Four false narratives about the Black male experience

We have no history predating slavery 

Within the DNA of each Black male lies the spirit of innovation, critical thinking, self-determination, connectivity and leadership. These are the foundational building blocks of creativity. Even though we have used these building blocks to develop Black American culture, our access to these components predates our bondage here in the US. Before Black slaves built the White House, the pharaohs built the pyramids in Egypt. Before 1920’s Harlem, Timbuktu was the center of Black cultural thought and learning. And before Garvey sought to liberate the minds of Black Americans, Shaka Zulu fought against colonization. Black history is world history and began before the first African set foot on the North American continent.

All roads lead to prison for Black males 

An ongoing narrative concerning the Black male experience is that due to a biologically predisposed criminality that is reinforced via challenging environments, Black males are essentially guaranteed an extended stay at the suites by prison industrial complex. This false narrative is reflected in our misled belief that more black males are in prison than college. Most Black males have not been involved in the criminal justice system. However, this message conflicts with the social and material profit that can be made by creating a fear of the Black male body and to reduce his existence to that of criminality.  

Blacks males are absent fathers or emotionally distant financial providers at best 

There is a persistent narrative related to the Black male experience that suggests that Black males are absent and distant fathers. However, the psychological literature suggests that Black males are more likely to be more egalitarian with their partners and emotionally supportive to their children compared to men from other racial backgrounds. Despite these findings the constant absence of a positive Black father narrative continues due to media portrayals, powerful but anecdotal experiences of black father absentism, and a lack of awareness and analysis of “adopted” father figures within Black households. 

Black males are apathetic and unmotivated to succeed 

Two values that are central to the Black male identity are purpose and relevance. Throughout the life of a Black male, he is on a constant search to uncover the purpose that connects him to the humanity of others. Additionally he is seeking to engage in meaningful action related to fulfilling this purpose. Because our definition of living a purpose driven life is rooted in western ideology (e.g. material gain, individual notoriety and achievement) there often times exists conflict between society’s perception of moving with purpose compared to the Black males. Acceptance into the collective Black identity, peer support, and the validation of ones racialized masculinity are extremely valuable to the motivated Black male. However, our current mechanisms of motivation do not tap into these values areas. This is a reflection of a disconnect between the Black males experience and societal expectations not an inherent lack of motivation on the part of Black males. 

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