I wouldn’t burn out on this stuff. The best thing I find is asking questions…that’s when I learn the most. Especially from you and few others, I’ve gained tremendous amount of respect for you. I’m grateful for the wealth of knowledge that you bring to these discussions. Thank you.

            • Joan…Speaking of bacon, I have a great recipe for a bacon and tuna fish sandwich. Fry up your bacon crispy and drain the fat on paper towels. The tuna, chunky albacore works best, should be mixed with Best Foods Sandwich Spread;you may want to use mayo,but it doesn’t taste as good as sandwich spread because it is not as sweet.The sweet salt taste is what makes it work. I don’t make it too wet or the bread gets soggy;yukk.I dice up purple onion and maybe red bell peppers to go in the tuna mix.I like to use fresh rustic sourdough from the bakery. Try it and tell what you think.

              I think I can help you with the process you in. What you feel is normal and is part of a stage of development one must go through as they become aware; shit, it is lonely at the top. As you have noticed from time to time frustration can well up and one has to remove oneself from the fray to maintain sanity. If you are aware of what is going on you can be better prepared to deal.I have been dealing with this stuff since I was 14.

              Some of what you feel is associated with the natural sense of isolation that comes with being ahead of the curve in a culture that is lagging behind you.The big thing is that the isolation, feeling powerless and stuck, leads to hopelessness that can lead to depression. This is actually a necessary part of being aware.I have found that the depression can be greatly mitigated by doing things that help the process like connecting with others who are aware. This can lighten the load.You are naturally, by getting away from time to time, trying to mitigate and reduce the frustration and sense of hopelessness. You have to build, brick by brick, a network of support for yourself. It doesn’t have to be big, but it must be supportive, but not inflexible.For most of us living outside the box by yourself is too difficult. I hope this helps.Love you, or something like that.

              • Ogwriter–I’m not sure if you received my last reply, but thank you. It’s good advice (and looks like a good recipe too) I’ve grown to appreciate my limitations and know when my efforts are no longer bearing fruit. Then it’s time to recharge the batteries…not give up, just recharge. Many of these topics are passionate and personal for all of us.
                But it is refreshing to connect with people who have been-there-done-that; it helps me.

      • Ogwriter … you said “This process can be expedited but I have little hope that it will happen. If I can be frank, I think white guys are blowing it, big time. The reason is due to their comparative position relative to other men in culture, they have the best chance of being heard and of helping others be heard but they are not very effective, if at all, at raising issues of concern about men. Name me one politician, from any party, that speaks of what’s happening to men and boy’s with a sense of urgency.”

        This is so true. For one thing, I believe that a lot of white men have fallen for feminism. All the time, not realizing what’s happened in the past and what’s happening now. As you can see here at GMP, feminism is prominent and countless responses to feminists by feminists paint an “all inclusive” motivation yet you and I know that main stream feminism isn’t all inclusive. Feminism, by its name alone says that their first order of business is to benefit women. The fact that even the so called forward thinking women who appear to have a balanced view, refuse to give up that feminist label. But I digress …

        White men have been walking around for 40 years wearing blinders. When I attempt to pull them into understanding how feminism had adversely affected them, they turn a blind eye. It’s not until they’re individually affected (child custody for example), they move along thinking all is good. I would venture to say that if most men were asked about the stay at home dad movement, they would attribute feminism as being the purposeful cause for the movement, as though it was their idea.

        What’s the old saying? “Ignorance is bliss.”

        • Tom—I have to agree you too. On several occasions on this site, I’ve publicly disassociated myself from the feminist label. I get a maelstrom of woman pouncing on me and very few men willing to disassociate with the label. They back down and then they apologize with the “Well, I’m a feminist, but I don’t like this or that.” In my experience, feminism has become a synonym for sexism, opportunism, and unilateralism….to benefit women.

          I welcome women’s equal rights, but not feminism. The problem is most people co-mingle equal rights and feminism. They are two separate issues.

          The bigger problem I see, feminism has had a negative impact on the African-American communities…especially the black male and his position in the family. Not all black males, but enough. That’s where we need to get black males, back in the home, leading his family, loving his wife, and raising his kids. Same thing has happened to white men, feminism has chipped away at the white male’s position in his home too. That’s where we need to get the white male too…back in his home, leading his family, loving his wife, and raising his kids.

