The Dilemma of the Metaphorical Mulatto - Printable Version
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a new cultural paradigm - Nathaniel - 05-03-2006 04:00 PM
You raised an interesting topic in your response that I have been giving some thought too...that is the issue of 'cultural paradigms'. If we look at the development of the Eurocentric cultural paradigm as the ideological root of many of the current problems of economic inequity, and widespread poverty and suffering...then the question becomes, How does one transcend the paradigm? You mentioned the spiritual and cultural traditions of African people for yourself, and the various ethnic and social groups whose cultures have been buried beneath the concrete of European imperialism each have their own tradition which they are trying to 'recover.' I also agree with you when you make the point that Europeans cultural root is part of the problem, so where does that leave people of European descent?
I agree it is a problem. Western culture is essentially some cobbled together, often stolen, and misintrepreted shit from the original creators (you see how they JUST broke the news that the Chinese invented golf!)
However, I wish to make two points. I think it was Franz Fanon who wrote about the importance of not blindly relying on the 'wisdom' of the past, but rather forging a new revolutionary ethics and philosophy out the past's encounter with present problems. Obviously cultural traditions will play a role in this; how large a role is another debate. I only wish to stress the importance of 'imagining alternatives' especially for white people in this country...and that will probably involve some 'scary' encounters as whites move outside of their 'comfort zone' and into real, open, honest, and authentic encounters with people of color on something other than Eurocentric terms.
I can say there have been many many times over the past 3 years at Howard where I have been privileged to have these encounters...I say privileged because they inevitably have led me deeper in my understanding of not only the world around me, but my own self.
I wrote a paper on this for my philosophy class, but I dont wanna bore you with a long rehash of that, so I'll just make this last point. The words, 'African' and 'European' themselves are slightly arbitrary, a result, again, of imperialism actively set in motion by a group of European elites, the merchant bourgieous. (spelling?) Europe is a concept that emerges in a particular historical period, when it becomes convenient for that class's privileges. I say all this to say, it is more helpful for whites imagining alternatives to find out what particular traditions from the various cultures of the European continent cultivate a better understanding of our common humanness...and I would say they are out there, I can't just dismiss 'European' culture as the problem, because the reality is that Europe itself was colonized by these ideas from the inside...witness the Irish...they werent something held by all groups of Europeans in all times and places, but an ideology which a particular class/group imposed.
I wanted to bring out a quote that my fair-skinned brother raised,
"That racism is just one of the many human flaws, amongst greed, jealousy, lust for power, etc.; flaws that are evident in a majority of human beings. They are human flaws, not a flaws of a certain color of people. People of all colors possess the flaw of racism. White people have just been, by far, the most treacherous perpetrators of this phenomenon.
I would have to agree with this conditionally. You can define racism in several ways though. I guess I would agree that yes it is racism to hate someone based on their race, and that no one race has a monopoly on hating another. But many contend there is an added element here, and I agree with them. That element is power. Rich white people have the power of the economic, social, and political engines behind them, what Gramsci called 'hegemony.'
And in the new era, blacks who get down with the Eurocentric paradigm are able to wield a small portion of that same power. So when Shirley Franklin mayor of Atlanta) uses her power to pass stringent anti-vagrancy laws against the homeless in Atlanta, I consider it an ongoing expression of racism, even though Shirley Franklin is black. The point: there are different kinds of racism and different kinds of racists. The racism of someone calling people who look like me 'crackers' and honkies at some rally, or being given dirty looks in a club where I am the minority is FAR FAR different from the systemic aspect of racism which denies an entire group of people access to power, privileges, and the tools to live sustainably in a given society.
As for me, yeah I'm white, and yeah I read the Liberator, cuz its like a fresh fruit smoothie for the mind. Looking forward to the ongoing dialogue.
4th - brianold - 05-13-2006 07:35 PM
his fourth response...
I ain't been able to write back in a minute, I worked 52 hours this week, in 5 days (nothing has been handed to me in this world, EVER). But I thought I'd keep it going. Where we left off-
You tryed to explain to me that the constructs are real, and you could die from them. I don't know if u peeped, but i already said that:
"An analogy would be that the U.S.-Mexico border is real, because we have made it real. In our world you can't just walk back in forth across the line, bring whatever you want across, whatever. There could be punishments against you, exacted by human beings. The line is real because we have made it real, it is a construct we have created which we enforce."
You said it isn't as "REAL" to me, because it isn't affecting my family. You misunderstand me completely. It is real, and I said that. I just said it's real because we have made it real. All this shit is real as real life, regardless of who it's happening to. Sweatshops, and exploitation, borders, and prisons, it's all real as fucking real life. I understand that. It isn't happenening to me, I'm glad it's not to. That doesn't mean it isn't real. If it was happening to me, I'd fight through that shit as hard as I could; and if I died, fuck it. We all gotta die, we don't choose when.
What I'm saying is, these mutherfuckers may control my body (or a mexicans body, or anyone in a prison, or whatever), they may control me with their constructs built into laws and rules. They can do that, they have power like that. But they can't control my mind. Nor anyones, anywhere. So if I say fuck a construct, you can enforce it, but to me it's bullshit; I can do that.
It's not changing the world, but I'm not trying to. You would probably say I'm assisting a destructive construct because I'm not fighting it. Fuck that. I choose not to acknowledge it, because it's bullshit; and I can do that. If I was dead, therefore not doing anything "positive for the cause" just like now, would i still be assisting a destructive construct?
Also it seems like you've been saying everything bad that ever happens is white peoples fault. And everything good happens despite all the evil white people? Seems to me that's your stance on everything, everything bad is white people's fault and everything good is despite of them, everywhere. Shit is not so simple at all. There are destructive people of all colors, genders, ages, everywhere. I suppose you'd say when Don King supported *the current president*, or when he screws some young fighter just getting his break out of a ton of money, it was all europeans fault? They made him do it? Fuck that. He has freedom of choice, and he chooses to fuck people over.
My point is, there are good and bad people everywhere, shades in between, and everything is not because of race. If we were all green, people would still be fucking each other over. Race just makes it easier to blame someone, when class is the real issue. The black people I know have much, much more in common with me than they do with shaq. As well as I have much more in common with them, than I do with a senator. Class is the real fucking issue, race is just a bait-and-switch that keeps peoples minds occupied while the rich fuck everybody over. You think you and that dude that started BET are brothers? That your part of one big family? That's the fucking bait-and-switch. You don't know that dude, his life is a million times different than yours (i think he died tho), but his wife owns(OWNS!) three sports teams. She's got more in common with carl pohlad than you. CLASS IS THE REAL ISSUE>! RACE JUST ALLOWS IT TO GO UNNOTICED!
As for me. I live my life to the fullest, regardless. If shit isn't good, I'm gonna fight through that shit. I can watch a movie, i can watch a basketball game. Ancient mayans, romans, africans, people everywhere played games, sometimes brutal and inhumane. I'm hurting suffering people in the world if I watch a basketball game? Get the fuck outta here. If I didn't watch the game it wouldn't have helped them any. We get our cards dealt and we play them shits. I didn't get a great hand, but it's better than what a lot of other people got; so fuck it i'm gonna play my hand. If you get the worst hand possible dealt to you, all you can do is play that hand to the fullest until you die. I live my life, I ain't spending it trying to help or hurt other people, I just want to live a peaceful life. Live well, and have my family live well. And there is nothing wrong with that, regardless of what anyone says.
brian's response 4 - brianold - 05-16-2006 12:21 PM
brian's fourth response, in return...
On an individual level i can't knock anything you're saying.
I'm speaking on a collective level.
You know I'm not dumb enough to say that everything white people do is bad and everything black people do is good. lol. Even if I did believe that I wouldn't say it! That's a conversational trap. I'm not that type of person.
When I spoke of what I spoke of, I said it in the context of "civilizations" and "collective paradigms" if you remember right.
So what I'm saying is that historically the paradigms and civilizations that have come out of Europe have been non-sustainable for the majority of humankind.
Obviously there is a class factor. But what we have to come to agreeance on eventually if we study history is that the paradigms and civilizations that are characteristically African, or that borrow heavily from them, are sustainable.
So my logic follows that collectively and individually, the things we do that are more "sustainable" are helping and the things we do that are "destructive" or that maintain (thereby support) destruction are harming.
The logic then follows similar to what martin luther king jr. said, if "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" than my "justice" is dependent on the next man's. Meaning I do not really have "justice" until we all do.
You said: "I just want to live a peaceful life. Live well, and have my family live well."
I'm agreeing that that is a goal all humans should aspire to... but am recognizing and owning up to the fact that I do not have "peace", I cannot "live well" truly and my family cannot be truly "living well" if what enable us to do that is the destruction and oppression of others around the world.
