Michael Taylor instills hope in men by challenging the stereotypes of fathers, futures, and what it means to be a black man in America.
With the over proliferation of negative media images and stereotypes regarding black men it should come as no surprise that a lot of black males are pessimistic about the future. We are constantly inundated with statistics about black on black crime, high incarceration rates, gang violence and high school dropout rates. The media coverage of white police officers killing unarmed black males and the black activists assertion that there is a “war” against black males only exacerbates the feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness felt by some black males.
The perception that there is a black male crisis is so prevalent that the President of The United States created an initiative called My Brothers Keeper, which was specifically created to “help” black males overcome the challenges of being black in America.
But the question we must ask ourselves is this: “Is there truly a black male crisis in America?” At first glance it appears that the answer is yes. But upon further investigation my belief is that the answer is no. There is no black male crisis in America.
Let me explain.
I recognize that there are far too many black men who are incarcerated and who have dropped out of high school and given up on achieving any level of success. I also recognize that too many young black males have lost their lives senselessly at the hands of police officers and at the hands of their own peers. I understand that we have a judicial system that systematically fails young black males simply because of the color of their skin. I am cognizant of the fact that racism still exists and too many times we are judged by the color of our skin not the content of our character.
I know the challenges because I live with them everyday.
But I also know that the media seldom shows you the flip side of the black male coin. They do not show you that there has been a significant drop in the amount of young black males being incarcerated over the past twelve years. They also do not show you the increase in the amount of black males who are not only graduating high school but are attending and graduating from college. The media seldom showcases the black men who are running billion dollar corporations and starting home based businesses at an astonishing rate. They seldom let the world see the astrophysicists, neurologists, psychologists, technologists and ecologists that happen to be black men. They seldom show the black men who are loving and caring husbands and nurturing dedicated fathers. For every negative story about black men I recognize that there are literally thousands of positive ones.
And therefore I do not subscribe to the myth that there is a black male crisis.
But instead of crying racism and attacking a system that is obviously broken, I prefer to accentuate the positive to eliminate the negative and so I would like to share my 7 reasons why I believe very black male should be optimistic about the future.
- Every Black Man Has The Capacity To Change
Contrary to negative media generated stereotypes, black men are no different than any other group of men. We deal with emotional, psychological, intellectual, physical and spiritual challenges just like any other group. What makes it more difficult for us is the constant barrage of negative imagery, stories and stereotypes by our media which promotes the belief that black men are different and somehow inferior to other groups of men. The fact of the matter is we are not inferior and we are definitely not different.
Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles black men have to deal with, the fact remains that every black man has the capacity to change and this is a key reason for my optimism. Change is difficult and challenging no matter what ethnicity you belong to. For black men, the first step is to change our mindset from one of victim to one of victor. A simple shift in attitude that changes our thought patterns from powerless to powerful sets in motion a new way of thinking that will ultimately create a new way of behaving that will allow us succeed. Our goal must be to commit to constant and never ending improvement and insure that we are making investments in our emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
We must understand that optimism is learned behavior. By changing our mindset and attitude we open the door to infinite possibilities.
- There Has Never Been An Obstacle Placed In Front Of Us That We Have Not Overcome
As a man who happens to be black I can honestly say that I have never in any way felt that being black was a disadvantage. I was taught that if God made you black then it meant that you were given unique gifts and talents that would allow you to deal with the multiplicity of challenges that black people faced. When I see stories of slavery, racism, discrimination and injustice I do not feel disempowered. As a matter of fact I feel the complete opposite. I feel inspired and empowered because I recognize that I belong to a group of people that epitomize faith, perseverance, persistence, creativity and strength. These are the qualities and values that have supported black men in surviving and thriving in a country that seems to have done everything in its power to hold us back and these are the same qualities and values that will continue to support us in overcoming any challenge that is placed in front of us. Our brightest days are ahead of us not behind us.
- All black men are capable of creating loving monogamous relationships.
The media generated perception is that black men are the poster boys for infidelity and domestic abuse. From images of rappers glorifying the objectification of women to athletes assaulting their wives and having affairs, one may conclude that black men are incapable of creating and maintaining loving caring relationships.
Nothing could be further from the truth. All black men are capable of creating rewarding and fulfilling relationships filled with love, trust, openness and intimacy.
- All black men are capable of being loving nurturing fathers.
If you hear the term “deadbeat dad” chances are the image that comes to mind would be a black male. The media has perpetuated this myth for a very long time. So lets set the record straight. Black men are capable of being loving nurturing fathers. As a matter of fact, the CDC (Center For Disease Control) recently conducted a study that concluded that black fathers were actually more involved with their children than other groups of men. As a loving father of three grown children I do not need statistics to prove this point because I am proof that black men can become loving nurturing fathers regardless of their upbringing.
- All black men are capable of creating dynamic health.
Being physically fit should be the goal of all men but especially black men since we epitomize the perfection of the human body when you consider the fact that we dominate a large portion of all major sports. Our goal must be to make sure that we are taking care of our physical bodies by being conscious of we eat, not abusing illegal drugs, exercising and making sure that we receive annual checkups. Physical fitness must become a top priority in our lives.
- Technology And Information Is Leveling The Playing Field
If I had to sum up the reasons for my optimism in two words, they would be technology and information. For those of us who are willing to embrace technology and are willing to learn new things, the future is filled with infinite possibilities. Our ability to earn is directly linked to our willingness and ability to learn. Technology now gives us access to learn anything we want to learn and it also provide us with the opportunity to capitalize on our knowledge and insights. The Internet and computers are the great equalizers of society and it is our responsibility to learn how to take advantage of the opportunities presented by today’s technology and information.
- The Future Is Brighter Than Most People Realize
In the groundbreaking book Abundance ~ The Future Is Brighter Than You Think billionaire Peter Diamandis and science writer Steven Kotler document how progress in artificial intelligence, robotics, digital manufacturing, synthetic biology, digital manufacturing and many of the exponentially growing technologies will enable us to make greater gains around the globe in the next two decades than we have in the previous two hundred years. They believe that pretty soon we will have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman and child on the planet.
This powerful optimistic view of the world definitely conflicts with the mainstream medias version of a world filled with scarcity, neglect and pessimism but I definitely concur with their assertion that the future is brighter than most people realize.
This is especially true for the state of black men in America. Contrary to negative media generated stereotypes I believe the future is very bright for black men. We are not an endangered species and there is no black male crisis in America. So the next time you see or hear the “experts” spewing out their statistics to validate their opinions about the status of black men in America, just remember the words of Public Enemy “Don’t Believe The Hype!” because the future is bright for black men.
Photo credit: Ian Sane/flickr