          What’s keeping men out of their homes? Black women showing disrespect and dominance, white women showing disrespect and dominance, women putting a higher priority on their opinions than her man, ease of divorce, custodial rights, the fear of marriage, etc, etc. Who likes a disrespectful woman, who rejects the notion of nurturing, then files for divorce, keeps the kids and justifies it because women are better nurturers? I’m a woman; I can see the glaring hypocrisy. And custody is just one issue.

          Feminism is what is keeping men out of their homes, not equal rights.

  5. hard8bbc4mwf says:

    well aint it a cryin shame

  6. Tom B ..I have experienced this before, many times in fact.The black feminists narrative, as defined principally by bell hooks, on why young black men are in crisis says that it is because of the…wait for it…Their belief in the patriarchy. Just how she knows what every young black man is thinking I have yet to figure out. Feminist therapy first reared it’s head during the late 60’s and 70’s. My mothers therapist told her that her family was killing her and that she needed to divorce them in order to fulfill herself. This was very popular for a time and some vulnerable women, from all over the country, left their families.The woman who preached this toxicity was Betty Friedman.

  7. @ogwriter … as a feminist he may very well have boxed himself into a corner. What I mean by that is that he’s positioned himself, as I see many feminists have done, where they run the chance of being shunned if he steps outside that feminist box. The box has become much larger, But when it comes down to it, I don’t care what any feminist says, there is a core of feminism that still exists no matter how forward thinking the feminist may want to appear.

    Let’s be honest, many feminists struggle with the “family” unit, mom, dad and kids. Some have succeeded in redefining “family” so as to mask how they really feel. This is a perfect opportunity to share something that was just sent to me about the courts and fatherhood. Tell me, have things changed that much? No. Has the damage already been done? I think so.
    ““You have never seen a bigger pain in the ass than the Father who wants to get involved; he can be repulsive. He wants to meet the kid at three o’clock, take the kid out to dinner during the week, have the kid on his own birthday, talk to the kid on the phone every evening, go to every open school night, take the kid away for a whole weekend so they can be alone together. This type of Father is pathological.”
    – Judge Richard Hunter, former Chief Judge of the King’s County (Brooklyn) Family Court, 1985

    For any feminist that wonders why men struggle with feminism, read the above. This is a snippet of what men have encountered for a very long time.

  8. Tom B… to be sure I am not saying that feminism is the only cause of problems that men of color face. However, like you said the effects over the last 30 years of the constant barrage of insults I heard growing up; all men ain’t shit, no black man can do anything for me, all black men are like Ike Turner or like the men in A Color Purple,
    What is interesting and frustrating to me is that Bill Johnson never touches this subject matter and I have not seen in his analysis any reference to what affects of this kind of brainwashing has had on culture. Most therapist I have known place onus on recording and understanding what goes on in the home into their analysis. Yet, Bill seldom, if ever, touches on how these young men are being treated at home. Considering that he is self professed feminist therapist, I think his hands are tied.

    • Ogwriter … first things first. I’m kind of disappointed in the lack of dialogue with this topic, but not surprised. This is an important topic and look who’s responding? Where are the feminists?

      I was fortunate in that my parents were from a much older generation. When I was 20, my dad was in his 60’s. I was the youngest of 7. I guess that was to my benefit in that they weren’t subject to the feminism being pushed on families. Mom was happy being as she called it, “chief cook and bottle washer.” She ran the roost while my dad busted his ass keeping a roof over our heads, clothed and food on the table.

      Back when I was married in the early 70’s, my wife was often times looked down upon by women in the neighborhood in that she was a proud stay at home mom. She would hear things like, “you’re smarter then that, how can you stand staying at home all the time?” “Your husband is holding you back … you should stand up for yourself.” “So your husband has his career and you’re stuck at home with the kids.” Stuck at home with the kids???? I would love to know where these women are at today .. are they still married like we are?

      Feminists placed a lot of “value” on career and minimized motherhood. I can speak for myself, when I’m gone from this world, people won’t remember my career accomplishments but they will remember what kind of dad and husband I was. If anything, they will know who I was by the kids that I raised. That includes, of course, my wife as well.

      • Tom B… Well, Tom, I can’t say that I am disappointed… not anymore. The road is too long, the mountain is too steep to allow for such luxurious distractions. As for waiting for feminists to step in and step up;why?
        They seem to only be interested in using black men as political footballs. The only kind of black-man they seem to appreciate to is like the President. That is to say, a black-man who doesn’t speak about what ails him or what ails black men. And if he does speak about what ails him , he shouldn’t take up too much time or carry any expectation that there will be action taken on his issues; women always come first.That is say, a black man who sees the world through feminists glasses. He is loved by feminists for this.For young men of color who struggle, the President is a useless example to follow. He just doesn’t seem to care. So, what you speak of- the absence of feminists voices in this arena- is consistent with who they seem to be. And if I am wrong, please feminists, speak up, by all means.

  9. Tom B…You know man, I must apologize to you. I overreacted to what I perceived as an attack on the young men who I work with. I know the work you do and I respect that about you.It’s just that the image of these young-men is so egregiously mishandled by the press, like Fox News and MS.NBC and other institutions, that I feel compelled to come to their defense. In general, what the average American knows of the black male experience and how it relates to American history is abysmal.Yet, folks have lot’s of judgements about stuff they really don’t know anything about and whenever race is brought up on this site it gets ugly real quick.

    So, peace man, do your thing, I give you props. We should compare notes someday. I’m working for the school district trying to reduce violence in school by changing the culture. We are redesigning a the3 discipline structure for the school. campus.It’s funny but the parents involvement is no where to be found.

    • I see a lot of grass root organizing but as you said, funds are limited and accordingly, people spend what little money they have and help who they can, when they can. I struggle with what’s happening to youth in general. Between mixed signals (or no signals) lack of direction, we have a population of youth that’s drowning and don’t know it. They’ve been taught to live for the moment and don’t look to far past the now.

      History is a tool so that we don’t make the same mistakes over again. It’s a tool to teach us what works and what didn’t. Without knowing where we came from and how we got there, many of the mistakes are going to be repeated. You and I appear to be on the same page.

      I can relate to where you’re at in a school setting. Although we are a residential treatment center, all of our clients attend school on site. Part of my job is being an intervention specialist where I work with the kids on behavioral issues as well. I see so much potential in these broken kids, I only wish they could see the same. Yeah, we should compare notes some time.

      One last thing … and this is a personal thing with me and something that I hold true to this day. I will never ever lower the bar for any of these kids. IMO, lowering the bar is and of itself abuse. It says that you (the child), because you’re broken, you can’t do it. I’m sick of society lowering the bar for these kids. The amazing part is that in the fifteen years I’ve been doing this, these guys come up to my standard … the cool part at that point is that it’s no longer MY bar, it’s theirs. Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.

      • Oops, ogwriter … this was supposed to be at the beginning of what I siad above.

        @ogwriter, first off, you have nothing to apologize for in that I didn’t see and viciousness in your response. In fact, all of your responses are respectful.

        Actually, the community leaders I was referring to are not the young guys but the older guys who are in the lime light, center stage getting a lot of attention and I haven’t seen some of them do much of anything. Growing up in Chicago, I saw the “Machine” which is alive and well today. I know firsthand how the “machine” works.

      • Tom B.. you are so right. We don’t lower the bar, either, at least the bball coaching staff doesn’t.These kids are capable and supremely talented and brave and strong.They want to get better, they want rules and limits and guidance.Mostly, they want someone to care. Right now we have a kid on the bball team who is 18 but until this year had never had played a minute of high school basketball.He is special ed, has some gang affiliations, has people looking for him who want to do him harm and want to keep him with them. When he walked into Oakland High he didn’t have enough credits to even be near a school let alone attend one. But Coach Watkins, just a kid himself at 30 years old.turned this kid’s life around. He has been offered a scholarship to play for Western Kentucky. Now comes the hard part; getting him to leave these streets of Oakland, which until recently, gave him all of his feelings of acceptance. Now that this kid has a chance he is scared to leave what he he knows. On those community leaders, I know what you mean. Fore some being a community leader is means to further their political careers.

      • Tom B…Where you at man,I miss you man;holla back when you can.

