Black Males

Freddie Gray and Eric Garner Didn’t Have to Die: Open Season on Black Males in America

 

Freddie Gray

(Photo Credit: The Grio)

Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Eric Garner in New York didn’t have to die. Before some of you begin to respond with “they shouldn’t have gotten arrested,” being arrested has never meant an automatic termination of life. Okay, Gray and Garner both engaged in activities that violated the criminal law. Is there a new standard in America now that says a violation of the criminal law automatically results in the dissolution of an individual’s life? Well, in the cases of Gray and Garner, the police officers involved in their murders acted as if the answer is yes.

Are the murders of Gray and Garner all about race? No. Race did play an important factor but what happened to them is just as much about class and gender. First, let me disabuse some of the false notion that just because there were a few black cops involved in Freddie Gray’s murder this effaces any connections between race and his death. Black people are just as much capable of internalizing and employing racist ideology as anyone else. Too often, when many blacks ascend to positions of power, they allow power to cause them to willing abandon their relation to the history and cultural experience of black people in America. Historical and cultural amnesia can result in a black person becoming just as racist, discriminatory and dangerous as any white supremacist. Therefore, miss me with the faulty argument that race cannot be substantively involved in Gray’s murder.

In both cases, a racial and racist discourse informed the police officers involved. Most police officers across the country are doing a great job protecting and serving Americans. A small, yet significant percentage of police officers have declared open season on black males. The majority of these black males being murdered by unscrupulous white police officers come from low-income backgrounds. For these white officers, they see this intersection of race, gender and class in the context of poor black males as dangerous. Poor black males are disposable and burdens to society in their eyes.

All black boys and men’s lives matter. Yes, all lives matter. Right now, too many police officers fail to see the value of the lives of black males, which is why serious social, political, and civil and human rights activists should continue to emphasize that black lives matter. Unfortunately, the “all lives matter” campaign incongruously leads to black lives, especially black male lives, getting lost in the “all” of the “all lives matter” campaign.

Eric Garner

(Photo Credit: Gawker)

If you don’t want to see anymore Ferguson and Baltimore riots in any other areas across the nation, then it’s imperative for a small percentage of corrupt and racist police officers across the nation to discontinue unjustly murdering unarmed black males who don’t pose an imminent threat to them. Both black-led peaceful protests and riots in areas affected by unmerited killings of black males is increasingly engendering new black resistance movements. Although peace is a significant dimension of these new black resistance movements, retaliatory violence and vandalism are painful and costly aspects of these movements.

No longer are numerous black people across the nation succumbing to docile acceptance of unwarranted killings of their black boys and men. Many are communicating that they will meet unwarranted police murders of black lives with collective outrage and vandalism, and some are expressing that they will take the lives of white officers as a form of recompense for killing unarmed black males. These new black resistance movements are best encapsulated and delineated by Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die.” In the poem, McKay posits that if black people are going to die at the hands of their white oppressors, then they will die fighting back zealously and aggressively. Black people have never been weak—don’t expect this to ever change! If necessary, many blacks will continue to take justice into their own hands until their collective lives are valued much more.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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A Prayer for Ferguson, Michael Brown’s Family, Unity and Justice

Michael Brown's Murder

(Photo Credit: Slate)

Father God in the name of Jesus,

Right now, I ask that you would comfort and strengthen the family and friends of Michael Brown. You are the only one who can heal them in the places where they’re broken. They’ve been living with the reality Michael Brown died an unnecessary death. Darren Wilson allowed anger and disregard for Black life to result in the murder of Brown. Lord, only you can change the heart of Darren Wilson and all those like him who don’t value Black life. I ask you to change the hearts of people who don’t value Black life. Transform all hearts to love Black life. Have Wilson to turn himself in and confess his wrongdoings to the authorities. While many people will not believe that this will happen, everything we place in your powerful hands can be done.

