Home Empowerment When America Turns Its Back on Black Boys

When America Turns Its Back on Black Boys


I grew up at a time in America when parents never sparred the rod, in fact, the entire neighborhood never sparred the rod.  I grew up at a time when my best friend’s father was, at times, more influential than my own father.  I grew up at a time when par for the course was broken homes, single mothers raising young Black boys, single, working mothers struggling to keep food on the table.  I guess this made me a disadvantaged youth.  At a minimum, I should have been one of the youth that people targeted as needing strong support in order to avoid falling victim to the world.  Surprisingly, I don’t think at any point, I’ve ever felt disadvantaged or at-risk.  In fact, because I had a praying grandmother and a mother who was intent on ensuring that I had positive Black male role models, I probably was far from at-risk.  The same doesn’t exist for many of my peers, and this past week was a constant reminder that we need to be more involved in the development of our youth.

Check out this week’s mix by the awesome @CarverTheGreat, and also check out his website here, he’s got mixes on mixes on mixes.  As always, download the mix here, or stream it below:

Last week, as many of us spent the majority of our time shocked at the fact that Penn State didn’t do anything about a former coach in their football program raping young “at-risk” boys. While we spent time debating who should have been fired and how outraged we were that “no one did anything about it,” we neglected to develop a list of demands for things the university needs to do for those boys. It’s not about football, it’s not about Paterno, or Penn State, it’s about those boys! Very alarming statistics exist for victims of sexual abuse. We all know that many victims of child abuse grow up to be abusers themselves. So what should be done now? I’d start with making sure that the university completes a full investigation to identify any other victims who may not have came forward yet, then they should provide at the expense of the university extensive counseling to all victims. (And not just the victims, but their families and friends as well, who have been affected by this tragedy.) Lastly, the university needs to spend some hard time in that community doing what they were supposed to be doing with the “Second Mile” foundation. They need to really get into the community and mentor the youth, take them from “disadvantaged” and “at-risk” and put them on a path to success.

See Also:  6 Ways the Black Male Scarcity Myth Hurts Men

That would be a logical place to start for Penn State, but where do we start for all of our Black boys across the country? There’s a concept in The Mis-Education of the Negro that we still remain guilty of to this day, we just do not give back. We don’t share the information with our communities, after all the community that helps raise us, is the same one that we work so hard to get as far away from as possible. When I was growing up, my mother kept me involved in several sports, Boy Scouts and an organization called, The Beavers Club. The Beavers Club was one of my first experiences with Black male adults who were personally vested in my success. I thank my mother for that program because I grew meaningful relationships with older men who taught me in many ways how to be a man. Today, there is a lack of programs like the Beavers Club. There are less and less Black boys in Boy Scouts of America, and playing organized sports. Maybe this is because parents are afraid to let someone else raise their kids, or maybe it’s because our kids these days are a lot lazier and satisfied to sit at home playing video games. Whatever the case may be, our Black boys are lacking the effective mentoring they need to be successful.

See Also:  Joe Paterno, Penn State, and the Hypocrisy of the Stop Snitching Mentality

So where do we start?

We start by taking an active role. There are tons of things that we do everyday or periodically that we don’t want to do, but how many of us are regularly seeking out opportunities and following through on mentoring young Black boys. You pay taxes, you pay your bills, you show up at jury duty, or anything else that you wouldn’t really like to be doing, but getting someone to spend a few hours a week helping out the next generation is like pulling teeth. And brothers, let’s be honest, we’re letting Black women do more mentoring for our youth than we are doing right now. We’re somehow “too busy” for that which is us. This has to stop. When we turn our back on our youth, we lose our youth.

I just recently started watching this TV show called, “The Walking Dead” on AMC. It’s a pretty intense show, a post-event, zombies taking over hour-long television show that airs on Sundays. As I sat there watching this show, people have left their families behind, they’ve parted ways looking for safety. It’s about self-preservation and survival. When families separate sometimes the child ends up being infected and the next time they see their family they look completely different and once infected they’re looking to harm their own family because they don’t recognize them anymore. That’s exactly what happens when we turn our backs on Black boys. We create inner-city zombies who by the time we see them again; we don’t recognize them, we don’t relate to them, and it seems like they are intent on causing terror in our lives. To be honest, we can’t blame them, we have to blame ourselves. If we have done everything in our power to keep an eye on our Black boys then we would share none of the blame, but we know that deep down, we haven’t. Time is running out for our boys, we’ve lost more, more are at-risk, and it seems like they all may be infected one day, but I won’t turn my back and run away, I’ll keep representing the cure.

