Orlando Patterson gives his opinions on The Washington Post "Black Men" series in this opinion piece.
After reading what he had to write, I came to the conclusion that he had strong preconceived notions going into the series and, no matter what was read, stuck with those notions.
Let me cut to the quick: Patterson's comments are inane.
These two themes struck me as I read The Washington Post's "Being a Black Man" series. I was impressed with how the young black men profiled in the series acknowledged their plight and assumed responsibility for it. Their unsentimental realism contrasts sharply with the persistent victim arguments of the experts and specialists interviewed for the series, and those of many academics and social scientists, white and black alike, who think they understand black men and the solutions to their problems.
That is reasonable commentary. What I think is hogwash is what follows not far after that:
It is heartening to see that young black men, even more than whites, think that to "blame things on other people" is not only a false take on reality but a sure way to guarantee failure. The men interviewed repeatedly made the point that viewing the world as a victim can be self-fulfilling. Most telling is Rahsaan Ferguson's account of his father's mantra, "You are a black boy. That's two things you will always have against you." This, Rahsaan fortunately came to realize, was terribly disabling advice: "It kind of brings you down," he said. Indeed.
OK, here is where I start to have intellectual problems with what Patterson writes. I've heard the mantra, you have to be twice as good to be considered as good, and I accepted and accept it for what it is. Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and others, have written that is how it used to be in the past and how Blacks need to have this attitude. Yet, I have never read commentary by anyone stating the "Twice as good" mantra is defeating. This is especially true during affirmative action "debates".
Then, Patterson writes this whopper which, if he was in the room when I read it, I would have thrown a brick at him:
This is nonsense. Other professionals to whom The Post spoke blamed the media for presenting "unflattering images of black men." Added Carl Bell, president of the Community Mental Health Council in Chicago: "We got this outside system putting this lens on black people, especially black men, that says 'toxic demon.' " More confounding foolishness. The mass media's role is, indeed, one factor in understanding the condition of young black men, but not because it portrays them as "toxic demons." To the contrary, the problem is that the media too enthusiastically reinforce a perversely favorable image of young black male culture; increasingly, the people producing these images are black media moguls and stars.
I own the Black Self Help Information domain, and I have one HELL OF A TIME trying to find positive information about Blacks, not just Black men, but Blacks in general! And Patterson has the nerve to say the media gives favorable images of young Black "males"? I have a filter for "African-American" or "Black" in the news and I get TONS of bad information. And to add to this, none other than -- queue angelic music or the theme of The Lone Ranger -- BIll Cosby said the series was TOO POSITIVE!
Next, Patterson gets information wrong, just plain wrong:
There are many such factors, but the most important is the fraught nature of black male-female relationships and the fragility of their marital unions or cohabitations. The Post's series powerfully documents this issue, although mainly among the middle class. But if middle-class women have such problems, how much worse must they be among the poor? Stable unions are a fast-dying institution among African Americans and must be rescued before it is too late.
Surveys increasingly show that, especially among the poor, women even more than men are turned off by marriage because they expect so little from it. Blacks have the lowest rate of marriage of all groups in the United States; when they do marry or cohabit they have the highest rates of disruption; and when they divorce they have the lowest rates of remarriage. The result is both the highest proportion of adults living singly and the fact that the great majority of black kids are now being raised without a father.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I know I'm not, but Patterson has this backwards! Black women are more positive towards marriage, meaning they will get married one day, than are Black men. Not only that, but it is college educated Black women who are having trouble finding "suitable" Black men than are non-college educated Black women. The reason being these Black women want similarly educated Black men and the sad fact is, there are more Black women obtaining college degrees than Black men.
He then ends his piece with this:
A cultural understanding of black problems suggests social policies that reduce the exposure of young blacks to the streets, increase adult supervision during childhood and lessen the burden on black mothers, especially in light of welfare policies that oblige them to work. All this implies more, not less, government: high-quality day care for the poor, longer school days, well-organized and enriching after-school programs, greatly reduced summer holidays and a radical rethinking of the school curriculum in which students learn not only essential literacy and mathematics but also social and cultural skills -- the basic and often tacit understandings, attitudes and behaviors that are required for survival and competence in the world's most advanced and competitive society.
Maybe it's me, but this goes against what Patterson started off writing about. He writes about Black men stating their responsibility for "their plight" and then turns around and says the government has to fix it.
How about this?
I was taught, have taught my daughter and will teach my son:
- Respect for other people and themselves.
- Illicit drug use is not acceptable.
- You are expected to work for what you want to obtain.
- You will do well in school because education is the surest way of providing a path for you to get ahead.
- There are no easy ways to get ahead. All ways to get ahead require hard work.
- Don't give up.
- Believe in yourself.
- You have to rely on yourself.
- Crime is not a solution no matter how dire the situation.
- Surround yourself with people who are achieving something positive and learn from them.