Have we been brainwashed into believing there is a "black male problem" that needs to be fixed? What kind of message is this sending to young black men? Are they broken and in need of repair?
I’ve been asking myself these questions lately. For years we have been exposed to “plight of the black man” messaging. I question the psychological impact this has had on young black men. Let’s be clear, I’m not a psychiatrist and by no means inferring I’m qualified to offer any medical opinions. What I will say is I find it hard to believe that negative messaging has not had an effect on these young men.
If you do a Google search for “black male initiative programs” you will find a plethora of organizations committed to the development of black men. Even our federal government is involved with the launching of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. Has it come this far that our president needs to step in and help "fix" young black men? In our zeal to help have we contributed to lowering their self esteem?
“President Obama is taking action to launch My Brother’s Keeper – a new initiative to help every boy and young man of color who is willing to do the hard work to get ahead. For decades, opportunity has lagged behind for boys and young men of color. But across the country, communities are adopting approaches to help put these boys and young men on the path to success.”
I applaud all of these organizations for the great work their doing. They have been instrumental and necessary for many young men. Their efforts are the socially responsible thing to do given the circumstances.
I do not believe the issue nor the solution resides with fixing young black men. Firstly, let's not be fooled into believing that all young black men are in need of repair. There are a lot of exceptional young men doing great things who are often overlooked by the mainstream media. Secondly, let's understand why these programs are even necessary. Let's not overlook our socio-economic landscape. Maybe instead of trying to "fix" these young men emphasis should be placed on fixing the conditions that created this situation to begin with.
My point is simple, I'm not opposed to any program that benefits and enhances the life of young black men. That being said I believe we need to change the messaging. I'm here to say that our young African American men are not broken. They are not objects in need of repair. They are children in need of an opportunity to strive and thrive.
During an interview with a NY Times reporter Steve Bandura, pitching phenom Mo'Ne Davis' coach, commented:
"What haunts me is that for every success we have, there are probably 100 other kids who could be successes but never had the opportunity," ...."I hope this opened people's eyes: Kids, given the chance, will excel, whatever their economic background, whatever their race."
We may not be able to boil an ocean but we can take the first step by changing the way we talk about our young men.
It starts now, let's get this thing done....
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.