By Vernon A. Williams
Black men are evolving back to life – back to reality; regaining their regal posture.
I’m not asking you – I’m telling you. And don’t look for me to bother you with a lot of statistics that drive home the point because sometimes we need to revert to our instincts, rely on our souls than other people’s polls.
There was a time, not too long ago, when we spoke from the heart whenever we felt like relating to one another. You could walk into a room of strangers and feel like family. You could stop a Black man on the street or be stopped for help with no sense of trepidation.
Things changed. Many factors went into that depreciation from “soul brother” to “n@#&*r” and it was not accidental. Think about the elements that pushed us away from each other.
Manufacturing jobs were so plentiful that they persuaded droves of African American men to relocate families from the southern belt to the industrial Midwest. Men with limited or no education were needed from Chicago and Gary to Detroit to Pittsburg – with plenty of stops in between – to work mills, plants and factories.
Conditions were not ideal and upward mobility was nonexistent, but the jobs were often enough for families to purchase homes and own cars and raise children respectably and send children off to college for even higher ground to be reached by the ensuing generations. It enabled breaks in the cycle of poverty.
While income gaps were prevalent, and racism still plagued communities overtly and covertly, there was the sense of there being a path out of the ‘hood to the next level.
But over recent decades, we somehow reverted to the point at which more grown folk with degrees are living at home than any time in recent memory and for the first time, we face the prospect of a generation whose earnings may not exceed that of their parents. How can we trace that reversal of fortune?
The landscape changed in the cities across America and no one seemed prepared for the adjustment. There was an intentional influx of conditions that precipitated poverty, crime and punishment, alcoholism and substance abuse, health disparities, mental illness, and social oppression.
The majority media began preaching divisive concepts like “angry white men” and “white backlash” – touting the myth that somehow whites were suffering in society because too many Blacks were getting undeserved benefits through affirmative action, welfare and so-called entitlement programs. It contributed to a racial chasm and social chaos.
If you spread a lie broadly enough, plant it deep enough and repeat it over and over again, the boogey man starts to look real and new racial conflict (not that we ever escaped old ones) intensified tensions over time. America drifted into a “we” and “they” mentality even though the rich got richer while the poor Black and White foolishly quarreled over crumbs.
African American communities went from households where you almost always found the presence of a father in the 50s and 60s and into the 70s, to neighborhoods in which patriarchal heads of household were the exception rather than the rule. A profit-driven prison industry coupled with a corrupt, unjust judicial system exacerbated the problem.
Though gun violence in this nation has suddenly reached media and lawmaker status of a cause célèbre, with the spiraling advent of mass shooting, the bullet has long been a nemesis of the Black community – often symbolic of the leading cause of death among our youngest males.
Such brutal conditions for so long would have been enough to snuff out for all time, an ordinary people. But the Black man in America has been anything but ordinary.
From the Middle Passage to enslavement to reconstruction to share cropping to lynching to Jim Crow to “separate but equal” to “law and order” to institutional racism to gerrymandering to internal colonization and apartheid to social disenfranchisement to genocide to gentrification to domestic terrorism to white nationalism to the White House, Black men with the help of God have withstood, resisted, persisted and prevailed.
Brothers are embracing God; taking increasing family responsibility; articulating their own identity and living accordingly; recognizing the need for higher education; learning to trust one another more; becoming socially conscious and politically active; rejecting labels of futility directed from those with no intent but to suppress.
African American men are not relying on pumped up bravado or false machismo to define their masculinity. They know that real men love and respect women; provide for and protect their children; honor and revere their elders; harbor undying appreciation for their ancestors; take pride in their heritage; recognize one another as brothers and put God first in all that they do, say and think.
Real men know that sensitivity is not a sign of weakness but rather a manifestation of strength, that they are more than conquerors no matter what inevitable obstacles they face, that their worth is secured and their legacy dependent on living right, and that there is nothing and no one greater than them, but the Creator.
Now that we’ve come through the storm, the nation is about to benefit from the strongest Black man ever – mentally, physically and spiritually. This phoenix-like resurgence signals the true rise of a greater America for everyone