Justice has not been served in the Michael Brown case. Lord, I ask you to bring swift justice in the Brown case. Let the people across the nation know that this “open season” on Black males is over. For those who are protesting in response to this injustice, give them hope that a brighter day is coming. Use the efforts of the protesters to engender and implement serious reforms regarding policing, beginning with a mandatory requirement that all police officers wear body cameras.

Jesus, you are the true answer to injustice. All of the best ideas in the world are inadequate without you. America needs an outpouring of love. Let what’s going on in Ferguson become the catalyst for life-changing love. People must understand that at the root of racism, discrimination, inequality and injustice is sin. Those without Salvation need to come to you Jesus and repent. Without you Lord, they are living in darkness and don’t have a true understanding of goodness.

We need unity in this country, but the senseless killings of Black boys and men across the nation will not promote unity. On this Thanksgiving, I ask that you unite the American people. We’re stronger as a nation when we’re united.

The voices of those who are protesting in Ferguson deserve to be heard and respected. Let their voices be heard and respected. Give the Brown family peace on this day. Let the family know that you’re still in control. Peace will come when justice prevails.

Again, Lord, bring your swift and righteous justice.

I ask all of these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Perceptions of Black Male Student-Athletes on Predominantly White Campuses

Black Athlete

(Photo Credit: sportsillustrated.cnn.com)

In “‘Athleticated’ Versus Educated: A Qualitative Investigation of Campus Perceptions, Recruiting and African American Male Student-Athletes,” C. Keith Harrison (2008) conducted a study to explore students’ narratives about the college recruitment of high-profile Black male high school student-athletes.  Harrison had participants to watch a scene about college athletic recruiting from The Program (1994).  The research questions posed in this study are as follows: (1) Are the recruiting visit perceptions by students about student-athletes based on stereotypes and athlete biases?  (2) How will students respond to images that represent the intercollegiate athletic ritual(s) to sign major recruits in revenue sports (i.e. football and/or basketball)?  (3)  What type of discussion and dialogue about academics and athletics does the qualitative data (narratives) reveal?

A mixed-method research design was used.  202 students at a highly selective Midwestern university participated in this study.  73.6% of the participants are White, 13.4% Asian, and 9% Black, 3% Hispanic, and 1% identified as “Other.”  Visual elicitation was employed to stimulate a discourse between the interviewer and the interviewees.  A survey questionnaire was used.  Hierarchical content analysis and inductive analysis were employed to analyze open-ended responses to questions posed on the survey questionnaire given to each participant after viewing only one scene from The Program.  Participants’ responses emerge from viewing this one scene.

The findings of the study indicated that both Black and White students identified Black male student-athletes in the film to be more athletic or “athleticated” than educated.  Both Black and White students viewed the Black male student-athletes on the film as sex objects.  For Black participants, two dominant themes were found: “athleticated” and “sex object.”  For White participants, four major themes were determined: “athleticated,” “sex object,” “media stereotypes,” and “unrealistic depiction.”  The most prominent themes for both Blacks and Whites were “athleticated” and “sex object.”

Harrison (2008) found important gaps in the professional literature about their being limited empirical investigations of the recruiting inventory of the student-athlete and how the general student body views the student-athlete’s recruitment process.  Since this study extended knowledge about the two aforementioned gaps in the literature, it helps to give some understanding of them.

Harrison (2008) does not offer the reader an understanding of whether this was each participant’s first time viewing the film, which is crucial to understanding potential influences on their responses to questions posed.  One significant weakness of the study is the scholar did not allow the participants to view the entire film, which impacts their ability to properly contextualize the scene the study engaged.  The study does not offer specific details about the responses Hispanic, Asian, and “Other” participants divulged.

Future research needs to resolve how the views of the recruitment of Black male student-athletes of the general student population impact their educational experiences at predominantly white higher education institutions.  Additionally, future research should be devoted to understanding how the perceptions of the recruitment of Black male student-athletes impact their interactions with faculty at predominantly white higher education institutions.  Finally, future research needs to replicate this study and allow students to watch the entire film and then ask them questions about the particular scene used by this study.

