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July 21, 2007

‘What Black Men Think:’ New Film Will Prove Myths Wrong

By Yoji Cole

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Date Posted: July 20, 2007 Tired of hearing negative reports on black men in America and not knowing whether they’re true? Being fed up with the lies and distortions about black men that proliferate throughout the media caused Janks Morton to create the documentary “What Black Men Think,” which seeks to debunk common myths that most people take for granted as fact, including black men and women. Watch a preview on YouTube. “Black men are the most analyzed probed, prodded, under-studied, over-studied group ever,” Morton said in a Black Entertainment Television (BET) interview. “Whenever data comes out about us, they’re going to skew it to the negative of us.” 

Morton directs his anger not only at the media but at so-called black leaders, such as the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who, he says, refuse to challenge the perceptions that perpetuate the myths and stereotypes about black men. “What Black Men Think” is scheduled to be released in August, but a director’s cut is being shown in select cities throughout the nation. On Thursday in Los Angeles, black author and political commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who contributed to the film, hosted a screening at the Lucy Florence coffee house in the historic Leimert Park area. 

The film debunks several myths about black men, including the misperception that there are more black men in jail than in college, that black men who are secretly bisexual are causing the increase in HIV/AIDS cases among black women, that at least 30 percent of black men marry white women, and that less than a third of them graduate high school. “We have to get straight on the statistics about black males because our perception about the numbers creates a perception about ourselves,” Morton told BET. More than that, however, the film discusses through interviews with notable black educators and community activists—such as Professors Shelby Steele, Alvin F. Poussaint, Hutchinson and others—how gains from the black civil-rights movement were lost to government handouts that made the black man nearly obsolete. Claiming that 80 percent of black households were two-parent households in the 1960s, the film tries to pinpoint where the community started to lose ground. At that time, the black community was forced to adhere to a higher moral standard than the white community. Government assistance hurt black people by making them dependent, and black people began to believe in the government instead of themselves, Steele says in the film. 

Debunking 4 Myths Here are four major myths and statistics that “What Black Men Think” attacks: 

Myth 1: There are more black men in jail than in college. That study came out of the Justice Policy Institute in 2002. Morton’s research revealed that 805,000 black men were in college and 757,000 black men were in jail. “Of course that’s bad, but the actual storyline was there were more black men in jail than college,” Morton told BET. “That’s untrue. The study was flawed. The sample was flawed. The data was flawed.” The Justice Policy Institute responded that there were more college-aged black men in college than were incarcerated. But the study researched incarcerated men ages 18 and older; because of that larger sample group, the number of black men in jail is higher than the number of black men in college. Morton visited that statistic again looking at 2005 numbers. His research revealed that of black men ages 18 to 24, there was a 4-to-1 ratio of black men in college to black men incarcerated.  

Myth 2: Secretly bisexual black men explain the high incidence of black women contracting HIV/AIDS. “What Black Men Think” reveals that 2 percent of HIV/AIDS cases in black women were contracted from black men. Furthermore, 50 percent of black women who died from AIDS contracted the disease from intravenous-drug use or sex with an intravenous-drug user. 

Myth 3: Half of all black men do not graduate high school. Morton’s research revealed that 78 percent of black-male high-school students have graduated or got their GED.  

Myth 4: A high percentage of black men marry white women. Morton asked black people the percentage of black men they thought married white women, and the most common answer was at least 30 percent. His research, however, showed that percentage to be significantly lower. Of interracial marriages involving black men, 5 percent are with white women.  (See also: Which Races Intermarry Most? 40th Anniversary of the Loving Case) 

Believing the myths, stereotypes and misconceptions about who black men are is causing black men and women to be suspicious of one another, says Morton.  “I know it has led to our division,” Morton said to BET. “We are the most highly disjoined race of all. Men have internalized the message. Women have internalized the message and we look at each other very, very suspiciously.” Morton hopes “What Black Men Think” will become a “reclamation of who we are.”

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