What it means to be a black man in America

October 14, 2007

Last year WaPo did a fascinating multimedia series on black men. (It seems) video interviewing mostly in the Washington metro area. But online responses likely from around the world.

It’s very curious that they chose to highlight black men, and not the entire race. Or even other minority races, for that matter. I suppose the stereotype of a black man is the most pronounced — you know, scary gangster, super athlete, lazy, among others. But I would like to see the world through a black woman’s eyes too.

I have always subscribed to the belief that the African American community has had it the worst of all other races in America. Allow me to explain (rant about, to some) why I think that in detail:

While certainly all immigrants have had their fair share of obstacles to overcome, one factor, the African American immigration history, sets this community apart. The English, the Irish, the Italians, the Mexicans and the South Asians all came to this country with family. Or kept in touch with them because they knew of them. But in black folks’ cases the family structure was non existent. The families were separated and sold (similar to puppies today) and resold — for 400 years.

Although most of us, in our daily lives, don’t go around saying we are the way we are because of our parents, but when asked, we certainly would attribute our core values to them. These core values were inherited. I learned the value of education, the importance of saving, the obligation to close ones, from my parents. They from my grandparent, and they from my great-grandparents, so on and so on, for thousands of years, in many cases. These values and morals did not come to me out of thin air.

My argument is that the transfer of the family structure from generation to generation in the African American community only starting recently, is what makes this community susceptible to undesirable circumstances — poverty, teen pregnancy, crime, lack of education. A tree is as strong as how deep its roots go. The seed for the African American tree was planted the latest.

Okay. I made my point. Leave a message in the comment section if you want to discuss further. Back to the WaPo thing.

It’s interesting to read the responses to the question: What does it mean to be a black man. The started in June of last year. And the responses keep flooding in till today.

For this black man, it has meant proving that I have deserved everything that I now have without the stigma of being given a handout, special consideration, or a quota to achieve my goals. I have pride in knowing that I had to constantly work harder than my white counterparts to be noticed and subsequently considered for advancement throughout my careers. I’ve welcomed the ongoing challenge and attempt to instill the same prideful values in my son.

Posted by: James L. Gerrald | June 2, 2006 08:07 AM

I see an inherent problem with the responses here….its the adjective before the noun Man – Black.

As long as u do this and anyone else does this there will always be a seperation/ division.

Posted by: David | August 10, 2007 04:42 PM

Being a black man in America? Means two opposing things – glamour and grit. Either way, the black man must take the challenge and continue to stand up for his rights. Being black according to a black man is being treated unfairly – but America sees a black man according to his achievement. When a black man rises above his circumstances, he is a hero; but when he fails, he falls alone.

Posted by: Carol Araos | April 9, 2007 01:06 PM

Being black in America takes being in control and taking accountiblity of your own action work twice as hard as your white female/ male counterparts to gain the respect that is so much desired to prove you are very capable. Being black you face alot of stigmatism but through great efforts and communications being black in America society if you work on all the small things if life can makelife worth living.

Posted by: Tommy | January 15, 2007 12:06 PM

The hardest job in america is being a black man. You are feared by your white counterparts,have disappointed your black women and you are the most stereotyped race/gender on earth. No one beleives in you…………….but you!

Posted by: CRAIG D | January 10, 2007 10:50 PM



16 Responses to “What it means to be a black man in America”

  1. Okey Says:

    I am a fifteen year old black male who lives in Iowa City, IA. The land of oppertunity, unless you are a black male. Living here, you see first hand the fear of whites as your walking down the street. Children stare, Woman grab the husbands arms just a little tighter. And I can not walk downtown for an hour without being questioned by a police officer.
    Just a few weeks ago I was questioned by mall security three times in one weeekend. Its easy for whites to say, “Racisms a thing of the past.” But its not if you live every single day of your life being expected to fail.
    To be a black man in America is not easy no matter, how educated you are, how rich you are or how many white friends you have.

  2. Wow Okey! I can’t imagine living your life at your age. You not be able to experience that freedom many of us take for granted (walking any public place we want without care for others’ attention) makes me upset.

    I would guess how diverse your hometown is could possibly play part in how ignorant certain people of your hometown are.

    I am no one to give advice, but I want to suggest that you’d consider a more diverse town for when you go to college. Or at the very least, visit other places across America, if given the opportunity. That ignorance won’t completely be absent, but it certainly would be reduced to a lesser degree.

