Building Strong Black Men: The Importance of Racial Socialization for Black Boys!
Building Strong Black Men ~ Building bridges to strong boys who ultimately develop into strong functional men requires the proper racial socialization into their place in this world. Racial socialization is one of my passion points. Socialization is a powerful tool for preparing youth to navigate the labyrinthine corridors of society. When it comes to Black youth, especially Black boys, proper racial socialization is imperative in preparing them to manage the conflicting narratives that will face.
While all parents work to socialize their children to be prosocial and productive in society, Black parents have the added task of racially socializing our children to face the social narratives that counter what we have taught them about themselves. The media, judicial system, and educational systems are all present obstacles that present contradictory messages governing how our children see themselves in the world.
How we teach our children to navigate these contradictions is called racial socialization, and it has to be the foundation of building stronger and healthier Black boys (and girls). Through this singular practice, we will be able to better manage mental illness, wealth disparities, academic deficiencies, and more.
My challenge has been getting people on board with creating a national Rite of Passage for Black boys.”
When examining the demographic constructs that house the realities of the Black community in general, we uncover some startling revelations that must be anatomized and interpreted to gain a lucid perspicacity of our current position in the world. On many occasions, I have spoken and written about the multitudinous ways in which the Black woman has been marginalized and mishandled by those outside the Black collective and those within it. What needs more attention is the existence of nefarious machinations aimed at neutralizing the Black male.
In my books, The Mis-education of Black Youth in America and Born in Captivity: Psychopathology as a Legacy of Slavery, I go to great lengths to point out how the public education system is used to isolate and alienate the Black male as early as 5-years-old.
When reviewing the statistics associated with the Black male demographic in the United States, we can see some anomalies that require explanation and understanding. Black men are 15 percent less likely to get married than men in all other racial groups (Staff, 2018). Black men are incarcerated disproportionately in states within the continental U.S (Puglise, 2016). Black men make up the largest prison demographic in America despite only representing six percent of the total population. Young Black males are disproportionately referred for special education designations, such as oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD, reactive attachment disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and more.
We are constantly reminded that there are 1.5 million missing from the Black community. The truth is that these men are not missing. They are not adequately accounted for and acknowledged in the building out of our understanding of how to improve our current plight. Six percent of working-age Black men are incarcerated (Staff, 2018), more than three times the rate of non-Blacks. Another issue directly associated with the absence of a Black male presence is the significant number of Black men who are incapacitated due to explicit drug use and other forms of addiction.
A significant contributor to the high incarceration rate related to the Black male is the systematic assault carried out in the public education system (Wallace, 2016; Wallace, 2015).
Black men are also underrepresented in the workforce and historically underpaid.
Another alarming statistic points to the rate at which unarmed Black males are shot dead by law enforcement officers (Beer, 2018). While 72 percent of officer deaths are at the hands of White men, it is obvious that police officers are more fearful of unarmed Black men than they are of armed and hostile White men (Beer, 2018).
While it is essential to recognize the exogenous forces at play in the systematic destruction of Black male masculinity that is productive and efficacious in its designed intent, we must also acknowledge the endogenous forces at play. Black males, especially those between 12 and 30 years of age, are extremely vulnerable to violent urges (Ngwe, Liu, Flay, & Segawa, 2004). Thanks to the work of Dr. Howard Stevenson, Dr. Joy DeGruy, and myself, we have a better understanding of the force behind African American adolescent and young adult male violence — which happens to be the recommended response to many of the other issues mentioned in this article — proper racial socialization.
Generally speaking, we have failed to properly and effectively racially socialize our male youth. Racial socialization is essential in the education, preparation, and empowerment of young men to enter society prepared to contribute. The absence of male role models is showing up in these alarming statistics. Young Black males are more violent, not because violence is an inherent part of their genetic or spiritual makeup, but because they have not been taught how to manage the rise in testosterone during puberty — leading to hyper-masculinity and the behaviors directly associated with it.
Young Black males are not being taught the importance of honoring, respecting, and protecting Black females. It is definitely not a behavior that is being consistently modeled in inner-city communities.
I created the Black Men Lead rite of passage initiative as a mechanism that can fill in the gap of the 1.5 missing Black men and provide a universal standard of behavior for Black men — especially when it comes to how we treat our women, the elderly, and our progeny. We must also focus on teaching young Black males the importance of building Black generational wealth and the need to focus on business ownership.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” ~ Frederick Douglass
I know it is easier to point fingers than to invest in the necessary changes; however, true and significant changes will only occur when we meet our issues head-on. The enigmatic conundrum that presents itself as a lack of Black male productivity and progression must be confronted with proactivity and systematic processes designed to groom our young men into the type of men who are prepared to lead us further than we have ever been in this country. The goal is to expand the program nationally.
For us to thrive as a people, we need our men to create an environment that provides security and opportunity for our women and children. We can continue to point the accusatory finger, or we can take action. I am challenging everyone who reads this to choose the latter.