        • Hey ogwriter … I’m still here. Between a Joint Commission audit, slip and fall screwing up my left hand and right rotator cuff and getting ready for Lent, I’ve been kinda busy. Right arm is in a sling, left hand is in a brace …..Things are expected to settle down a little after the audit on Friday.

  10. Chuck Ross…So, it’s ok to kill innocent people,put them to death,or in prison for life, paid for by the state. For real?This comment is supposed to represent intelligent, thoughtful and reasoned dialogue? In what country exactly?

  11. Genocide is a systematic and deliberate eradication of a specific group. If most black men die at the hands of other black men who are unaffiliated with “the system” then how is this genocide? It’s just regular unfortunate violence.

    And the vast majority of people who end up in prison (and who die by the death penalty) deserve to be incarcerated and/or punished for their affront to society.

    • The name of that is not “violence” it is called ” brainwash” , since slavery blacks have been brainwashed, that is why some of them kill other blacks or try to change their features to look like whites. But it does not matter, cause you don’t know what you are saying.

  12. I gotta say that to tell a youngman he must defeat the system in order to be realized,in his life,in this time,is a crime beyond comprehension.Not to mention that children are not warriors.

  13. Archy: The NAACP spawned the Civil Rights movement.The CV movements was NOT a movement only for black people.It was lead by blacks but it served many American,especially white feminists.

  14. Bill: Most of these kids come from unstable homes in unstable communities.Their families are poorly planned,led by folks who are do not have the skills to be parents.They then perpetuate a reckless cycle.

  15. Bill:With all due respect for courageously opening a can of nuclear worms,the solution is simple,the implimentation is problematic. These kids don’t need a miracle,they only need what everyother kid needs to grow up healthy;regardless of the patriarchy. They aren’t aliens. And telling these kids their problems are due to the influences of the patriarchy is useless.

  16. Archy:I was amazed,though not anymore,at the similarties in perception by men across the racial divide of what ails them; in a word,or two,identity crisis.Blackmen are being marginalized in their communities just like white guys.

  17. Archy: Well,Archy,to my knowledge,there is no such thing as blacktivists.Furthermore,in the US, there is no political movement focused on blacks. The truth struggles faced by blackmen,brownmen,etc.,are and whitemen are the same;the intensity and veracity are relative.

    • Ah, I thought there was NAACP (not sure if that’s it, my exposure is mainly from movies sadly) that helped out black men n women?

    • I’m not aware of any specific political group focused on the black male either, nor do I believe it is a political solution. The more we focus on race as a ‘political category’, the more disservice we do to men and women in general and stifle progress of Civil Rights. It is great to celebrate diversity and address trends affecting certain communities, but using race for political leverage is historically disastrous. White supremacy, black supremacy, brown supremacy, religious supremacy: one group overpowering another for political ends will not cure disposability of men, dysfunction in homes, breakdown of the family, lack of economic advantages, access to education and health care, etc. These issues affect people of every color. It is easy to blame white supremacy, but when we look in white homes we see the same problems. Male disposability is not a ‘white issue’ either.

  18. Tom:These youngmen come from dysfunctional homes and communities.There is violence, substance abuse,lack of education,lack of money and mental health issues. Lastly,the black community has, like the white community, dangerously devalued men.

    • @ogwriter … My reference to lack of fathers was an example. The elimination of dads in communities took foot hold back when the welfare system made it more financially lucrative to pay for kids who did not have dads in the home. Obviously fatherlessness isn’t the only problem.

      Yes, there are many fatherless homes where kids have done well but the reality is that the cards are nonetheless stacked against them.

      I’m also still stuck on what these so called community leaders are doing to help these residents? As far as I can see it, no more then a lot of lip service.

  19. I will try this again.In America all men are disposable,even white guys;they just don’t know it yet.Some are trying to understand this and some aren’t.

  20. Tom B…I agree that we need to look at what is going on in the home.However,to say simply it is due to not having a father in the home doesn’t actually speak to what is going on in the home.Millions of kids are being successfully raised in single parent homes.

  21. White men are just as disposable as blackmen,they just can’t see behind the veil,which was at least partially pulled back due to the economic “crisis”. Racism is a redherring that was used to cover up the fact that slavery was about legally taking money from people.

