Black Men and the Dirty ‘R’ Word: Responsibility

How often are black men held accountable for their actions?

I don’t mean held accountable for the misconceptions of others. I’m definitely not referring to them being thrust into pre-packaged boxes labeled as “correctional facilities” when they’re really there to protect the pockets of a Prison Industrial Complex that profits from each, breathing black body walking its halls.

No. What I’m talking about is the blatant irresponsibility and negligence that poisons our communities after seeping in through some of our men.

It’s difficult to address responsibility when our men are constantly being emasculated in the eyes of a society designed for their failure; however, it is something that has to be done for us to ever heal as a collective community.

An extremely troubling video, titled “Die Hoodrat Die: How The Hoodrat is Destroying Her Community,” was brought to my attention. During a blistering, profanity-filled tirade, a man proceeds to blame every indignity, every failure, every injustice that befalls the Black community on “hoodrats,” while completely ignoring the hood “cats” that chase them, impregnate, then leave them. Now, I’m not deflecting from the very real issues that must be addressed among our young ladies, but this man went so far as to claim that the pregnancy of a 16-year-old girl was a testament to her character, instead of the 32-year-old statutory rapist who laid his trifling ass down with her.

 

The number of black children without fathers? The fault of the women for lying with them.

The overcrowding of prisons with black men? The fault of the women who gave birth to the them.

Yes, every ill in the Black community is the fault of the “hoodrat,” and that’s not truth — universal or subjective — it’s pure delusion.

And where exactly do men fit into this equation? According to data compiled by Children: Our Ultimate Investment:

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)
  • 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes (Source: Rainbows for all God`s Children.)
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
  • 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992)

What these numbers prove, in case there was ever any doubt, is that men play a pivotal role in the healthy development of our children and our communities — yes, even with societal chips stacked against them, that number includes Black men as well.

Yes, we’re tired of seeing our men labeled as thugs, gang-bangers, and hoodlums, but that does not mean that they are excused from responsibilities that they accepted by non-verbal agreement in the bedroom. We know that, especially in the United States, the deck is stacked against black men, but at what point do we stop making excuses for them? At what point do they stop making excuses for themselves? Do we allow them to carry on as innocent victims as our communities lie in ruins —  or do we demand that they step up to plate and be the men that they claim to be while jumping from woman to woman looking for feelings of importance and worth that no vagina can ever give them?

Of course, this is not pointed at all black men, because I know, love and am honored to be loved by some good ones. This is, however, for those men who feel that society gives them an excuse to foist responsibility off on women, while they get to play the injured little boy long after it ceases to be cute.

I’ve used this quote often because it speaks to me in such a profound way. R. L’Heureux Lewis, assistant professor of sociology and black studies at the City University of New York, presented a thesis entitled Shadowboxing the Self: Confronting Black Male Privilege. While discussing his theory with NPR host Michel Martin, Lewis made one of the most illuminating statements I’ve ever heard:

“So often, black men are used to being under attack that when it comes to being accountable for the actions we take, we quickly say, ‘Well, I couldn’t possibly be doing anything wrong. Look at all the ways in which I’m oppressed. Look at all the ways in which I’m at the bottom of the barrel. What that does is rob us of an opportunity to actually build stronger communities and it robs black men of a chance to actually take hold of the actions that they have so that we can empower the community.”

I completely understand that as a community we’re sensitive to the mental whipping our black men have had to endure in society. We’ve become so accustomed to protecting their fragile self-esteem, that we often miss imperative opportunities to make them stronger through accountability.

In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “I know this much is true”:

Some men have bought into the same systems of patriarchy, violence, sexism, and misogyny that have done irrevocable damage to the collective Black community. And if we, as a people, are ever to live up to our full potential, allowing our young men to not live up to their own is a privilege we can no longer afford.

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