See Also:  Revisited: Are Black Men Obsessed with Latinas?

– Dr. J

Today’s mix is especially special to me… it’s got one of my favorite Fresh Prince episodes as an interlude, please check it out above and stream it.  Here’s the tracklist: 1. Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Intro, 2. Meet The Parents by Jay-Z, 3. I Can by Nas, 4. Just The Two Of Us by Will Smith, 5. Mufasa & Simba (Interlude), 6. New Day by Jay-Z & Kanye West


  1. Being a mentor to someone can be a tough role for someone to take on, especially when that person is not confident in themselves or where he is in his own life. I encourage people to do a bit of soul searching and healing to ensure that they're the best influence they can possibly be.

    I definitely encourage more black men to reach out to black boys, but please let it be to their benefit, and not their demise. Encourage forward moving dialogue and always remind our young men to have high standards for themselves and those around them. Don't let our young men give into all the terrible stereotypes that seem to pop up about them. Please remind them of their worth and their responsibility in addition to spending time.

    Props t everyone who finds a way to give back.

  2. I tried having a similar discussion with my dad a few months back. He's the father of a 28 yearold woman , 26 yearold woman ( me) , and two little boys aged 5 & 6. Growing up he wasn't around and I thought I had fully forgiven him until I realized he hadn't changed. He doesn't want to be a parent. I've been trying to do the 'fatherly " thing because I want them to have a dad , but I'm no father. I agree with your post completely. We need more mentors . We need organizations that cater solely to black boys , and we need to stop acting as if their problems wont be OUR problems.

  3. I agree with this post. Although I am guilty of running from the hood and rarely ever looking back, I would try and mentor the male minority students I taught in college. Although none of them went the right route with their academics, I knew I did the right thing. Did I try too late? Maybe. Maybe the time to really be active is when kids are entering middle school and high school. While you'll rarely ever catch me in the hood again, I do make a point to try and help those I see wanting out.

    It's sad seeing what the youth is out there doing these days, but its best to remember who are the ones that raised my generation and the ones raising the generation coming out. Their actions come from our teachings and our moral values as a whole.

    1. "but its best to remember who are the ones that raised my generation and the ones raising the generation coming out. Their actions come from our teachings and our moral values as a whole. "

      We really need mentoring programs for some of these parents b/c they are out of control. Some act worse then the children. The next generation is already here, most of them have young and misguided parents,I'm worried about their future.

  4. I think, more and more youths are actually stepping up to mentor their peers. I know at my school(college) that my Black student union has mentoring programs where they go to middle schools around East New York and talk to the kids about college and how to better themselves.

    Me personally I haven’t mentored anyone unless you want to include, my own little brother. I think before we mentor on the outside we could look within our own families and probably see young men who need our guidance. I was actually mentored from middle school to high school, not b/c I was reckless but I definitely needed those women to help me put my focus in the right direction.

    Mentoring is time consuming and some people honestly, dont have that time. While there are certain events you can do or volunteer for with the organization, being an actual mentor means being constantly available you cannot flip flop out of these boys lives. My brother is in a program called Saturday academy it’s every Saturday for the duration of the school year. The boys in the program have to wear suite jackets, they teach them how to be their own leaders, make good choices and be productive members of society. But I think there’s many ways to indirectly influence a child in a positive light, maybe you’re not a mentor but I sure lots of programs would love to have a successful/or positive black male role model come in and speak to the kids . (Someone other than a rapper/athlete)

  5. I agree. It’s so important that we don’t let those boys down again. I really appreciate the zombie analogy, because that’s exactly what’s going on. Black boys are overlooked in the medical system, the school system, in the home… It seems sometimes like the only time we lift them up and prioritize them is when they succeed in music and sports. but for those who arent able to make it outthe hood that way, they end up abused, unfairly targeted by police, unfairly sentenced by the legal system, victimized while in prison, disenfranchised and effectively shut out of society once released, etc.

    It’s a terrible and vicious cycle. Thanks for the giving the hard truth and call to action. We have really got to do better.

  6. I wouldnt say we turn our back, its the kids picking the wrong people to emulate. The older cats with 4 chains, a drop top and seems to always have bread is more appealing than the average ninja. In my hood, the old heads actually encouraged to move on up however now i go back and i dont see my former peers doing the same for the youth, they bringing them right down with them. The old zombies are infecting the youth.

    1. Yeah Tristan see… I think that what happens is that our youth are emulating the ones they see the most. It's like when Kanye said, "where i'm from the dope boys is the rock stars." It's because they see them the most, they emulate them the most. The O.G. has changed in the hood. You can probably catch a Masters course on this topic. But back in the day, people were gangstas because they had to be, now people are gangstas because they choose to be. It's very tragic.
      My recent post My First Blog (The Final post on The Book of Jackson)

      1. I agree with Dr. J. We need to make a concerted effort to give back. Yes it takes time and yes it takes patience but its our responsibility to help those and provide that other view on life. Kids emulate what they see and I don't blame them for that if the reason is that we are not showing them other options.
        My co-worker actually started a program called Boys who DARE because she wanted her son to have positive male role models and she took matters into her own hands. I have tried several times to mentor a young lady and I constantly hear from various programs that they really need men willing to mentor boys and they have enough women. I'm still working toward becoming a mentor but the need for positive male role models is huge.

      2. Great point Dr.J. I met a gentlemen at a fund raiser who lamented desegregation because it separate the middle and lower classes within a lot of Black neighborhoods. his point was that kids no longer see doctors, lawyers, etc in their communities.

  7. "We all know that most victims of child abuse grow up to be abusers themselves."

    This is what people conveniently ignore. If he's being accused of molesting/raping 20 boys, a lot of them have abused other children. I once had a student who was not allowed to be left alone with ANY other student. Why? He'd been molested and by the time he was in seventh grade, had molested several other children. But this was in his 'special' file. We couldn't tell any of the other teachers why he couldn't be left alone. As a result, some of them didn't take it seriously.

  8. I love this post Doc. It reminds me of that book Raising Black Boys. I will admit that I haven't done my share except take a couple of nephews in when they needed us. We should've never let them go back with their momma. Smh. But I agree with what somebody upthread said, you have to have yourself in order before you try to get involved with these kids or you could do more harm than help. Perhaps having them in your life can probably motivate you to get your shti together though. I don't really know. I'm liking your analogy to the zombie thing. Scary and sad but real.

  9. Great topic, J. I will admit that mentoring (and volunteering) is an area I need to improve in. I have no excuse. My father raised me to volunteer and indirectly placed me in a few mentoring programs when I was growing up. In fact, I am just now fully recognizing the virtues of having those "career mentors" at a young age. Various people whom have allowed me to succeed and be one of the few (and youngest) African Americans where I work. That said, I need to do better giving back myself. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. I know that this particular comment in not the focus of your post today, and I definitely don't want to take away from many of the important topics raised, but I do feel it important to not continue to perpetuate myths about those who have been abused (physically/sexually/emotionally) and those who are deemed "abusers," whether socially or legally.

    Your statement that "We all know that most victims of child abuse grow up to be abusers themselves," is not fully accurate, and places stigma on those who have been victimized. True, some who have been abused continue the cycle of violence, but many, and in fact, most, do not. I fear that many victims of abuse continue to be written off or dismissed because of their experiences, which further leads to not tending to our youth better, and not having support systems in place as protective factors for them. And that involves families, communities and our legislative boards as well. The responsibility should not only rest in the hands of mentors and community leaders, but with those people that our youth are in contact with on a day-to-day basis. Many youth are fortunate enough to have some positive influences in place; but too many of them, unfortunately, do not.

    Great post!

  11. one thing about mentoring that "bothers" me…people think that kids need the help in middle and high school…by then, a boy is getting set in his ways of thinking. you have to catch them earlier if you really want to be effective. A person is pretty much who they are by the time s/he hits ages 8-10. All this great mentoring should start taking place as early as elementary school, when kids are impressionable and willing to hear advice. If you wait until middle school when hormones are telling them they are mighter than thou and they dont need to listen to your old school school advice…you just might be wasting your time. my two pesos.

  12. Excellent post Dr. J!!! This is a topic close to my heart. You and many of the people who commented mentioned some wonderful organizations. I will say this to those who feel that they need to be in a certain position in life or "have themselves together" before they mentor/volunteer, don't wait. You have something to offer right now. I'm speaking from experience. I used to feel too young and made a whole list of resons (excuses) about why I needed to wait before being of service. Research and find an opportunity that you can feel empowered with service right now that is at your comfort level. Talk to the volunteer service coordinators with specefic organizations that can guide you through the process. Do it with a group of peers. Just do it! You be glad you did. Sometimes you see instantly how your presence is changing someones life. Other times you don't see it right away, but don't be discouraged. Just know that you're sowing positive seeds in someones life that will show evidence of change down the line.