Reference

Harrison, C.K. (2008). “Athleticated” versus educated: A qualitative investigation of campus perceptions, recruiting and African American male student-athletes. Challenge: A Journal of Research on African American Men, 14(1), 39-60.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Professional Athletes Are Worthy of Their Pay

Black Athletes

Although many people think professional athletes make too much money, they deserve the money they earn.  Professional athletes provide professional team owners with the highest quality talent and skills available in the world for the positions they fill.  When you’re hiring the best available people in the world for the positions you have, those individuals are worthy of earning lucrative salaries.  Professional sports team owners are multi-billionaires who make billions more off of the athletes they employ.  Unfortunately, the significant income disparities between professional athletes and professional team owners are overlooked.  Many people see athletes making millions and fail to realize the owners are raking in billions by giving what’s pocket change to them to the athletes responsible for their continual prosperity.  Yes, many professional athletes are rich, especially baseball, basketball, and football players.  In comparison to money their team owners receive, these professional athletes are making minimum wages or less.

Deeply underlying many people’s arguments against professional athletes earning the lucrative salaries they collect is a racist critique of the perceived realities of the professional sports economy.  One of those racist critiques of the perceived realities of the professional sports economy is it’s leading to too many black male millionaires.  While black men are becoming millionaires in the professional sports economy, it does not compare to the way white men become millionaires in the larger national economy.  Many racists contend that the professional sports economy threatens to upset white economic dominance.  This is such a ridiculous racist postmodern anxiety.  The number of black males receiving million dollar salaries in the professional sports economy is analogous to throwing pebbles in a pond—the number is insignificant in comparison to the number of whites who are millionaires.  Many racists are simply uncomfortable with seeing a black millionaire, especially a black male millionaire.  They try to camouflage their racial hatred for black people by asserting that making millions for playing sports is unjustified.

Last month, Lebron James defended the many millions he makes as a professional basketball player.  Although he’s right in explaining why he deserves to be paid such a significant amount of money, it’s time to expose the racism, prejudice and unsubstantiated arguments offered by many who question the legitimacy of professional athletes earning multi-million dollar salaries.  One has to wonder would this be such a highly discussed topic if there weren’t a conspicuous number of black men getting multi-million dollar salaries to play professional sports.

Lebron James

Professional athletes have elected to devote themselves to careers in sports and their career choices should be respected as you desire to have your career choices respected.

Do you believe professional athletes make too much money?  Why or why not?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men: A Review

The Black Man Can Journal

Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men (2012), penned by Brandon Frame of The Black Man Can, is a powerful journal specifically designed for Black boys and men to engage in critical thought and reflection.  In the 284 pages of the journal, Black boys and men have an opportunity to create a vision and plan for ameliorating their own lives in their own language.  Never has there been a personal journal produced solely for Black boys and men.  Through this journal, they are provided with space to express their thoughts on a range of issues and respond to essential questions.  Powerful quotations from accomplished Black men have been carefully selected and masterfully deployed by Brandon Frame to inspire critical thought.

An extensive body of empirical research has evinced that Black male students throughout the educational pipeline academically underperform all students.  In the face of this reality, tools must be available to militate against the factors that contribute to Black male academic underachievement.  Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men is one of those innovative and valuable resources we need to help Black boys and men to progress academically, professionally, socially and personally.  The issues and questions they will confront in the journal offer them opportunities to face what they must do to make a significant change in their lives.

Too many Black boys and men are allowed to read and internalize negative narratives about themselves—primarily verbal and written narratives from Whites who do not wish them well.  Harper (2009) contends that Black males must have the opportunity to tell their own narratives in their own voices to offer meaningful and necessary counternarratives to the dominant extant narratives about them—the dominant narratives about them are mostly untrue, demeaning, and racist.  Through this journal, Frame empowers Black males with opportunities to write their counternarratives.

A growing body of professional literature demonstrates that mentoring Black male students leads to higher academic achievement and motivation.  Frame’s journal equips those who mentor with a resource that can be used to aid them in the process of transforming the lives of Black male students.  For those who mentor Black men, it gives them a tool to facilitate proper guidance and support.

