Recently, there has been a burgeoning interest in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” where mostly young guys, are sharing via Facebook their acts of self-immolation. This phenomenon is one of the strongest examples of how destructive this willingness to do almost anything to gain fame has become. As someone who has devoted his academic and social justice work to ameliorating the lives of Black boys and men, it’s disheartening to witness a disproportionate number of these self-immolations being committed by young Black males. This is why we have to continue to promote strengthening the Black male educational pipeline. Ensuring that Black males are receiving a high quality education, regardless of their backgrounds, is the key to combating a nihilistic spirit that’s running rampant throughout America, including in many impoverished Black communities. Authentic, selfless and quality mentoring of young Black males is one of the most powerful tools of resistance we have at our disposal against this growing nihilistic spirit in America, especially in many Black communities.
Our young Black males need people around them who will tell and show them they love them and that they matter. Nihilism is imbuing the psyches of too many young Black males. We have to stay actively involved in their lives to help them avoid doing damaging and unproductive things. While many may assert that one of the central reasons why many Black males are involving themselves in the “Facebook Fire Challenge” is the absence of numerous Black fathers in the home, we can no longer allow this to be the oversimplified conclusion of the narrative. We have to identify homes where there are young Black males with absent fathers, and when we locate these homes, we need community leaders to partner those young guys with quality mentors. How can we practically accomplish this?
Well, we’re always taking about starting a movement and/or being part of a movement. Why don’t we start a national movement to take back our Black boys from the manacles of despondency and nihilism? One of the best ways to prevent our Black boys from being destroyed by despondency and nihilism is to create mentoring programs in every community where Black boys are present. We need to partner every Black boy with a mentor, especially those boys with absent fathers. These programs don’t have to cost any money to form. It does not cost any money to be willing to accept the role of a true mentor. If community leaders would like to develop mentoring programs that are highly sophisticated and well-financed, this, of course, is absolutely fine. Regardless of the approach taken in each community, what’s most important is for the community to act. Young Black boys need to see more examples of success in their communities. Successful individuals within their communities can aid in modeling success for them.
Have you endorsed the “Facebook Fire Challenge”? You have if you’ve shared one video of these acts of self-immolation. Stop sharing these videos. When these young people begin to see that they don’t have a large audience for their foolish acts, they will realize self-immolation is an act that will not gain them the attention they desire. Instead of sharing videos of acts of self-immolation, let’s use various social media platforms to oppose participation in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” and let’s provide substantive education about the dangers of involving one’s self in such risky behavior. Too many young people believe they will earn respect from millions of people across the country and world by posting videos of themselves participating in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” but when more young folks hear and read a significant number of fervid protests against involvement in this phenomenon, we will have made a noble effort to encourage them to come off of a metaphorical bridge to disaster.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison