By W. Eric Croomes
Are black men divided? Is there really a sense of brotherhood between the six or seven million brothers in America? Is it even realistic to expect such unity, given the broad spectrum of personal philosophy, social upbringing and political moorings that define black men in America? It is daunting, but not impossible. Our unity is more threatened by external as much as internal factors in America. Once we begin to understand these factors – which condition us daily – we can more successfully foster a sense of bonding and brotherhood amongst ourselves. Here are five sources (among many) that keep black men divided and what we can do about it.
Source# 1: Family and Friends and Women
I could write a whole book on how the disintegration of the black family has led to an erosion of black male unity. Family members can be potential dream-busters when it comes to our ambitions. They may be well-meaning, but in reality they can be roadblocks. You’d think you’d get the most support from family and friends, but, in the aggregate, they are the epicenter of negative conditioning. How many times have you been told ‘you can’t or ‘you’re wasting your time’ by a friend or family member?
Closely related to family and friends is our rapidly deteriorating relationship with our women. I write about this issue in my book, Brotha2Brotha: Becoming Healthy Men from the Inside Out. There are plenty of sisters who will stand by their brothers through thick and thin, but there are way too many women who have internalized the misperceptions and stereotypes of black men they see and hear on a daily basis.
Solution: The best thing to do is keep a healthy distance (since some of these people may be in the same house!), stay focused and keep believing in your dreams. Don’t be the tail – become the head! Stand up within yourself. If you are in a relationship with a mean-spirited sister, one who does not subscribe to your vision for your life, it may be time for a little distance.
Television stations are in a constant war for ratings and to get the most viewers, they must report on what viewers like most – guns, murder and violence. So often, that toxic medley is laced with images of black men. The real reason the media has made my list, though, is because of the proximity of late local news to bed-time. If we go to bed with all of the bad news internalized, it does nothing but seep down into our sub-conscious mind while we’re asleep. The sub-conscious mind is most permeable in the minutes before we fall asleep at night. This conditioning begins at some point to affect the way you see yourself and the way you see your brother.
Solution: Consider a hiatus from the local evening news. Instead, in the hour or minutes before bed, trying reading a book, doing light exercise and stretching or watching something comical on television. What we feed our subconscious in the minutes before we go to sleep shapes to a great extent the way we will feel the next day.
Source#3: Bad Theology:
Bad theology keeps black men divided and contributes to the chasm between the institution and black men. Too much bad theology has been drilled into the heads of black men. I grew up in the church and I relish some fond memories of that time. But truth be told, when you hear over and over and over how bad you are and how unlovable you appear to be, it takes its toll on your psyche at some point. Not all religious traditions serve parishioners a steady diet of condemnation and damnation, but far too often we hear about a merciless versus merciful God.
Solution: The good news is you don’t have the fire the preacher! You don’t have to get mad at him, either. Discover the truth of who you are and whose you are. Join a progressive bible-study group and search the scriptures.
Source#4: Reality Television
This is really culprit number one. Who knew the advent of reality television would present such convoluted images of black males as we see on a daily basis? Reality TV makes the list due to that one word: images. The image of black men has been tarnished since the advent of television (Read: Birth of a Nation).
Images have a way of sticking with us. Especially the bad ones! The conditioning we experience in this regard is the blurring of the line between right and wrong, good and bad. This is not only bad for the individual, but for society as well – namely because it makes us less emphatic to do something about it. Although images can be a good thing, the kind we see on the tube every day is not so good. We see way too much of First 48 (or of movies in which the black male character is first killed off) and way too little of positive cinematic role models.
Solution: Stop trying to imitate reality television. Create your own ‘reality’; design the life of your dreams! Even more important, make sure we are re-training the minds of our youth (especially males) about the images of black men they see on media each and every day.
Source#5: Social Media
Social media is fast transforming itself into an extension of news media. Images and videos of black men now make the routine on a daily basis. Look at social media for what it is: connecting. The question is who and what are you connecting to? Herein lays the issue. It would be great if every person on your Facebook page and was an idealist, positive-centered up lifter, right? Well, they’re not! Most people Facebook their issues instead of FACING them! That negative energy feeds right into your spirit on a parallel track and begins to wear on our fragile relationships as black men.
Solution: This is where you hit the delete button. Social media is here to stay. We must make the best of it and reroute our energy toward more positive outcomes and interaction.
Once we begin to understand the external factors contributing to our disunity, we can begin to foster a sense of bond and belonging among black men.