There is a hot dog stand south of us in a somewhat black neighborhood. It contains a lot of memorabilia like a novelty barrel of moonshine. One thing stuck out at me, a tin can with the confederate flag on it. This made me very angry, not because I give a hoot in hell about political correctness but because I can imagine a poor black male living with his mother trying to turn his life around seeing it when he wants to get some ice cream.
Black males are fighting a war on two fronts. I’m not black but I know what it is like fighting a war on two fronts having both a physical disability and a mental illness. In order for a black male to be successful he has to surmount the barriers of prejudice and thug culture. Anyone who thinks prejudice is a thing of the past obviously isn’t very familiar with our “justice” system. The grandpa on my bipolar side of the family couldn’t take some passive-aggressive bullshit someone he worked with was giving him so he busted this guy’s jaw, sending him to the hospital. If my bipolar grandpa would have been black (especially if the victim had been white) he would have spent years in prison. Then there’s also job discrimination and the fact that blacks hold twelve times less wealth than their white counterparts. These kinds of problems, when commingled, add up to more than the sum of their parts. For example when a black male ends up in jail (often for a victimless drug crime) he can’t find a job or a place when he comes out so he’s as good as locked out of society. He can’t afford to marry so he ends up starting what ends up being another single parent household.
An understandable reaction to all of this is thug culture. I’m not supposed to criticize it because I’m white and race is a singularity. But I’ll just leave you with this Neil Degrasse Tyson video (Neil Degrasse Tyson is a physicist who hosts the new Cosmos show, one of my heroes). I will say that poverty alone kills the equivalent of 13 IQ points. If dealing with prejudice and thug culture were thrown into the mix it might go up to 20.
Weight of history. Identity is something that is formed (like wealth is amassed) over several generations. The fact that you originally came from slaves and your grandparents were subject to lynchings and having their businesses burned leaves a stain on your psyche. I’m no friend of the church but one Sunday night I went to a meeting (consisting of all white people) on the subject of race. The leader said something like we shouldn’t focus on the past at all. I was fuming. When someone who is black can do significantly worse on a test when they are reminded of their race, I think a breadth of the past is being referenced. EDIT: according to this scientific study memories may span multiple generations. This has seismic ramifications for oppressed minorities.
Black males often have no dad. People from single parent homes on average have seven less years of education than those in two-parent ones. I’m not going to be like George Bush and tell broke black males to marry because as a broke white male I realize I’m not marriageable. I will say the ideal is to have a mom and a dad and boys who don’t will have a harder time, particularly in their teens. There are pockets of white culture (like Focus on the Family) that idealize and encourage family building and I don’t see that anywhere in black culture.
No black male press. An intelligent black male growing up often has no desire to learn how to write so he can fill out TPS reports for some rich white CEO. However if there was a prominent website/magazine similar to Indymedia that voiced specifically black male concerns, he would have something to aspire to. I’ve come to the conclusion that education doesn’t elevate you (I’m still broke and I have a Computer Science degree) but it does allow you to express yourself in a manner that allows you to speak truth to power. If more oppressed people thought about education this way they might take it more seriously. Because let’s face it, the deck is stacked, the middle class is dying, and getting a job is just a matter of being known by the right rich white people. But if enough people call society out on its bullshit perhaps we can bring about some change.