  3. Wisemark Says:

    What is this country really about? Lies, Lies, and Malice. These whites never ever had to experience police brutality, they never experienced slavery and the residues of. What authority over anything do black people have in this country? Thats where the inequality lies. No matter how diverse your town or city is… the majority of law enforcement and profitable businesses is not of the black race, or the head of all the departments America has.. is a white person. Now im not a racist, im a realist. This country’s government from 500 years ago to present day have been against the black race except for a couple of exceptions(Colon Powell, Ms. Rice, Barack Obama). If those exceptions were talking like Malcolm X or Bob Marley, do u think they would’ve been on congress? This is the same government of old… its their children that have those current congress spots with old view points. REMEMBER that this Government once made blacks exempt from paying taxes because they didnt consider us as human. Then the same Government made black people pay taxes just for being black (The Black Tax) look it up! This same white racist Government payed reparations to SLAVEHOLDERS for the money they would lose because of the ending of slavery, but have not given blacks their forty acres and a mule which is something they promised. This is the same Country who made it illegal for a black person to get educated. WHAT KIND OF BULL CRAP IS THAT? this is the same country that will arrest a man for a joint of marijuana but Goerge Washington the so called 1st president, the father of thias country grew it in his backyard in Mt. Vernon Virginia, plus he owned more than 300 slaves and had them staying in the basement and attic of the Whitehouse which the slaves built. Some White students Say that they should be asking what it is like to be white in this country… I would like to know what their answers would be.. Y do Blacks and Latinos pay a price twice expensive as white kids?

  4. Please take the time to check out my work on my website:


    “Art That Reflects The Realities Of Urban Black Life”

  5. Bryant Says:

    I noticed that white men and women think of black men as overly aggressive, under achieving, domestic violent criminals. Black women kind of view black men as irresponsible, cheating men who dont take care of there children or whatever it may be oh and black women also get the sense that we as black men feel that black women are never satisfied.Black women there are some of us that are doing right. I still love black women though they are our other half. ( I’d like to add that these comments are only from my own personal experiences. ) My overrall opinion about being a black man in the united states plain and simple is that its tough, for lack of a better word. Truthfully its up to us on whether or not we allow stereotypes to make us or break us. We shouldn’t let it do either or, In my opinion black men are the strongest, smartest the most creative and desirable of them all. We are copied by all, we are GODS best design to this day, so we should expect jealousy. we built this country, and introduced rhytem and soul to this country. Even after slavery, police brutality, the lack of education in most cities and all of the stereotypes and put downs..We always manage to become stronger. We currently sit in the highest and most powerful position of all only second to god himself, the presidency of the untide states of america, now thats progress in my opinion. LASTLY there are Black CEO’s, caring and responsible fathers who do treat there women right, but white people dont want to hear that because it doesnt sell, theres no profit for the white man when he finds black men who dont fit the description. well thats all i wanted to say. ( and again these are only my opinions that i believe strongly, feel free to disagree, whatever makes you feel better )

  6. “The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.” — Cicero

  7. Nick Says:

    Being Black in America is much harsher for young men than it is for women, the problem lies when that understanding goes unappreciated by the black women who lack support for and of the black men as well. In attempts to litigate resolution there is often a blame game from one end to the other and more often than not men are not recognized as being responsible on any level and black women in general take no responsibility for their actions either. Despite the oppressive nature our antagonist sisters still feel the white male as a viable option for relationships and now even marriage and mixed reproduction far more than black men but that is not what is portrayed by Media. Our young sisters are exploited as Sex emblems for the white males voyeurisms and fetishes as well as sought signifantly for prostitution endevors however they see these acts as mere opportunity to collect gains and not a depreciation of esteem and respect. Lets face it our sisters have persisted time and time again that unless they can account for material gains by the few black men who are able to minimally escape most of the caucasians rapture then they too agree with the world that we are merely a liability and they too are willing to cooperate with the elimination of our kind. Most lack the appropriate understanding of the democratic system of capitalism that would allow then a glimps of the whole picture. After all they dont quite see section 8, welfare, or link as tangible enough vices that would give then more availabilty to the means of survival in society unlike black men. they are not as likely to suffer the consequences of not having both parents which include the incarceration rate for black males versus women and all other males, the educational achievments for women vs. men (n0w 25 to 1 attendance in college) or the fact that there are free sudsidized arrangments for black women and not men. Typically our women clearly dont understand the issues therein lie with being a black man in America because there are different and probly many more strikes against the brother than there are for the sisters. Many dont see the divide and conquer conspiracy at all and most take into account the struggles that they experienced which most others experience more intensily and attempt to degrade us with this propaganda of equal opportunity which goes on promoted by whites in order to exstinguish the fact that America is and always will be a racist society and was never meant for the Black man to be a part of. The Black women however limited has always been welcome in his home and his bed. The idea alone has little impression on our sister that seem to enjoy having such priveleges. It should not be a secret that by now Black men have had no alternatives other than giving up entirely and the only possible chance of our survival is live in complete isolation from those that make themselves our enemies. I posted this article because it is the obligation of us that feel and seem to be defeated but continue to strive like those who have lost there lives for the civil rights of all not for the material gains or the fight over blood land taken from a non violent race who are basically reduced to in-significant numbers. Case-in-point, yeterday I ask my American Gov professor (white male who has a black girl;his words) After watching a special on white supremist, how is it possible that this Leader of the Arayan society in america can still promote his hate group with weapons and threats of preparing for a domestic war in the near future against Black men and not be cited by the gov when Black men are murdered for establishing groups that could potentially grow so that we have at least a little representation and after a few vague attempts he could only explain that we are in a racist society before discontinuing the lecture for the day. Not that I needed an explanation but a solution. Message to my brothers: We must not attempt to join the system that rejects us, instead we demand, and with that demand what benefits our whole is the only steadfast approach to take “BY ANY MEANS NECCESSARY”! Malcolm X.

    • balls Says:

      your just plain stupid how dare you try an use a black women in any of this crap we’re here just like you were black just like you an a man came from a woman how could you try an put this crap on us when its the white man thats don us not jus you US wrong they have living arrangements for female THAT HAVE CHILDREN stupid! Now if a black man took care of his kids they’d have arrangments for him TOO! Same as any other race i jus cant belive you would try an lift your self up by puttin us down eat a dic

  8. Tyrone Says:


    I can’t help not writing about the black man life and worth in America! As a black male 52 years old and father of two adult sons. I have witness the double standards when it comes to black and white people in America! As a former state and county and private institutional Correction officer! I witness the double standards and the straight up racism in sentencing black people especially black men! Americans have witness how white cops are back to work after shooting a black male! Before the innocent unarmed black male is either out the hospital or in the ground! Or the cop is given light sentencing anywhere from two to a couple of months! Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison and three years’ probation for his role in a dog fighting conspiracy.Plaxico Burress, the former Giants wide receiver who accidentally shot himself in the leg with an illegal gun, was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to a weapons charge! Both black men killed no one but went to prison for their crimes! Defense attorney Michael Rains immediately filed an appeal. After time already served and good behavior credits, Mehserle a white police officer will likely serve an additional six to seven months based on California’s sentencing guidelines, the lawyer said. Mehserle was convicted in the videotaped killing of a black male Grant, 22, in Oakland. The case was moved to Los Angeles for trial. He testified during the trial that he thought Grant had a weapon and decided to shock him with his stun gun but instead pulled his .40-caliber handgun. Grant was unarmed and face down when he was shot. Mehserle, shackled and wearing a jail jumpsuit, also stood before the judge before sentencing and apologized for the shooting, which he contended was accidental and not racially motivated. If his lawyer is right Mehserle will serve less then Vick and Burress for taking a unarmed black man life by shooting him in the back! The lie he told was just over the top! Number one if he thought Mr.Grant was arm he was suppose to yell GUN…To alert the four other officer present . That did not see a gun! HE DID NOT!!!!”A BLACK MAN LIFE IN AMERICA IS WORTHLESS!!!!

  9. Tyrone Says:

    It never surprise me when whites write articles on black people! They are so very knowledgeable………NOT!!!! Many times white write and repeat or quote statistic they record from white ran institution that LIED! Take crime more white committed more crime in America then any other race of Americans! Whites just don’t go to jail or prison many time not even getting arrested! White females between the age of 13 to 35 have the highest number of abortion in America. White teen on average start having sex as early as 11 years old! Black teen as early as 14 years old! 61% of all drug use WHITE! 54% of all white marriage end in divorce! More white men leave their family then any other race of American! More then half of white women live in a abusive marriage! More white wives and girlfriends are murder by their white boyfriends or husbands! YOUR argument is that the transfer of the family structure from generation to generation in the African American community only starting recently, is what makes this community susceptible to undesirable circumstances……. NOT!!!!!! TOTAL BS!!!! Poverty, teen pregnancy, crime, lack of education has been the downfall of Americans brought down because of white hatred and racism! And all America have those problem on many levels! But white being the majority in America are more likely to be more of everything! But because of America institutional racism and the bias and racist white control media . You can never believe anything that is run or written by a white control!

  10. kson Says:

    As a young black man in college and with a job, I work twice as hard just to be accepted by a white stranger to even prove myself worthy. I absolutely put in more work than I see my fellow white employees who just stand around and still look more worthy to my managers and customers. It’s an awful feeling, but I keep pushing and pushing because if you don’t even try than you won’t even get as far as compared to the little recognition in society us hard black workers already try twice as hard! My parents raised me to achieve as a black man in this society, I can say I have it good in life and my future and job is going to be looking more positive than negative. BUT I still always get that small amount of hatred, jealousy, and negativity from my white competitors and for no reason. To hell with the stereotypes, I surprise white folks all the time, and than they become either afraid of me or exaggeratedly too nice because they see the good quality in me as a black man. Not to sound cocky, but when a black man truly can be himself, and be smart and do just as fine in society as a white man, people will start caring about you, either in a positive or negative way. It’s funny, and I laugh at them, and I DON”T OWE THEM SHIT!

  11. Juve Montana Says:

    its hard but its fair we all gotta die white black rich poor in 130years wont nun of us be here…

  12. JAMO Says:

    I actually feel very strongly about this subject. i was feeling down because of all of the reasons that each one of my black brothers have just stated. i believe it is sad because no matter where you are, we all experience the same things. Moreover, now that i am graduating college i still feel like i havent accomplished anything to this point. in my opinion a black man these days needs more than a degree to get some respect. even when it comes to our people we are never willing to help, just quick to judge!!! not only do white people judge us from our outter appearance,but blacks judge other blacks from there outter apperance. i look at our progession since slavery and we really havent came far at all. The goverment spoon fed us with a black president, but my question is when will there be another one. because if we go ten or fifteen years before we see another black in office then what does that imply.finally, as i ready myself for this journey through life i am actually a little scared because i realize how hard it actually is. no matter where we go we already have a strike. and no matter what you i accomplish it will always be my faults that are highlighted and talked about. i have much more to say but i could go on forever.

  13. nvb52195 Says:

    We as african americans have had an extensive history in this country however I want to point out no other group of people were systamatically destroyed the way we were.As a black male in america I can honestly say racism in america has not died it has just changed form to stall the progression of african americans economically, socially, and phycologically. The fight is not yet over and if we can proove the world wrong by rising to the occasion and being successful we will not have to worry about african american males being mistreated. Our time is now and let us rejoice and be glad in it.

  14. I wish I was black,here in Katy Texas.They are moving in to fairly new homes at rapid.Two,Three some Four fairly new cars in their driveways and garages.Two kids in the house,each using thier own personal laptop,cell phones ect.Two more kids outside roaming the nieghborhood with latest model cellphone stuck in thier ears,then two more kids haulin ass up and down the streets driving gocarts,mini bikes,motorcycle’s,meanwhile illegal alliens are mowing thier grass and trimming thier hedges.School bus service when the school is 2500 feet from thier front door,free school lunch service.Always wearing latest top of the line clothing and shoes.Then you see a large majority of them at grocery stores purchasing mostly junk food,snacks,candy and soda with these neat little plastic cards that say Lone Star on them,can you all excuse for awhile I can’t controll my tears anymore.Its horrible what black folks are going through.What I have mentioned so far is just the tip of th iceburg.

  15. Owen Gray Says:

    I live in Missouri, I am a 17 year old back teenager with a white girlfriend. I am the 8th out of my family and I am also the only back child. My family won’t and will never understand. It is hard, I cannot express how hard it is in words. She is amazing, smart, funny, beautiful. But that doesn’t stop racist or anyone who is against interracial dating, when we walk down the street all we get is bad looks, comments, you can imagine. I know they say “men don’t cry” and I know I am a teenage but yes, I have cried about this so has my girlfriend. If she cries and I hug her, people look at me…like I’ve done something wrong. I can’t comfort her without looks. It’s so fucking hard and there is nothing I can do. I really wish things were different but they’re not. I know most of you who read this are probably think that I’m a wimp and other things but I truly am not. I can’t go talk to someone about this because they won’t truly understand.

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