A funny thing happened on Twitter this morning. As I scrolled through my timeline, I came across a conversation between one of my tweeps, a very outspoken advocate for Black women (and boys too), and a young man who was apparently patting himself on the back for not having a rap sheet, babies, or falling into any of the stereotypical traps some Black men have found themselves stuck in. His argument? Clap for me because I’m doing the right thing.
On the surface, he seems to have a point. According to the media—and those who make money based on the false idea that Black men (and by extension the entire Black community) are dysfunctional and uneducated—productive Black folks are rare.
Take a look at any study about incarceration rates, educational outcomes, poverty statistics, health, and you’d think that the majority of African Americans are unemployed dropouts who do little more than get locked up and cycle through the welfare system.
But this isn’t the truth. As discussed before, Black women are enrolled in college at higher rates than any other group. Likewise, Black men attend college at higher percentages than their White or Hispanic counterparts. Add to that the fact that the pregnancy rates among Black teens has drastically dropped in the last decade, and it becomes increasingly clear that while Black folks continue to make gains, the media continues to peddle the narrative that our community is in shambles.
The saddest thing about the media’s insistence that positive Black folks are “an endangered species” is that many of us have bought into it.
While African Americans continued to excel in every facet of life, far too many of us are quick to tweet, share, and believe the most depraved statistics about our community without questioning the motives behind the way the numbers are manipulated.
This willingness to believe the worst about our community not only leads many of us to distance ourselves from other Black folks (because, God forbid we’re mistaken for those ratchet negroes over there), but it also leads far too many of us to think we deserve props for basic duties like working hard, going to school, or taking care of our children. Because—most Black folks don’t do that, right?
Which leads me back to today’s Twitter chat. The man who felt he deserved respect for sidestepping jail, going to work, and not impregnating a string of women argued “those qualities [are] rare in black men” because “most Black men are not drug free…are not over 6ft…..Most Black men don’t go to college. Most Black men have a record. Most Black men at least have one baby momma, [and] most Black men are not employed and have f-cked up credit.” Whew lawd, talk about a mountain of self-hate.
While my friend tried to pushback against his rant about his fellow brethren, this dude implored her to “look closer, dammit” at the media’s portrayal of Black men because he wanted to cling to the ridiculous notion that he was special because, well, he’s not “most Black men.”
This idea of specialness by virtue of being different than them is a dangerous notion. Not only is it false, but it also sets everyone up for failure. These “special” Black men think they are somehow more worthy than Black women doing the exact same things because they feel a Black man working and staying out of trouble is some kind of aberration.
Never mind these fellows are typically surrounded by like-minded Black men (as this man admitted) who go to work or school and are responsible people, these dudes like to flex their “specialness” like peacocks showing off their feathers.
Got a job? Don’t do drugs? Never been arrested? According to this man—and way too many others—you’re a prize, deserving of some kind of medal for being an adult.
My Twitter pal perfectly summed up my thoughts when she told the man, “Nobody’s clapping for that basic sh-t. I will not form a fan club for shit I do everyday to live.”
And yet, so many are. But why?
Why have so many Black men (and women) bought into the notion that hardworking Black men are not only rare, but deserve to be celebrated, and loved up on, and competed for (uh, whole other convo) for just doing the basics?
I mean if a brotha cures cancer or finds a HIV vaccine it will be cause for celebration, but effectively using birth control and staying in school? Methinks not.