Black fathers and sons now have a serious means through which to share and learn from one another.  I envision this journal helping to form Black male virtual and non-virtual communities and spaces where important ideas, challenges, problems, and solutions are discussed, shared, envisaged and implemented.  Additionally, I can see multifarious conferences and think tanks developing from those who read and use this journal.

I highly recommend this journal.  It can be purchased here: Purchase the Journal Here.  For only $15.00, you could save your own life and/or the life of a Black boy or man by buying this journal.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Antwone Fisher (2002) and Black Male Mentorship

Antwone Fisher

Image courtesy of tvlistings.zap2it.com

Antwone Fisher (2002) offers one powerful example of how effective Black male mentorship looks in praxis.  This film marks the debut of Denzel Washington as a director.  Washington also stars in the film as psychiatrist Dr. Jerome Davenport.  Derek Luke (Antwone “Fish” Fisher) begins his Hollywood debut in this film.  The inspiration for the film emerges from the true story of Antwone Fisher (the screenwriter) and is based on his autobiographical work Finding Fish.  The film is produced by Denzel Washington, Nancy Paloian and Todd Black.

The story centers on Antwone “Fish” Fisher (Derek Luke), a young man in the Navy with a deeply complex and troubling past.  His father was murdered before he was born and his mother was incarcerated soon after his father’s death.  Fish’s teenage mother, Eva Mae Fisher (Viola Davis), gave birth to him while she was incarcerated.  While she was in jail, Antwone was put in an orphanage until his mother was released.  Unfortunately, she never claimed him when she was released from jail and he was placed in foster care at the age of two.  His foster parents, who claimed to be Christians, were Mr. and Mrs. Tate (Ellis Williams and Novella Nelson).  Mrs. Tate’s claim to be a Christian was exposed by her many years of mental and physical abuse of Fisher until he departed from her home at 14 years old.  Antwone also experienced sexual abuse and molestation by an African American woman who Mrs. Tate left him in her care when she had to leave for work.  Mr. Tate is oddly absent from the home while all of the dominant action takes place.  Presumably, he’s out working long hours.  Antwone leaves his foster home in search of freedom from mental, physical and sexual abuse.

Fish lives on the street for a few years before he resolves to join the United States Navy to chart a new course in his life.  As is understandable, his turbulent childhood causes him to struggle with an unbecoming temper.  He gets into fights with a few sailors and is demoted, fined and restricted to the ship for 45 days.  As a part of his punishment, his commanding officer mandates that he receives physiatrist treatment from Dr. Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington).  Through Dr. Davenport’s work with Fisher, he’s able to achieve success and liberation from his oppressive past, and is able to enjoy a relationship with a woman—despite how his childhood sexual abuse and molestation complicate having a relationship with a woman and her touch.

Dr. Davenport is depicted as a strong leader, smart, disciplined, and compassionate.  He’s willing to move from just doing his professional work to using that professional work for charitable service.  Davenport sees a need in ameliorating the life of this young brother who is vexed by his childhood.  While it may be easy for some people who have never had similar childhood experiences as Fisher to say he simply needed to get over his past, it’s far more complicated than that and this type of thinking lacks sophistication and compassion.

We need more black men to assume a real life mentorship role as Dr. Davenport does in the film.  Davenport did not have to go beyond his professional sessions with Fisher, but he understood his linked fate to Antwone.  He understood that when young black men like Fish are struggling, he’s struggling too.  Dr. Davenport reflects a potent sense of community and he uses mentorship as a vehicle for promoting community improvement.

Although the film ends with your typical happy ending, its exploration of the life of Antwone Fisher brings to the national scene many of the experiences young black males confront.  Unfortunately, many young black males resort to negative means of coping with these experiences.  Too many black men are neglecting an opportunity to improve the plight of underprivileged young black males.

