Michael Taylor wants you to know that there’s no such thing.
If you tune in to the news, it would be easy to conclude that black men are on the verge of extinction. The media bombards us with images of black men as thugs, gangstas, deadbeat dads, dropouts and lazy irresponsible men. We hear erroneous statistics like there are more black men that are in jail than are in college. We hear stories that black women can’t find good men because we do not know how to engage in intimate monogamous relationships. We see episodes of Cops in which a large percentage of criminals happen to be black men. We watch powerlessly as young black men are profiled by police and even gunned down simply because of the color of their skin.
With all of these negative images of black men, its no wonder that a large percentage of people, black and white would conclude that we are an endangered species. This misconception is so prevalent that the President of The United States began an initiative called My Brothers Keeper in an effort to “save” black males.
Although I applaud the presidents intention, the real question we must ask ourselves is: Is there really a black male crisis in America?
In 1995, I overheard a conversation in a restaurant between two apparently well-educated young black men about being a black man in America. In summary, they both believed that black men would be extinct within twenty years and they had given up on attaining even a modicum of success in a country that they believed was doing everything in its power to keep them from succeeding.
When I approached their table and asked if they really believed that black men would become extinct, I was deeply saddened and truly shocked at their response. In retrospect, I wasn’t shocked by their response as much as I was shocked at their conviction and belief that black men would soon be eradicated from America. They were absolutely convinced that black men would not be around in 20 years.
When I asked them why they believed they were an endangered species, their reply was straightforward and to the point. “Don’t you watch the news? In 20 years, all black men will either be in prison or in a grave.”
So here we are, some 19 years later and the overwhelming majority of black men are not in jail and are not in a grave, so obviously their fears were unwarranted, but, despite the progress black men have made in this country, there are still far too many of them who feel the same way. Too many still believe they are an endangered species and they believe being a black man is a disadvantage and that the color of their skin is what is keeping them from succeeding. Too many of them have accepted the negative media generated stereotypes of black men being lazy, less intelligent, violent, non-caring and unmotivated and they have fallen victim to the media generated illusion that black men are all baggy pants wearing hoodlums that are irresponsible fathers who only think about buying sneakers, listening to violent rap music and abusing women.
Herein lies the problem. Too many black men have accepted the negative media generated stereotypes and they have lost hope and given up because they believe the challenges facing black men are insurmountable.
Contrary to the media generated stereotypes, there’s no ‘black male crisis’. Although I do not deny the challenges facing black men, I believe there is reason for optimism. I personally believe that black men are positioned to experience unprecedented levels of success in America today and we must be willing to take complete responsibility for our success and no longer accept the medias perception of who we are.
As I look throughout society this is what I see. I see that one of the most brilliant minds in science belongs to Neale Degrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and the host of Cosmos. As a lover of science, I also see that the head of the entire National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is Charles Bolden. When I see Donald Thompson become the CEO of the largest fast food chain in the world, McDonalds, I am filled with optimism. When I see Kenneth Chenault as CEO of American Express it motivates me to build my company into a Fortune 500 enterprise. And when I see Barack Obama as President of the United States of America, I see unlimited possibilities for black men.
The argument will be that these men are the exception, not the rule. But it is this mentality that perpetuates the illusion that there is a black male crisis in America. All black men can be exceptional with the right mindset and education. Each of these men symbolizes the pure potentiality of black men. Their success should inspire us to find our own unique niche and pursue our dreams and realize that there is no limit to what we can accomplish.
Here are 5 things every black man must do to live an extraordinary life.
1. We must change our mindset about who we are.
With all of the negative images perpetuated throughout our media it should be easy to see why some black men believe they are an endangered species. We must be willing to recognize that we are not just black men, but more importantly, we are men who happen to be black. By letting go of the label of “black man” and embracing the truth of our humanity as men, we immediately lay the foundation to embrace our full potential. This does not deny our ethnicity, it empowers our humanity. It also disassociates us from the erroneous labels and stereotypes perpetuated by our media. We must stand proud as black men and at the same time not be attached to limiting labels. This takes a powerful shift in mindset but it is the key to our success.
2. We must embrace the paradox of living in America.
If I say that black men have unequal opportunities in America because of racism and discrimination, I believe this is a true statement. If I say that black men have unlimited opportunities living in America, I believe that this statement is also true. This is the paradox of living in America. Racism exists, racial profiling exists, the media is biased and life can be challenging. At the same time, the advancement of technology and information is leveling the field of success and if you want something badly enough no one can stop you except you.
3. We must invest in our own potential.
There is a stereotypical quote that states; “if you want to keep something from a black man put it in a book.” If we truly want to live extraordinary lives we must make a commitment to our own personal growth and development. This means reading books, attending seminars, investing in personal growth programs and committing to never ending improvement.
4. We must make relationships top priority.
The media would have you believe that black men are somehow different than other men. The fact remains we aren’t. We are loving, sensitive, caring men who are definitely capable of creating long term intimate monogamous relationships. We must make relationships top priority in our lives if we want to eliminate the media generated stereotypes that we are not capable of being loving husbands and caring involved fathers.
5. We must disconnect from the negative media.
Do not rely on the television media to inform you about the status of black men in America. Knowing that the media is biased and generally relies on negative news stories why trust it? Turn off the television and do your own research. We can no longer rely on the media to showcase the progress we have made we must do it on our own through our own media channels like social media, writing our own books and showcasing the progress we have made.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “We’re not where we want to be but thank God we’re not where we used to be.” But we should also take Public Enemy’s advice, “Don’t believe the hype” – because there is no black male crisis in America!
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Photo – derek_b/Flickr
Coach Michael Taylor is an entrepreneur, author, motivational speaker, radio and TV show host who has committed his life to empowering men of all races to live extraordinary lives. His latest book is titled “Black Men Rock – Ten Keys To Empower Black Men To Live Extraordinary Lives”.