  22. E. Rekshun says:

    “…many of the deceased are African American males.” Killed at the hands of other black males!

  23. drbobswift says:

    Dr. Johnson needs to take some more time off – LOTS more time!

  24. As a society, we really need to start valuing our criminals more.

  25. I am legend is based on a 1954 novel by Richard Matheson. In the novel, the protagonist dies.
    It was made into the 1964 movie, The Last Man on Earth. In the movie, the protagonist dies. Vincent Price.
    It inspired the 1968 movie, Night of the Living Dead. In the movie, the protagonist dies. Duane Jones.
    It was made into the 1971 movie, The Omega Man. In the movie, the protagonist dies. Charlton Heston.
    It was made into the 2007 movie, I am Legend. In the movie, the protagonist dies. Will Smith.

    During its film career, the protagonist has twice been a Caucasian, and twice an African American.

    Dr. Johnson. I think this portion of your argument is nonsense and detracts from any point you want to make. It also makes me wonder how stretched the rest of your support is.

  26. What a ridiculous article. The author peddles conspiracy theories that are entirely divorced from reality. Only someone who never watches American movies or tv shows could think that “there appears to be trend, both in Hollywood and in mainstream media, of creating images of Black men being killed, tortured or beaten.” In reality, black men are almost entirely absent from the ranks of both homicide perpetrators and victims in fiction, especially compared to their disproportionate real-life representation among both categories. Moreover, as the author concedes, in the all-too-frequent news reports of black men killing other black men the race aspect is often completely elided. In coverage of black-on-white crime, race is almost never mentioned. Murderers and murder victims in movies and tv shows have always been overwhelmingly white, even though around 50 percent of real-life murder victims and perpetrators have been black in the last few decades.

    So, in contrast to the author’s claims, the American media industry loves to make images of whites killing and being killed (Django, anyone?), while at the same time the disproportionate real-life black involvement in violent crime is minimized in media portrayals. When a black man kills another black man, it’s a depressing dog-bites-man story that the media doesn’t want to touch. In contrast, if a black man is killed by a white man, it’s front-page material, as with the Trayvon Martin case (of course, Zimmerman isn’t even that white).

    The real problem is that American society doesn’t know how to deal with black male criminality. The media refuses to discuss the matter, and people love to come up with silly, easily refutable conspiracy theories instead confronting the reality of extreme criminality in many black communities. The phantom of white supremacy has nothing to do with it; it’s all the doing of blacks themselves — witness the astronomical rise in crime since the civil rights movement. Rising incarceration rates have been accompanied with sharp decreases in crime, so these policies appear to work although one may always question the human cost.

    “Meanwhile, Caucasian Americans remain more likely to commit white collar crimes”

    This is another myth that the author attempts to perpetuate. As anyone can easily check from the FBI data, blacks are overrepresented among perpetrators of the most common types of white collar crime while whites are underrepresented. Note how black politicians disproportionately end up before ethics panels.

  27. This article is puke.

    First of all, no one forces black men to commit crimes, I DONT CARE their circumstances, THE MAJORITY OF THE POOR DO NOT commit crimes. Those poor who do have no excuse.

    The majority of black men are killed by other black men.

    The media self-admittedly under-reports black crime, and black-on-white crime specifically.

    Black on white crime is exploding across the nation, yet this isn’t reported on. Whenever blacks commit a crime, the liberal media obfuscates and says “youths” commit the crime. Whenever a white kid does it, that is trumpeted throughout the media.

  28. There is clearly a disparity in the court system as to how black males are looked at and treated. Crime is crime and although the sentencing may be slanted against black males, it’s still crime. Level that playing field so that all are treated equally which should mean that people of all races (and genders) receive equal treatment.

    That being said, we need to look at how and why these men have ended up in the court system. What’s bringing kids to the point where they have resorted to crime? What’s happening in these homes where these boys are going down the path of destruction, hopelessness and helplessness?

    Is anyone taking a hard look at the communities where these kids live and hold accountable the communities where these kids are growing up? The Disposability of the Black Male is no more clear when you look at the boys being raised without fathers.

    Let’s take a look at the music that is being promoted ….

