Lately I have found myself feeling some kind of way regarding this national movement that sees Black men and boys in some sort of perpetual victimhood state that requires saving. I firmly believe that my ability to be employed, not incarcerated and educated at a relatively high level has NOTHING to do with my perspective or my condition. Rather in my mind it has everything to do with my belief that I AM the captain of my fate and the master of my soul. This is also not to say that I have not experienced the opposite of any of the above. Furthermore, I am not constantly reminded about the social implication my race and gender can have regardless of my accomplishments.
This notion that I am destined to a state of indefinite victimhood based upon my race and gender I am having a difficult time accepting. The consistent preaching and teaching Black boys and men to see themselves as victims further emasculates the same population in which so many are interested in empowering. Are their unique challenges that Black men and boys face relative to structural and institutional racism ABSOLUTELY YES. But this engrained idea that I am somehow powerless in the process to affect change and subsequently impact my own outcome makes me an active participant in my own oppression. To suggest that Black men and boys somehow must contort themselves in order to avail themselves to success and avoid adversity ignores truly who one is destined to be and places ultimate power in the hands of someone else.
The above statement does not ignore the accommodations one must make in order to get from point A to point B, but I contend those are just not germane to race and or gender. People like what they like and are comfortable with what they are familiar with. Someone’s lack of discovery is their own limited thinking not some reflection of who and what I am. The economics though of me owning that deficit changes the paradigm and thus has created a movement with saving my peers and I at its core.
I nor any of the African-American men I know (from ALL economic and social realms) have a desire to be paraded through folk’s mental and social consciousness by the very same entities that have failed us (education, criminal justice and religious). All of the aforementioned hands are dirty in terms of creating the conditions that have lead to the state of Black men and boys. However, to have all coalesced and leading a campaign of redemption suggests a sense of innocence that absolves them of their role in the conditions they have created. Each has to make amends for their role in the deconstruction of Black men and boys before they can be authenticated as true change agents.
Finally, the campaigns that suggest Black men and boys need to be saved, helped, etc never actualizes the who and what from which Black men and boys need to be saved from and what we need help doing. This glaring oversight in my opinion further institutionalizes Black men and boys to a system of care that has always proven itself to be elusive at worst and insufficient at best. Indefinite help creates dependency and elusive help is a lie and I am not interested in either.
That’s my Truth and I AM sticking to it.
Dr. Irvin PeDro Cohen