The clothes we wear, the minerals in our cell phones, the gas in our cars, the vegetables and fruits we eat, the rubber on our bike and car tires... it's all comes at a cost and that cost is paid by families around the world who will never in their lives "have peace" or "live well"
thats all i'm saying.
I feel that gives me a responsibility if not just a conviction on my conscious at a minimum. We can justify it all we want but that's the way this western civilization was built and that's the way it has and will be maintained.
No one has/can illustrate how western civilization can survive without exploiting and oppressing others. If someone can I'm down to listen. So logically, anyone who's for the maintence of that system is indirectly for the exploitation and oppression of the people who power the machine. Can you hold them accountable as individuals? That's a harder question. Most people and most people's gods say that a person is held responsibily once he/she has knowledge. I pretty much agree with that and realize I'm guilty in many ways then. The key to me is to be always looking to for an alternative(s) and to always be moving towards it/them.
Re: ~ the janitor's input - brianold - 05-16-2006 12:26 PM
bjanitor Wrote:I think both of you are right but from a different perspective, I think that we are the same animal in the way of a panther and a Lepard, we are in the same family like they are both felines we are mankind but I think we are a different species that is interconnected through are similarities and are relation to each other in the eco system. I think we are like the ying and the yang, opposites with a simialar focus inorder to maintain a balance, I think our failure to submit to our natural state has caused confusion in the roles of our different species.
so according to that, what are the natural roles of the "yin" and what are the natural roles of the "yang" in your opinion?
Re: a new cultural paradigm - brianold - 05-16-2006 12:42 PM
Nathaniel Wrote:I only wish to stress the importance of 'imagining alternatives' especially for white people in this country...and that will probably involve some 'scary' encounters as whites move outside of their 'comfort zone' and into real, open, honest, and authentic encounters with people of color on something other than Eurocentric terms.
Nate, on your first point, I agree with Fanon like you do: it is important not to romanticize the past and to realize that looking forward something NEW will come. But as I'm sure you know I just want to make sure we agree that it will be strongly rooted in the past.
Which brings me to point 2: i like that you got into the words "europe" and "africa"... the comic on the frontpage of the liberator site today is about words and their fickleness. (sp?) But we also have to move past that skepticism of language at large (as all groups with languages do) in order to be productive and continue moving. So I work with "african" based on my reading of chancellor williams and his (and many others') findings that yes there is a oneness among african peoples. Common threads exist. Since we call the continent "africa" i just call the common threads "african" really "ethiopian" would be accurate too (if not more) but the nationalism of ethiopians might prevent others from wanting to use that word. so "african" works for me as a functional term.
Tying into that point... the term "Europe"... thats a tough situation to be in... being white and aware. Here's what I think about the term Europe based on my readings of Cedric Robinson and others... I see it in a collective paradigm context, like you said. Now as far as the subcultures that were sort of colonized from the inside... I AGREE with you with saying that whites should work on finding their true cultural identities... but most dont and most choose to subscribe to their "whiteness" and will not let it go... even in the context of "I'm Irish" there is still a reaping of benefits of "I'm white" or "I'm european"... So my thing there is I think white folks have something to prove... just as on a different level... Americans (black and white) have something to prove.
The one who has the priviledge has to humble himself and unsubscribe in a very public way i think. As a pseudo-American I'm working on that myself when I go to africa... i have to unsubscribe to americaness. ya dig?
i think that's where white people should spend much of their research time instead of in africa... i'm interetsed in knowing how "sustainable" the subcultures (irish, etc...) are. How much over time have they adopted the european paradigm? I ask the same of blacks in america... how much over time have we adopted it? Is it too late? The one thing that america has provided for black people that europe and america and the west hasnt provided for whites (ironically) IS overt racism and racial heirarchy based on skin color... it has been a constant barrier for us to total adopting of the euro-paradigm... for whites the fight against assimilation is much harder because the door is opened so much wider. If you know of any specific western subscultures/paradigms that are "sustainable" lets discuss! if not, go find some so we can discuss! lol!
5th response - brianold - 05-21-2006 12:47 PM
His 5th response...
For that one i commend you.
Eveything you're saying is real, but so is everything I've been saying. It's two different worlds.. cause i'm speaking strictly on the individual level, and thats how I operate. But i still love what you're saying, and commend you for it. It's just like my experiences in my life has knocked that collective feeling right the f*ck out of me. That's a lot of where i was coming from on the whole race deal. See you feel a collectiveness with any other "brother," right? You feel that you and another black man are connected, and that you have a responsibilty to him, as well as him to you. And beyond that you feel a responsibility to suffering people everywhere.
