Black Men Part 2: Blame, Suicide, Self Esteem, Worries, and Respect

Brandon and DaddySo the second Washington Post article on Black men is out (Thanks to Joy Princess for the Update). The article basically summarizes the findings of their survey, so I figured I would take issues mentioned in the article and elaborate on the sociological trends.

On Suicide
One of the first issues they discuss is the increasing suicide rate of Black men. The assertion that the suicide rate of Black men has increased is correct, but it should also be noted that the Black male suicide rate is still lower than the White male suicide rate. I also found this excellent article from National Public Radio’s News and Notes With Ed Gordon. It my estimation one of there are two factors that have allowed the suicide rate among Black men to escalate. First, is the increasing number of Black middle class families. These young men are more likely to commit suicide than their lower income peers. The second factor would be the notion that suicide is a “white thing,” which I have heard on numerous occasions. For a long time the suicide rate was much higher in Whites, but the gap has closed dramatically.

On Who’s to Blame for the Problems and Opportunities Facing Black Men

Six in 10 black men said their collective problems owe more to what they have failed to do themselves rather than “what white people have done to blacks.” At the same time, half reported they have been treated unfairly by the police, and a clear majority said the economic system is stacked against them.

Black men said they strongly believe in the American Dream — nine in 10 black men would tell their sons they can become anything they want to in life. But this vision of the future is laden with cautions and caveats: Two-thirds also would warn their sons that they will have to be better and work harder than whites for equal rewards.

Well I guess Bill Cosby needs to read this survey because the majority of Black men are placing the blame on themselves not Whites. But I agree with the general way the Washington Post has framed this problem. There is an interesting irony in that a high percentage of Black men report experiencing discrimination, yet they feel that Black men are to blame for the problems facing Black men. I think there probably is the “well I’m not that way, but other Black men are” attitude going on here. The optimism is also ironic. I get the sense that many of these guys are thinking there is racism, but they will be able to overcome any of it. On an individual level I think that is probably a good attitude, but at a societal level I think it is a bad attitude. Personally, it keeps people from getting down and allows them to maintain a can do ethic, but it doesn’t really challenge the racism that does affect these guys.

On Self Esteem
I was also really annoyed with this quote:

Sociologists and social psychologists say that black men’s poor view of themselves may have its roots in several factors. Movies, music, television and the news media are full of unflattering images of black men, they say.

The article fails to distinguish between self esteem and group esteem. Self esteem is how I feel about myself, and group esteem is how I feel about the group that I am a member of. For example, for me myself self esteem would be how I feel about Rachel, and my group esteem would be how I feel about a group I am a member of such as White women. As far as I can tell the study did not ask about self esteem, they asked about group esteem. When is comes self esteem, African Americans usually have higher self esteem than Whites (numerous studies have found this); on the other hand there are not many studies about group esteem, so I’m not sure about racial differences in group esteem. But Black people do not suffer from low self esteem as a collective.

On Worries and Respect
This part of the study was interesting. I don’t want to comment on it to as much because I think that there will probably be a more through analysis on some of these issues later. But for now here is a brief quote on some of the worries of Black men:

Among blacks with college degrees and household incomes of $75,000 a year or more, six in 10 said someone close to them had been murdered and six in 10 said a family member or close friend had been in jail or prison — similar to the reports of working-class, less-educated black men. Three in 10 have been physically threatened or attacked in their lives because of their race, again no different from less-advantaged black men.

If anything, the survey suggests that better-educated black men experience more direct racism than those with fewer resources. For example, 63 percent of educated, upper-middle-class black men said they have been unfairly stopped by police, compared with 47 percent of less-advantaged black men.

From the shared experiences and worries of black men have emerged a set of priorities that are very different from those of white America. Three in four black men said they highly value success on the job, fully 20 percentage points higher than white men. Black men also placed a far higher value on “being respected” by others, as well as standing up for their racial or ethnic group.

That’s all for now folks, please let me know when the next article comes out.

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15 Responses to Black Men Part 2: Blame, Suicide, Self Esteem, Worries, and Respect

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  4. 4
    Barbara says:

    I’m guessing that the more affluent Black men are more likely to inhabit or visit the more affluent areas of their communities (duh!) and therefore, “stand out” to police or residents as possibly not belonging. In other words, they are more likely to be stopped just for being Black. This happened all the time in the elite mostly white university I attended. Black students were always being stopped by university security patrols even after many had adopted a “hyper preppy” mode of dress. It was very upsetting.

  5. 5
    Dianne says:

    There is an interesting irony in that a high percentage of Black men report experiencing discrimination, yet they feel that Black men are to blame for the problems facing Black men

    The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. I’m not a black man, but as a woman I know that I face discrimination.For example, any manuscripts I send to journals or grants I submit will be downgraded because of my gender (don’t argue or I’ll post citations). Nonetheless, I also feel that if a paper doesn’t get accepted or a grant doesn’t get funded that I am to blame for not writing a better one (or having better data, etc), even though I also know that if I were male I probably wouldn’t be held to as high a standard and would, at least some of the time, get away with sloppy writing, holes in the data, etc. My projection is that it is similar for black men: they may know that they are being held to higher standards than whites, but that their failures and setbacks have to do with their behavior as well.

  6. 6
    Rachel S. says:

    Barbara, They did find that middle class Black men were more likely to report facing discrimination. My own sense is that when it comes to interpersonal discrimination (the kind that most people recognize) middle class Black men face more of that, but when it comes to institutional racism working class and poor Black men face more. However, that’s just a theory, which would be very hard test.

    Dianne,
    So tell me if this is a good paraphrase of your point–Black men know there is discrimination out there, but they know they must try harder to overcome that. If they don’t try hard enough then they feel, that they are to blame.

  7. 7
    Dianne says:

    Rachael: I suppose so, though I’d say that they probably feel that they are partly to blame or share the blame rather than they are to blame. I’m projecting, of course, so I could be completely wrong, but that’s my guess as to how to make sense of the data that show that black men know that they face prejudice but also feel that they are responsible for their own problems.

    I hope this doesn’t come out sounding condescending, but I also wonder if the average black person (whoever he or she is) knows just how much racism effects them. Let me explain why I ask this: I am partly hispanic, although I look white. Most of my life if you had asked me if racism, specifically anti-Mexican or hispanic racism, impacted me I would have said no. Then I moved to Germany. I know that Germany has and (to put it mildly) has had a lot of racial problems. But none of them were with hispanic people. There, suddenly, I wasn’t, even covertly, a member of one of the hated races. It felt great! I really felt much more at ease. In fact I felt rather guilty at how much easier life was when I didn’t have to listen to “jokes” about “wetbacks” and “send them all back to Mexico” comments. So even the tiny, tiny amount of racism I face affects me, even if I didn’t realize it until I lived without it. (I can’t even imagine how easy life would be in a place without sexism. It’s not likely I’ll find out either, but that’s a different problem.)If life is noticibly better without even the tiny amount of prejudice I faced for having one hispanic grandparent, how much moreso might the “real”, severe racism that blacks face affect them? But it’s so prevasive that many may accept much of it, never even think about it, because they’ve never known a world without it. So my conclusion is that blacks probably take way more responsibility for their problems than they should.

    In one sense, I actually feel that “accepting personal responsibility” (as the Republicans put it) rather than acknowledging the influence of prejudice is taking the easy way out. If you acknowledge that prejudice exists, you might have to do something about it. It’s easier to just accept that you’re going to have to work harder to succeed, especially when the possibility of success IS really open to those who are particularly bright, hard working, lucky, etc, than to try to change the system to make it fair. I know that might sound like blaming the victims–well, it is blaming the victims–but the oppressors aren’t ever going to do anything about it so either the victims are or it’s not going to change. But what to do about it, how to eliminate the prejudice, I don’t know.

  8. 8
    EL says:

    Re: the rising suicide rate among Black men

    Isn’t the suicide rate higher in prison? (I couldn’t find stats on this, so take it with a grain of salt.) Is it possible that the rising suicide rate is as much about increased drug-related incarcerations, rather than, or in addition to, the rise of the black middle class?

