April 15, 2009

Strange black men from outer space

Let’s play word association.

I say “black man.” What words or phrases pop into your mind? Tell the truth. I’ll give you a few: gangster, thug, thief, convict, lazy, shiftless, dumb, dropout, hustler, absentee father. I could go on. Even if you get a bit more positive (outside of Barack Obama), it’s singer, rapper, athlete.

Everybody gets in on the act of beating us up — media, white America, academia — even some black men (Bill Cosby and crew). Maybe the worst culprits (though they will take umbrage at me saying so) are black women. According to many black women, almost total responsibility for black suffering (especially in romantic relationships) can be laid squarely on the shoulders of black men. If we’d just get ourselves together, everything would be all right. Interesting.

Brothers are the easiest targets around. The abuse is so frequent that no one even talks about how commonplace it is anymore. In fact, a black man who is highlighted for doing “positive things” is seen as a freakish anomaly rather than proof that “good black men” do indeed exist and are not strange, alien specimens from outer space. For instance, despite the widespread labeling of black men as bad fathers, a whole lot of us are trying our level best — and doing all right.

True, there are bad and/or absentee black fathers. I had one. But there’s another side. I wrote this piece because my daughter, Jordan, turned 1 this week. She’s a gem and I have been very close to her since minute one. I’m not alone. The same can be said of many brothers — including my two best friends. I’ll call them Bogey and The B.O.P. Those who know me know who I’m talking about.

The B.O.P. and I have been boys since we were 12 years old. We’ve been rolling since our days at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Atlanta. He’s a flat-out warrior. Born with sickle cell anemia, doctors said he wouldn’t live past 16. He’s 41 now. My man!

In 1998, a girl whose birth control pills “malfunctioned” (how many times have we heard that story?) told The B.O.P., “I’m pregnant.” She immediately followed up with, “And I’m keeping it. I was just letting you know.” The B.O.P.’s choices were gone — life altered. He responded with a refrain he maintains until this day, “I can’t let that boy grow up like we did, man.” He moved her in, put her through school, married her, and had another son. She left him a few years later. Broke his heart. She broke the news at her birthday dinner, which he planned — only two days after returning home from a month-long hospital stay. Tough.

My other boy, Bogey, is like a big brother to me. When times are toughest, his face is often the first I see. I trust him so much that I asked him to be my daughter’s godfather. I won’t go too deep, but he’s made sacrifices many men would never even think of making for his daughters. His wife divorced him, too — TWICE! To this day, he goes hard for his girls.

These brothers’ wives didn’t leave because their men wouldn’t work, beat them or cheated. They were absolutely committed. The women just got “tired” or weren’t “in love” (their words, not mine) — even though both were adamant about getting married on the front end.

Through heartache, trauma and the financial ruin of rapacious divorces, my boys stay strong and committed to their children. Neither they nor I do it because of examples we grew up with. The B.O.P. didn’t meet his father until he was 18 — and then took care of him as he died of pancreatic cancer. Bogey met his dad at 28. I never laid eyes on mine until I was 34. Bad fathers all. But that doesn’t mean the majority of us are that way.

So, Happy Birthday, Jordan! Your daddy loves you and, come hell or high water, will ALWAYS be there!

Remember, until next time — you know the rest.

Dr. Ricky L. Jones is the author of “What’s Wrong With Obamamania?” His column is published the third week of each month. Visit him at www.rickyljones.com.


Life with out a black man is like a planet unvisited!

By Seasoned4u
Much respect to you, your baby girl and her mother. The life of a black man is complicated. My love for black men has never faulted but I struggled with respecting them for many years. I do wish more brothers could endure the hardships they face like you and your boys. May by it was the togetherness you all share that helped everyone of you survive with dignity. I think a young woman's relationship with her father is the most important because its her first experience with a man. I remember as a young black girl growing up with a single mom and looking for my father to come around. He was in and out of jail and my mother married an older retired vet. That black man was like a knight in shinning armor. He brought so much to our lives. From age 3 till about 11 he could do no wrong. When I started becoming a young woman he became a sexual predator and that changed the way I looked at men until I was about 30 years old. At 30, I was a single mother of 4 girls with different fathers. To much dismay I had become what I swore not to be ....like my moma. There I was realizing I had come across some good men. They worshiped me while I played games because I couldn't accept their love. A single mother at 15 I raised my girls to believe that we didn't need a man. By the time I was 30 I had turned down 6 proposals from good black men to get married. I was scared. There was one who wouldn't let me use him for money or sex. He stood his ground and I was tired of running from good black men. I watched my friends spend most of their lives looking for what I treated like they came by the dozen. Some of my girlfriends became angry with me and went so far as to go after what I looked over. It was my street savy, hustling father that told me about my serious issues with men (not just black men). My bother and some others thought I was a closet lesbian because I used my hurt to fuel my feminism. My husband knew I had been hurt and it was deep. He didn't let me run or push him away. He understood me because he was hurt by black women in his life. My relationship with my husband has been a roller coaster as most relationships are. I have learned so much about my self and I have found a new understanding and respect for black men. It's sad that we have to experience heart breaks. Now I have a son with my husband who will turn a year soon. When I look at him I am so amazed. I am thankful God blessed me with the one of the highest responsibilities...a black man. My son has many sisters between me and his dad. My encounters with men like you and your boys give me hope. I encourage you not to put all black women in the same box. We make mistakes in our relationships true. There are many social constructs that have framed our thinking. We need patience and love. Yes, we have some lead way in areas many black men struggle to achieve but its still a fight for the black woman to survive. Real sisters need real brothers in their lives. Thanks for being what Lil Jordan needs. Peace