    The development and growth of teenagers is the negative and destructive themes of some kinds of music (rock, heavy metal, hip-hop, etc.), including best-selling albums promoted by major recording companies. The following themes, which are featured prominently in some lyrics, can be particularly troublesome:
    Drugs and alcohol abuse that is glamorized
    Suicide as an “alternative” or “solution”
    Graphic violence
    Sex which focuses on control, devaluing women, and violence toward women and men
    A lot of kids on my unit like to write rap music and you would be amazed how violent some of their lyrics are. Where did this come from?

    Anyone care to go after the producers and promoters of this music?

    • Tom B…I can tell from this activists experience that black men much more committed than myself are doing heavy lifting in the community everyday. We are underfunded, overworked-many are coming out of pocket to pay for stuff-and we are seldom publicly appreciated or acknowledged. I personally know many men who do yeoman’s work for single mom’s and don’t get a lick of appreciation. Many of these mothers act as if it is getting help from a black man to help them raise their kids in an entitlement.

      The narrative that everyone hears and believes about black men was not crafted by black men. He doesn’t own, whether good or bad, his identity in America.Feminism must take some responsibility in the destruction of the black man’s reputation. Additionally,let’s face it Tom, whatever white men are experiencing with these issues around identity, disposability, the meaning masculinity, etc. men of color are also experiencing. They have a much smaller window of opportunity and less resources to deal with these issues.

      Growing up in the 60’s ,70’s, I heard on a regular basis in some of the most vulgar language possible from black women that I, a black man, wasn’t needed in my community. Now of course as everybody is crying about the lack of fathers in the home or that they need to be involved in the life’s of their children, no one remembers they were told to get lost. Even for someone like myself who was intimately involved in the life of my children, I often had to fight to be a father.

      Welfare didn’t cause black women to reject black men;that is a myth.
      One cannot judge the ability of black men to be fathers by the same standard that are used to measure that of middle class white men. Their histories are on different trajectories. Starting out as slaves, then being slave for hundreds of years,then being held down by Jim Crow for another hundred years, put the development of black families way behind that of white families. It’s like having a race and starting one group 50 yards from the finish line and starting the other group 100 yards away from the finish line and expecting the latter group to keep up.The stress for black people who associate with following that script are enormous and psychologically devastating.Black men didn’t gain the rights of fatherhood until after slavery ended and then had to track down family members.

      • @ogwriter … You said “The narrative that everyone hears and believes about black men was not crafted by black men. He doesn’t own, whether good or bad, his identity in America. Feminism must take some responsibility in the destruction of the black man’s reputation. Additionally, let’s face it Tom, whatever white men are experiencing with these issues around identity, disposability, the meaning masculinity, etc. men of color are also experiencing. They have a much smaller window of opportunity and less resources to deal with these issues.”

        You’re right. These men’s issues are not exclusive to one group of people. Disposability of men is all men. You and I grew up in the same ere which leads me to believe that like me, you have seen the decline of men. And being from that era, you also know that parents had more control of their kids which they don’t appear to have these days.

        You said “Welfare didn’t cause black women to reject black men; that is a myth.” Perhaps it didn’t cause them to reject men but it financially enabled them to reduce the need for men. Couple that with feminism saying to the women, “you can do and have it all on your own” further eliminated the need for men

    • Tom B… You ask where did violence in music come from; how about the star spangled banner? Rappers didn’t invent violent lyrics. Has one heard of punk rock or heavy metal? Hell, white people play with images of violence all the time, revel in it! What about Goth? What a cop out!? America is violent and blaming damn rappers is a joke and ignores hundreds of years of acceptable,legalized violence in American culture.

      We somehow expect that the same culture that rounded up the Native Americans and marched them across the country killing many in the process,that broke treaty after treaty with them, started a war with Mexico in order to steal their land, that threatened a war with Japan to force them to trade with us, that criminalized Asian’s, Japanese and Chinese with the Yellow fever nonsense is somehow deserving to be called nonviolent. The same goddamned country that claimed to be free legalized death in it’s most important document-the Constitution- alongside freedom. This is sick. Please explain to me when America was nonviolent. Are we now going to blame female on female violence on black men? On rap music? What’s their excuse? Oh, I forgot they don’t need one, they belong to the right group.

      • @ogwriter …. With respect to music, I did reference all types of music and their content. When my kids were teens, as grueling as it was, I checked out each and every CD the kids listened to. More then once my son would tell me he doesn’t listen to the words, it’s the music. NOT. I prohibited a lot of music, especially that which glorified violence. That’s not to say they didn’t listen to popular music because they did.

        The key to what I just said though is that “I” as a “dad” did the filtering. If there is filtering happening now, who is doing it?

        I’m not blaming the music but I struggle with not believing that the lyrics to a lot of the music don’t influence the listener.

        Yes, we are a violent country ….. living through the riots of the 60’s and the anti-war marches, I personally saw a lot of this violence. Ridiculous to even suggest that men are the cause of female on female violence.

  29. In the movie ‘Broken City’ which I just saw, the ‘hero’ is a white man who shoots a black man in the head in cold blood, and it’s justified in the plot by having the black man be a rapist/murderer of a Hispanic girl.

    Personally, I owe my career to a black man who showed me the ropes and taught me the skills that I have been able to leverage into a good salary, and who frankly was a lot smarter than I will ever be in my field.

  30. Justa Mann says:

    There are two steps to addressing this problem. First, Black men must be seen as men. Second, men must be seen has human.

    Getting halfway there will not solve the problem.

    • Bill Johnson II says:

      Thank you for your comment Justa. I agree with you that Black men are often seen more as objects or even animals than as people.
      Are you also saying that you feel that there is a general dehumanization of men?

      • Justa Mann says:

        Yes, absolutely. As someone who has studied this for a number of years, it is my personal observation that while Black men certainly bear the most heavy and most egregious burden of objectification, that White men are not strangers to being treated as objects. A day or two spent in a family court will confirm this, at least in the application of family law.

        I also note that the sentencing disparity between Blacks and Whites is actually less than it is between men and women for the same criminal offenses.

        Again, that is not to disagree with even a word of your article, but simply pointing out that in my opinion the pursuit of justice for Black men cannot be complete if it is limited only to the matter of race.

        • Should the MRM join up with blacktivists? (unsure of what the modern groups are called for racial rights n social issues activism, apologies if that term is offensive)

        • I have to agree with Justa here.

          I think the problem with a lot of the gender theory (well let’s just be honest and call it feminist theory, btw I got here from your new article “The F-Word for Black Men”) is that when addressing the the mistreatment of men it’s done in a very indirect manner, if at all.

          If you look at issues that affect black men you will see that often times gender is put in the back seat behind race. As in the reason black men engage in such behaviors has nothing to do with their gender but with their race (which is odd because when being inclusive of women of color feminist theory has no trouble seeing the intersection of gender and race).

          Black men are black and male. You can’t just ignore the male and concentrate on the black in terms of recognizing and addressing the mistreatment of black men.

  31. Brad Smith says:

    And then it goes from do we work from “inside out” or “outside in” from our own community to build up those positive images? We are do much into all forms of media and influenced by it. So do we start showing outside positive images and morph and model our kids and men into them? Or somehow build up “off camera” and out of the studios to show more positive images, ya know?

    • Bill Johnson II says:

      Exactly! I think any approach needs to include a heavy strength-based, positivecentric focus. While I was writing I wondered if I was doing a disservice to anti-racist efforts because I was concerned that I came across as “here we go, another paper talking about Black men having problems” but we gotta talk about the tough stuff too, feel me? Yet one of the problems is that there is rarely a focus on the sterngths of the community.

      And i also believe that we have to hit the problem from all angles. Inside out and outside in… change the system while also building up grass roots… there are enough of us to hit it from every angle… For example, i try to give back with my writing which confronts the systems issues, but also try to educate my students, children in my neighborhood and family members such as my nephews and niece, feel me?

    • Inside out. I am convinced when it comes to “leveling the playing field” the only solution is for change to begin within the community and grown outward.

Trackbacks

  1. […] recently wrote an article in this magazine addressing the impact of institutional racism on African American men. The post was met with the usual mix of support and criticism from readers; however, I was […]

  2. […] Black men are brutally murdered and systematically incarcerated. Is this genocide? (RT @GMPGoodLife: The Disposability of Black Men http://t.co/qLyT9RaM Is this genocide?  […]

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