  9. 9
    woaicn says:

    Let me explain why I ask this: I am partly hispanic, although I look white. Most of my life if you had asked me if racism, specifically anti-Mexican or hispanic racism, impacted me I would have said no.

  10. 10
    Radfem says:

    There, suddenly, I wasn’t, even covertly, a member of one of the hated races. It felt great! I really felt much more at ease. In fact I felt rather guilty at how much easier life was when I didn’t have to listen to “jokes” about “wetbacks” and “send them all back to Mexico” comments.

    I’ve heard the same comments from African-Americans with lighter skin color when they are in groups with White people. Even if others do not recognize you or identify you as a member of a racial group, you are still exposed to their racism in ways you might not be otherwise and you still bear the cost of it. Because like you said, if you notice how much easier it is while in a country that is free of that(at least against a racial group you are a member of), then you are affected.

  11. 11
    Homer Smith says:

    I find your comments amusing—being a college educated Black man. Yes, there is still racism in our society. I have had problems, whether it be that visual type or the type where white’s are surprised at my being articulate or how I quickly I can formulate procedures in problem solving. The reason that we blame ourselves rather than the “originator” or “true source” of our problems is because if we did that we would be yielding to his superiorty complex (which masks his true nature of being inferior). And we refuse to boost his ego, so we blame ourselves.

  12. 12
    Anton says:

    If prejudice is a contributing factor, why ignore it? Also why would I blame myself for another person’s perception of my character? Personally, I feel that you can’t change everything. If I apply for a job and someone oh say used discrimination against me, (for whatever reason) there wouldn’t be much that I could do about it. I couldn’t change my gender or skin tone to make the person feel more comfortable. (who would?) Being intelligent and hard working doesn’t always equate to success. Sometimes it just depends on circumstance. Which is why you have crime, if people aren’t held down they have no reason to steal or what not. I feel that the system is unfair because it just ignores those who can’t adapt to its expectations. (not to say that people aren’t lazy either) Pesonally, I feel that I’m discriminated against because of my race, gender, and/or subculture. (black, male, punk rocker)-for some reason having a lipring or tattoo makes me a thug? And, I assume that since people always hear about a black male committing a crime that I’m more likely to engage in such acts? Society tries to stereotype people based on little or no relevant data to that particular person’s character. Discrimination is everywhere, it doesn’t always have to be racial profiling. As previously mentioned, women face it aswell as minority groups. Now I’m not saying that every woman or minority who applies for a job is going to be discriminated against, or that someone who is white will not face discrimination. But, that it happens and ignoring it, rather than doing something about it (calling people on their misdeeds), does nothing to change things. I would also like say that being a lower-class male, doesn’t mean that I am less intelligent than middle-class or upper-class blacks. One’s level of finanicial stability doesn’t equate to one’s intellectual prowess. That’s just my two cents.

  13. 13
    W. Eric Croomes says:

    I agree with some of the commentary above. I believe that what brothas need is a healthy dose of holistic medicine i.e. we must began to develop ourselves spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically. This is nothing new. Our sages have taught this creed for centuries. Holism is not a panacea for the ills of black men, but it is an inside-out strategy that could potentially increase the prospects of our surviving the American experience of oppression and exploitation. My non-profit group, Millennium Men of Color, is committed to providing a developmental forum for black men in the areas of spirituality, life-skills, educational achievement, economic power and a greater degree of influence in public policy. I fervently believe that each of us as black men possesses the right to, and indeed responsibility for, peace and justice and the development of our God-given skills and talents and to make a positive and productive difference for the black community.

    W. Eric Croomes
    Author, Brotha2Brotha, Becoming Healthy Men from the Inside Out

  14. 14
    Pablo says:

    Black men are victim of racism on a regular basis, but hey, we are big men now, we are no longer boys we can deal with it. Black men have to be careful not to become racist themselves by welcoming jokes towards other ethnic groups. We have to be proud black men and teach racist people how to live and let live and be in harmony with the earth and the universe.

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