July 14, 2007

What Black Men Think
» See What Others Are Saying

Here’s an intriguing observation about Black society and how we view the media — We often criticize mainstream media by scoffing at the validity of information they feed us. Yet we consistently perk up and listen carefully when factions from the same media sources begin revealing statistical information about the Black community and Black men.

During any given week, you could probably watch a television newscast, read a popular book, or view a documentary on Blacks — and hear a variety of discouraging statistics about Black men. It’s a common occurence and leaves many Blacks shaking their heads, accepting it as true, then changing the channel.

According to various media sources, and many Blacks who gather information from them — most Black men are in jail or prison; jobless or in low-paying occupations; do not attend colleges or universities; are drug dealers, drug users, want-to-be pimps, hustlers, and “down low” brothas infecting Black women with HIV at alarming rates.

But where do these statistics come from? How do we know if the numbers are real, and whether or not they have been skewed for political or social agendas? Where do the calculations originate, and who does the calculating?

Janks Morton, who directs and produces an interesting upcoming documentary about false statistics connected to Black men, says the numbers aren’t as lopsided as you may think. In fact, some reported data is either misleading, misrepresented, half reported, or simply wrong.

A clear example is a 2001 Justice Policy Institute report stating the number of Black men in prison (791,600) was higher than the number of Black men in college (603,000). However, the study was reported by media outlets without a key stat. The number of college-age (18-24) African-American men attending college was higher than the number of incarcerated men from the same age group. The Justice Policy study included incarcerated men ages (18-55), which provided a larger sample group. In using the larger sample group, the data showed more Black men in prison than in college.

According to the Status Report on Minorities in Higher Education and the Department of Justice: Bureau of Justice statistics — In 2000, there were more than 469,000 African-American college-age (18-24) men enrolled in college, while 114,400 college-age men were in prison.

Another grim statistic reports on the numbers of Black women infected with HIV, and the belief that “down low” brothas are causing these numbers to rise exponentially. In a 2004 Centers for Disease Control report, cumulative statistics show that 20% of reported AIDS cases in women were the result of injection drug use, while 2% were related to sex with a bisexual male.

The same CDC report also shows that the number of women infected after having sex with an injection drug user is more than 3-times the total number infected after having sex with a “down-low” man.

But these stats mean nothing if you simply listen to what you’re being told. The Black community has always been aware of negative statistics, many of which need further attention. Nevertheless, other data is being wrecklessly delivered to us and it’s all based on presumptions, stereotypes, and miscalculations. The only way disspell the myths is to research the statistics ourselves and reveal more accurate information.

In Morton’s public service announcement and documentary “What Black Men Think”, real men challenge the Black community to take responsibility for the images of Black men. When we explore health-related matters, public education, unequal justice, and affordable housing — we sometimes foolishly believe inflated statistics and assume Black men are a dying breed.

Unfavorable reports should not be the motivating factor for uplifting our brothas. We must be careful not to use such statistics in a way that creates doubt in the minds of Black men and boys — leaving them to distrust their own value and abilities.

Categories: PRESS
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