“[A]s an independent filmmaker focusing on issues in the black community I found that many black males between the ages of sixteen and perhaps twenty six believes to be educated is to be considered weak and sometimes even feminine to the point where I’ve seen young black men rebuke their male children for reading books. So my question is why and when this trend gets started and what can we do to encourage and make more black men realize that education is still one of the main ingredients to healing the social ills in our communities?” – A question from Cindy Hurst during Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America.
“Well, I mean one, I don’t want to over exaggerate. There are, there may be a slice of the black community, a slice of young black brothers and sisters who feel that way. But the vast majority of young black brothers and sisters really want to be educated. So we don’t want to begin by isolating this slice as if that constitutes the lens through which we look the vast array of young brothers and sisters.” – A response from Professor Cornel West to Cindy Hurst during Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America.
“The percentage of black men who graduated from high school has more than doubled since 1970.” – A statistic displayed during Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America.
Much too often the standard representation for the black community will depend on our lowest behavioral denominator. We will see examples of black people committing a variety of criminal, immoral, or just plain thoughtless acts and use such examples as a barometer of all black people’s potential. Such behavior is followed with comments that will condemn the entire black community for the problems of one person or for a very small minority.
According to the numbers published by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations for the year 2006, for every heinous act committed by a black person there were more than two crimes committed by white people. Out of the 10,437,620 crimes committed in the United States in 2006, 7,270,214 were committed by white people while 2,924,724 were committed by black people. In terms of percentages that means 69.7% of the crime in 2006 were committed by white people and 28% committed by black people. Black people should be far from being considered America’s number one problem. And yet, we perpetually hear that the black crime phenomenon is skyrocketing out of control.
We have been conditioned to see black people not as individuals but as a group with a collective mentality for irresponsibility. People who live and dwell in the black community and have first hand experience with our black neighbors have been conditioned to see the negative behavior of one black person as an indication of what is happening to the black community in general. We allow ourselves to be manipulated to judge our neighbors negatively at the drop of a hat even though we have a wealth of experience with people in the black community that says we are not the cesspool of humanity. We are constantly bombarded with the image of the black criminal and the association of black people to crime or black people to acts of immorality or acts of self defeatism.
When I heard Ms. Hurst asks her question in the forum hosted by Ms. O’Brien, the first thing that popped into my head was a need for more information. Instead of simply nodding my head in the affirmative and ingesting a heaping helping of the typical black people are bad poison propaganda from one of our own, I wondered exactly how many black men did she see rebuke their son for reading. I also wondered how many black men this sister saw that actually supported and praised their sons for learning to read. And I also wondered if this sister saw a white man ridiculing his son for learning would she be so quick to judge the entire white community as harshly.
Personally, I have only witnessed one black man who ever ridiculed his sons for learning. By far the overwhelming majority of black men support their sons’ quest for knowledge and learning. Fathers who try to extinguish their sons’ love of reading and learning are retarding not just their sons’ future, but the future of their family as well as the future of the black community. Such attitudes are not indicative of the black community in general.
The bigger problem for the black community is the people who continue to judge us all based on the poor choices of the few. Yes, it is true that there are some black people who want to keep the future of the black community rooted in ignorance and propaganda. But I firmly believe that, although a detriment to the community, the man ridiculing his son and trying to discourage the young from learning is not the biggest problem for us. The bigger problem is the fact that some black people find it so easy to perpetuate stereotypical myths that the black community is full of people who promote ignorance and irresponsibility