Dr. Davenport was instrumental in helping Fisher to become a reflective thinker and learner.  He taught Fisher how to think about his past experiences in empowering ways rather than in depressing ways.  Although Dr. Davenport is a psychiatrist, black men don’t need to be one to have an auspicious impact on the behavior and educational experiences of black males.  It was not so much Davenport’s educational background that enabled him to instigate a change in the life of Fisher; it was more about his will to answer the call of leadership and responsibility of mentorship.  Asa Grant Hillard, III always reminded black people about the importance of having the will to make change happen, and how vital having this will is to ameliorating black male academic achievement.

When one situates Fisher’s entrance into the Navy in our present moment, he would be required to complete his high school diploma.  Joining the Navy in any period in American history promotes learning and positive progression.  While we certainly want to increase the number of African American men who enroll in higher education institutions, there are other successful paths for them to select, which, of course, include military service.  What’s important is for more black males to be redirected from being ravished by nihilism to paths of advancement, which learning—both formal and informal—must be central to those paths.

More committed African-American male mentors, such as Dr. Davenport, can aid in more black males moving from embracing nihilism and replacing it with achievement.  Antwone Fisher provides one valuable example of positive and effective black male mentorship and the redeeming value of mentorship at its best.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

You Cannot Lead Anyone When You Need to Be Led

While there is a need for more non-profit organizations, everyone is not qualified to start and lead a non-profit organization.  Too many people are talking about starting a non-profit organization for the wrong reasons.  The people who are talking about forming non-profit organizations for the wrong reasons need to be led.  They don’t need to be presiding over anyone.  Some of the erroneous reasons people are talking about developing non-profit organizations are as follows: (1) simply because they are unemployed; (2) they are using discourse about starting a non-profit organization for self-aggrandizement; (3) starting a non-profit organization is the only thing they can think of to do; and (4) they need something to boost their self-esteem and this augmenting of their self-esteem has nothing to do with helping the people the organization is supposed to be founded to serve.

You have to have some qualifications, experience, skills, and accomplishments to lead people.  Traditional qualifications, experience, skills, and accomplishments are not always requisite to being able to lead people effectively, but your qualifications, experience, skills, and accomplishments must be genuine.  You cannot be an effective leader of an organization by just randomly thinking you are qualified to be a leader of an organization.  Leading, starting, and managing an effective non-profit organization is not easy.  In fact, it’s quite challenging.  If you don’t have a true love for helping people, then don’t talk about starting a non-profit organization.  Starting an effective non-profit organization is not something you can just jump up and do.  It’s also deeply offensive to the strenuous and thorough work that leaders of effective non-profit organizations do to pretend like you are serious about starting a non-profit organization when you know that you are going to do it.

For those Black men who don’t have a true commitment to launching non-profit ventures that focus on mentoring young Black males, don’t play with the serious need of mentoring young Black males simply for the vain purposes you are toying with starting a non-profit undertaking supposedly for them.  The need to ameliorate the lives of disadvantaged Black males is far too important for people to be playing around with.  For those who are attention hungry and simply see talking about starting a non-profit organization for Black males or youth in general, you need to understand that our children are too precious and important for you to attempt to use them for your own selfish gains.

We all need good people in our lives to provide us with support.  Many authentic leaders are among us.  It is vital, however, for those who are not leaders to understand that they are not leaders.  You know when you are not a leader and you know when you’re not willing to lead or don’t have what it takes to lead.  Everyone was not created to be a leader—face it!  Just as we need leaders to be great leaders, we need followers to be great followers.  The work of great leaders is significantly buttressed when they are able to benefit from great followers.

When you find yourself experiencing daily bouts with self-doubt and self-pity, the harsh reality is you are not ready and fit to lead.  There’s nothing wrong with knowing when you need to be led and when you are not ready and/or capable of leading.  It’s always critical for human beings to seek and embrace the truth, for this is the essence of what “being real” is.  Sorry to break the much needed news to you, but you don’t become a leader just by calling yourself one and pretending like you are one.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison