I am currently reading Kwasi Akwamu’s controversial book, Stop Snitching: Does It Really Reduce Crime in the Black Community?
Beyond challenging the negative impact of informing on our communities, Akwamu looks at the state of black men in America.
The beginning of one of the chapters in bold capital letters made me pause, “SOME OF THE MOST VOCIFEROUS CRITICS of black men are black women.”
The harsh reality of his words stung because the statement is true. Our close proximity as wives, lovers, mothers, daughters and friends is the apparent factor for black women being the most critical of black men.
Black women are more likely to be impacted by black men due to our relationships. Is the criticism and expectations of black women legitimate or realistic? Considering the barriers that black men and women face, is it possible for us to find our way back to each other?
Akwamu writes how men define themselves within the construct of patriarchy and how this society has systematically worked to marginalize black men from traditionally expressing their manhood.
While the Women’s Movement created more opportunities for women, the expectations of men to be the breadwinners and protector of the family have not changed.
This perception has impacted the way that black men view their roles in relationships. While Akwamu holds black men responsible for their choices, he does acknowledge that there are many factors that have led to the break down of black relationships:
“We never seem to live up to the promise that we whisper in women’s ears. As a result, many black women seem to have an increasing lack of faith in black men and possess an extremely low tolerance for explanations that attempt to enhance understanding the complex problems that confront black men in particular and the black community generally.”
Issues such as the disproportionate mass incarceration of black men to the limited options of legitimate employment opportunities have served as barriers to black men actively starting families. In 2011 unemployment rates for blacks surged highest in 27 years.
Overall, black men have it the worst, with joblessness at a staggeringly high 19.1%, compared to 14.5% for black women.
The stigma of being a felon or serving time in prison is often cited as a reason not to hire black men.
In the groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness author Michelle Alexander reveals that there are more black men in prison today than black men who were enslaved in the 1850’s. According to Alexander the impact of a large segment of the black male population labeled as felons have been used as a tool to ostracize black men from society – economically and politically.
The statistics are overwhelming. Yet, I am still a firm believer that black love can survive.
If our Ancestors could keep love alive despite slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow, etc., then we can survive the challenges of the 21st century. Demetria L. Lucas defies the belief that black love is not relevant. In her commentary: “Black Love is Under Attack” she wrote, “Keeping Black people unmarried and at war – partially a purpose in perpetuating updated stereotypes of Sapphire and Sambo – near guarantees they don’t get married.”
Blacks who marry benefit financially, emotionally and physically more than their single peers.
Children raised with both parents in a stable family are more likely to succeed academically and as an adult.
While black women may be the most vociferous critics of black men, we are also their greatest supporters. It is the stability of the black family that will play a key role in the restoring of our communities.
The survival of our community depends on Black men and women finding our way back to each other.
1. U.S. Department of Labor
2. Censky, Annalyn. Black unemployment: Highest in 27 years
CNNMoney September 2, 201
3. Lucas, Demetria L. “Commentary: Black Love Is Under Attack” Essence Magazine, Tuesday, February 16, 2010
4. U.S. Dep. of Health and Human Services (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics). Marriage and Cohabitation in the US: A Statistical Portrait Based on Cycle 6 (2002) of the National Survey of Family Growth, Vital and Health Statistics, Series 23, Number 28, February 2010.
Image credit: Michael D. Dunn