I'm not knocking that at all... But I don't.
No man i don't know is my brother. White, brown, green, like King said also; I judge a man for the content his character. But I don't feel a responsibility to anyone.
You feel that collective responsibility for the good of people. That's good. I really respect that. Thatss one reason i love michael moore. He really does everything that he does for the good of people. And that's why i have him as my start page, and have his movies, and went to see him speak. His heart is huge.. but i am not a part of his movement. I'm more like Vincent from "Collateral." Life has made me like this. I used to be bright-eyed. Optimistic.. Have a social-consciousness... I used to think I could change things. Now I see that it's gonna be hard enough just to get things right for me, not to mention anyone else. But you're fighting the good fight. And I'm not telling you to stop. Maybe what I'm saying just re-enforces your beliefs. That would be a good thing. I hope this myspace thing doesn't close down, and in five years i'll write and see if you still feel the same way. Ten years. Twenty. Maybe you will. Maybe you'll be leading a movement, and changing things. Like a Dr. King, a Michael Moore. A champion for the people. I would like that.
Or maybe you'll be like me. cuz i'm only twenty, but my mind is older. and i know a whole lot. and i've seen more than a lot of people see in a lifetime. and i just don't see what you see anymore. but i actually hope you can maintain your outlook.
Re: article interupt: response - mizzy - 06-01-2006 05:32 PM
This statement is really an example of the cultural beliefs common among Gen Xer. Adults whose parents are baby boomers, and who have little or no faith in political action.
Quote:The part about liberals not liking this was especially amusing (I consider myself independent. fuck politicians, republicans are worse than democrats, but that doesn't make democrats good); because my mom is always writing to somebody, or arguing with right-wing jerks, as if she can somehow show them something they missed, and that Norm Coleman will somehow stop whatever bullshit he's currently up to because she wrote a convincing letter. I'm always trying to convince her that that shit is futile, that they don't even read her letters or listen to her calls. But she keeps fighting the good fight, even if it is futile. *by the way she does this not out of any self-interest, like this guy says, but because she's always trying to help out everybody.(though he was right on with the self-interest thing on a mass scale, not an individual one).
yea - brianold - 06-05-2006 12:54 PM
it bothers me that people find justification and "peace" in false neutrality. but i guess there's not too much energy that i can afford to waste (outside of engaging in discussion) trying to change such a mind. (?)
whoever said actions speak louder than words was right i guess...
interesting... - brianold - 06-05-2006 04:19 PM
White Guilt, Deciphered
Black 'militants' preaching militant dependency want guilt-ridden whites to feel obligated to deliver black advancement.
By George F. Will
June 5, 2006 issue - The unbearable boredom occasioned by most of today's talk about race is alleviated by a slender, stunning new book. In "White Guilt," Shelby Steele, America's most discerning black writer, casts a cool eye on yet another soft bigotry of low expectations—the ruinous "compassion" of a theory of social determinism that reduces blacks to, in Steele's word, "non-individuated" creatures.
That reduction is the basis of identity politics—you are your (racial, ethnic, sexual) group. A pioneer of this politics, which is now considered "progressive," was, Steele says, George Wallace. He, too, insisted that race is destiny.
The dehumanizing denial that blacks have sovereignty over their lives became national policy in 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson said: "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line in a race and then say, 'You are free to compete with all the others'." This, Steele writes, enunciated a new social morality: No black problem could be defined as largely a black responsibility. If you were black, you could not be expected to carry responsibilities equal to others'.
So, being black conferred "an almost reckless moral authority," a "power of racial privilege." The "power to shame, silence and muscle concessions from the larger society" was black power. The demand for equal rights became a demand for "the redistribution of responsibility for black advancement from black to white America, from the 'victims' to the 'guilty'."
Hence the black militancy's proclaiming "black power" was really an exercise in the power of helplessness. It was an assertion of white power—white society's power to "take" (LBJ's telling word) blacks to social equality. Hence "black power" was actually a denial of the power of blacks to manage their own escape from an intractable inferiority.
"By the mid-sixties," Steele writes, "white guilt was eliciting an entirely new kind of black leadership, not selfless men like King who appealed to the nation's moral character but smaller men, bargainers, bluffers and haranguers—not moralists but specialists in moral indignation—who could set up a trade with white guilt." The big invention by these small men was what Steele calls "globalized racism." That idea presumes that "racism is not so much an event in black lives as a condition of black life," a product of "impersonal" and "structural" forces. The very invisibility of those forces proved their sinister pervasiveness.
The theory of "structural" or "institutional" racism postulates a social determinism that makes all whites and American institutions complicit in a vicious cultural pattern. The theory makes the absence of identifiable adverse events in the lives of individual blacks irrelevant to blacks' claims to victimhood. Victim status is a source of endless, sometimes lucrative and always guilt-free leverage over a guilt-ridden society.
Black students who have never suffered discrimination can, Steele says, enjoy affirmative action "with a new sense of entitlement." As a result, Steele says, "We blacks always experience white guilt as an incentive, almost a command, to somehow exhibit racial woundedness and animus." The result for blacks is "a political identity with no real purpose beyond the manipulation of white guilt."
Black "militants" are actually preaching militant dependency. They have defined justice as making whites feel so guilty that they will take responsibility for black advancement. One casualty of this, Steele says, has been education: "We got remedies pitched at injustices rather than at black academic excellence—school busing, black role models as teachers, black history courses, 'diverse' reading lists, 'Ebonics,' multiculturalism, culturally 'inclusive' classes, standardized tests corrected for racial bias, and so on." Reading, writing and arithmetic? Later. Maybe.
Maybe not. Not if classrooms are suffused with "a foggy academic relativism in which scholastic excellence is associated with elitism, and rote development with repression." Steele, a former professor of English, notes that "inner-city black English diverges more from standard English today than it did in the fifties."
White guilt, Steele says, is a form of self-congratulation, whereby whites devise "compassionate" policies, the real purpose of which is to show that whites are kind and innocent of racism. The "spiritually withering interventions of needy, morally selfish white people" comfortable with "the cliché of black inferiority" have a price. It is paid by blacks, who are "Sambo-ized."
Strong stuff from a fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford who last week received a Bradley Prize, for which this columnist voted. You can read "White Guilt" in two hours. For years it will be a clarifying lens through which to view the lonely struggle of clear sighted black intellectuals to rescue blacks from a degrading temptation. It is the temptation to profit from the condescension toward blacks that is the core of today's white guilt.
© 2006 MSNBC.com
in contrast... - brianold - 06-05-2006 08:58 PM
Poll Reveals a Contradictory Portrait Shaded With Promise and Doubt
By Steven A. Holmes and Richard Morin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 4, 2006; A01
Black men in America today are deeply divided over the way they see themselves and their country.
Black men report the same ambitions as most Americans -- for career success, a loving marriage, children, respect. And yet most are harshly critical of other black men, associating the group with irresponsibility and crime.
Black men describe a society rife with opportunities for advancement and models for success. But they also express a deep fear that their hold on the good life is fragile, in part because of discrimination they continue to experience in their daily lives.
This portrait of the divided black man emerges from a survey conducted by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. The survey of 2,864 people, including a sample of 1,328 black men, aimed to capture the experiences and perceptions of black men at a time marked by increasing debate about how to build on their achievements and address the failures that endure decades after the civil rights movement.
In many ways, the outward and inward struggles of black men appear to reflect where the nation is on its journey toward racial equality -- unquestionably further along and, yet, at risk of moving backward.
Many are left behind: The suicide rate among young black men has doubled since 1980.
One in four black men have not worked for at least a year, twice the proportion of male non-Hispanic whites or Latinos. And trends suggest a third of black males born today will spend time in prison.
"I just get frustrated with my brothers. With black men . . . wasting life. But then, on the other hand, I wonder: Is there something in society that keeps us down?" said Edward Howell, 57, a D.C. resident who was interviewed in the poll.
But the harsh realities also obscure what the survey results illuminate so clearly: Black men in America are a diverse group, and the truth of their experience can be found as much among the ordinary lives of the vast middle as in the extremes.
"This country is filled with highly successful black men who are leading balanced, stable, productive lives working all over the labor market," said Hugh Price, former president of the National Urban League. "They're stringing fiber-optic cable for Verizon or working the floor at Home Depot. . . . It's a somewhat invisible story."
On the whole, survey respondents showed a powerful connection to a common history that crosses lines of education, income, age and geography, and stands in sharp contrast to the perceptions of many of their white counterparts.
The poll also documents how the enormous changes in society over the last generations have rippled through the lives of black men. But as the distance between the races begins to narrow, new tensions have emerged in the way black men perceive themselves and their lives:
· 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.
· More than half said they place a high value on marriage -- compared with 39 percent of black women -- and six in 10 said they strongly value having children. Yet at least 38 percent of all black fathers in the survey are not living with at least one of their young children, and a third of all never-married black men have a child. Six in 10 said that black men disrespect black women.
· Three in four said they value being successful in a career, more than either white men or black women. Yet majorities also said that black men put too little emphasis on education and too much emphasis on sports and sex.
· Eight in 10 said they are satisfied with their lives, and six in 10 reported that it is a "good time" to be a black man in the United States. But six in 10 also reported they often are the targets of racial slights or insults, two-thirds said they believe the courts are more likely to convict black men than whites, and a quarter reported they have been physically threatened or attacked because they are black.
· 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.
* * *
Samuel Thompson, 57, grew up in the South, coping with Alabama's Jim Crow laws. Despite it all, he went to college and became a special-education teacher in Chicago. But when he thinks of black men, he doesn't conjure up an image of older, accomplished black men such as himself. He thinks of young black men, and he is appalled at what he sees.
"They tend to goof off, and very few are going to college. I don't see in them a will to succeed," Thompson said. "They don't see the point of using good language. They emulate who they see on TV or on videos or who they hear on the radio."
Thompson said he was not surprised that so many black men in the poll adopted a harsh view of African American males as a group.
"That's the reality," he said. "The ones that sit back and blame things on other people, they're the ones who don't go very far. They just want sympathy and handouts."
Thompson was among the majority of black men in the poll who said the group's problems stem from its own failures. Black men were more likely than whites to express such sentiments. And while such negative views were held across the board, better-educated, affluent black men are most likely to criticize black men for not taking education seriously enough.
But the survey also suggests that this negative self-perception is in contrast to other features of black men's lives. In addition to the intense ambition displayed by black men, nearly half own their own homes. Two-thirds said they pray at least once a day, a much higher percentage than white men, and 59 percent said they work full time, compared with 66 percent of white men and 40 percent of white women.
Even young black men, the focus of the debate over black men's problems, defy familiar stereotypes. Nearly nine in 10 respondents ages 18 to 29 said they are either working or in school, the same proportion who reported that being successful in a career is personally important to them. The survey was not conducted in jails or prisons, where about 8 percent of all black men are incarcerated.
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.
"We got this outside system putting this lens on black people, especially black men, that says 'toxic demon,' and this lens is transmitted to the general public," said Carl Bell, president and chief executive of the Community Mental Health Council, a clinic in Chicago that provides mental health services on the city's predominately black south and west sides. "You get black people buying into it, and black people saying we have no strengths, no redeeming qualities."
But the experiences of black men may play as large a role as cultural stereotypes in shaping their view of themselves. In the poll, one in four black men said they have been victims of a violent crime, the highest proportion of any group in the survey. Since the vast majority of crime occurs within racial groups, the fact that so many black men have been victimized by other black men may negatively influence the way they perceive the group.
Regarding the obstacles black men face and their prospects for the future, whites were the most optimistic. Black women tended to be the most pessimistic, even more than black men, with only 44 percent of black women saying that now is a good time to be a black man in America . Black women were also just as likely as their male counterparts to see the economic system as biased against black men.
"I've worked in corporate America for 20 years, and I see a lot of white males, but I don't see a lot of black males," said Theoloa Dubose, 45, a projects administrator from Stone Mountain, Ga. "I see more black women than black males."
Asked why, she replied, "Because of prejudice." Black women, she said, are "less threatening than black men."
But black women were not entirely sympathetic. More than half of black women said one big reason the average black woman is better-educated and makes more money than the average black man is that black women simply work harder.
More positive views can be hard to come by, even among black men.
Reggie Hall, 36, a Web site developer in Cleveland, says that when he gets together with friends and the talk turns to black men, rarely does a group compliment pass their lips.
"I can't remember the last time I heard a good word about black men," Hall said. "If we're out in public and see young black guys -- the way they talk or act, we always discuss that lack of respect. . . . I can't remember the last time we said anything positive about black men as a whole. It's always about isolated individuals. But, as a group, no."
* * *
Worries, Experiences, Values
Despite their clear achievements and general optimism about their prospects, black men worry more than virtually everyone, the survey found. About four in 10 black men said they are fearful they will lose their job, nearly double the proportion of white men who said the same thing. Even more affluent, better-educated black men are far more anxious about being fired or laid off than their white male and white female co-workers.
More than half of all black men said they fear they or a member of their family will get AIDS, nearly triple the percentage of white men. Six in 10 said they worry that they'll be treated unfairly by the police, and more than a third said they fear they will be arrested -- fears that hardly trouble whites. A good job and education do little to ease these fears: college-educated, upper-middle-class black men were about twice as likely to say they are worried about being arrested, losing their jobs or falling victim to violent crime as upper-class whites.
"With a black man, first you're black. And that carries a lot of baggage -- false and real," said Jerome Tucker, 52, an entrepreneur in Upper Marlboro.
This worries gap sometimes exists in areas where the survey results suggest it shouldn't. When asked if they had been laid off or fired, an equal proportion of higher-income, college-educated whites and blacks reported that they had.
"There is racism in this country," agreed Doug Ford, 42, of Havana, Fla., and a contract administrator for the state's Department of Children and Families, one of the black men interviewed in the survey. "Unfortunately, the majority of black men and women tend to seek out the racial issue where there may not be a racial issue. That comes from an historical consciousness as a black community that now imposes its own burden on black men."
Ford said black men are victimized twice: once by acts of racism that are less frequent today but still too common, and then again by the self-doubts and suspicions that are the living legacy of more than 300 years of legal and de facto discrimination.
For some black men, such concerns are background noise that occasionally prompt a wince. But for others, these suspicions paralyze them into inaction, build barriers where none exist and prevent them from seizing "the real opportunities that are out there," Ford said.
"Worries can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Too many black men go into job interviews convinced they will fail. So they do. They don't try on the job because they believe they won't get promoted. So they don't," Ford said.
But in other areas, the survey suggests that the concerns of black men are not misplaced or exaggerated. Six in 10 black men said a close friend or family member has been murdered. Seven in 10 said someone close to them has gone to prison or jail. AIDS, once a disease almost exclusive to white men, now disproportionately ravages the black community; here the worries gap, if anything, understates the relative incidence of HIV-AIDS among blacks and whites.
Worries about discrimination also are rooted in reality, the survey suggests. One in four black men said they have been physically threatened or attacked because they are black. Half said they have been unfairly stopped by police because of their race, allegations supported by studies that found black men were far more likely than whites to be stopped by police and have their cars searched but no more likely to be carrying contraband.
While college degrees and higher salaries ease many of life's burdens for whites, they do not always shield black men from painful experiences, the survey found.
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.
"We had to work together in the past; it was just us, together. That's how we got rid of the problems. That's how we will solve the problems in the future," said Phillip Hayes, 39, who is disabled and lives in Martinsville.
Being respected is important to Hayes, as well. "We were not respected [as a race] for so long. As individual people we were invisible. It comes from that."
But he worries that this legacy may now have deadly consequences. Some young black men "have gone too far -- they're getting themselves killed over nonsense."
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"It's a good time for black men, and things will only get better," said Tyrone Haskins, 20, a sophomore majoring in social work at Virginia Union University. "America is changing, it's far from perfect, but more people are sharing more opportunities every year. . . . The future seems bright for black men."
Haskins is one of a substantial majority: Despite the problems and broad anxieties, six in 10 black men said it is a good time to be a black man in this country. Eight in 10 said they have a better life than their parents. About as many feel optimistic about their futures.
Optimism about the future is not shared equally by all black men. According to the survey, about one in six black men have largely given up, expressing consistently pessimistic views about their lives and what the future holds for them and for black people generally.
Still, more than twice as many black men are consistently hopeful and optimistic about themselves and their futures, while the remainder offer a more mixed but generally positive view, the survey shows.
"Things are better, but you still have to fight for everything you get," said Calvin Jackson, 61, a sheet-metal worker in Kansas City, Kan. "You still have to be better at your job than anyone else if you're a black man. We had trouble here with our local union. We found out we had the same number of black journeymen now as we had in 1969. How does that happen? Nobody knows, but you have your suspicions.
"Is it a good time for black men? Is it bad? It's right in between," said Jackson, who allows he is cautiously optimistic that the future will be better, though not necessarily easy.
Assistant director of polling Claudia Deane and staff writer Stephen A. Crockett Jr. contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company