    1. I appreciate what you've said here Camille but I do have to clarify what I said upthread. When I said you have to have yourself in order first, I meant that not all people are in the position to become a permanent fixture in a kid's life yet. I do believe in giving back and I do agree that there is something that we can all do. I have an organization in mind for when I am able to commit myself to it but maybe that would be starting too big. Maybe I can start off with something smaller and just involve myself in community things. I don't know yet but it's funny this post came when it did because this has been on my mind lately.

  13. Dr. Jay, this quote:

    "Surprisingly, I don’t think at any point, I’ve ever felt disadvantaged or at-risk. In fact, because I had a praying grandmother and a mother who was intent on ensuring that I had positive Black male role models, I probably was far from at-risk."

    made we want to post one of my favorite poems for you:

    By Nikki Giovanni
    childhood remembrances are always a drag
    if you’re Black
    you always remember things like living in Woodlawn
    with no inside toilet
    and if you become famous or something
    they never talk about how happy you were to have
    your mother
    all to yourself and
    how good the water felt when you got your bath
    from one of those
    big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in
    and somehow when you talk about home
    it never gets across how much you
    understood their feelings
    as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale
    and even though you remember
    your biographers never understand
    your father’s pain as he sells his stock
    and another dream goes
    And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that
    concerns you
    and though they fought a lot
    it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference
    but only that everybody is together and you
    and your sister have happy birthdays and very good
    and I really hope no white person ever has cause
    to write about me
    because they never understand
    Black love is Black wealth and they’ll
    probably talk about my hard childhood
    and never understand that
    all the while I was quite happy

  14. Very good post Dr. J. We definitely need more brothers in the communities who can help steer our young boys in the right direction. Let them know they can start their own business, make 6 figures with shooting a jump shot, and the significance of education. Giving back is not as difficult or time consuming as one may think. All black men should pledge that we will take back our boys and not let society destroy them.

  15. This is great. I hope at least one boy’s life is changed for the better. If i could mentor boys, I would. But they need men. I could do something, though. If everyone can remember the adults in their life who made a difference, we know how important it is to pay attention to our youth. In a way, this Penn State horror is our fault. We failed those kids by not being there for them. Somehow there was no one who would fight for them. I dont know how that happened, but we gotta do better. I hope the outrage at what Sandusky and co. did will last long enough so they will get some justice and help.

  16. Good post! A guest pastor, Rev. Yvonne Delk who is simply phenomenal, in her sermon told a "folktale" if you will about a chasm that grew between Black people and the people had to "fly" to get from one side to the other and as they leaped forward, they reached back. I think we all have an obligation to help someone else – in whatever capacity that looks like for you – but to go through this life with a perpetual personal perspective has consequences for us all. I remember this woman @ my church who worked at Johns Hopkins I think randomly told me about how she had started a program in the Baltimore prison to help the men get their college degrees. She was just a "normal," everyday person, who answered the call to do for others.

    I toil in the non profit world and my last job had me going into some rough parts of DC – and every school I went to had a HA-UGE poster or picture of President Obama. That's cool. That's inspirational. But our kids need real life, tangible examples. Someone who tells them about their college/work/real life experiences and tells them that it can be their reality too. Sometimes when I attend a happy hour or other bougie/professional Black function I wonder what would happen if we left and went to teach a child how to read, count, deal with anger, gave them a hug, start a revolution. Something.

    1. Amen. Amen. Amen. Not everybody even wants to be President Obama and most young Black boys don't see anything like Obama in themselves. I'll tell you right now, it means so much more to a young kid to just go back in the neighborhood with a nice car, nice clothes and good job. They feel like, "If he can do it, I can do it." Not only do I go back to my neighborhood, but I bring other successful Black people with me. That way they see me and they see my friends and they get a sense that this ain't the end for everybody.

  17. I thought this was a interesting post. With all that’s been going on lately, I know the conversation has lost sight of the childeren/victims and the bigger picture. Thanks for bringing it back.

  18. i love this post Doc. in detroit i worked with “underprivileged” and “at-risk” youth, and let me tell you that the women mentors and volunteers were something like 6 to 1 when it came to the men stepping up and giving a few hours a week. i think men feel like “well i grew up without a male presence and i turned out alright,” and don’t realize the enormous impact that having a strong, positive black male presence in their life can have. big brothers/big sisters is the same way. more than enough women mentors, so many that they have to turn women away. completely starving for black men though.

    sigh. really glad you wrote this post though. and if you can change one, then maybe he’ll change one, and that’s how progress starts.

  19. good post man.

    my church has a program like your Beaver Club, just under a different name (Manhood Training). i just started working with them this fall, because i finally had time. I'm not sure i'm any good at this mentoring thing, but i watch my elders that run the program, and give my two cents (i'm the youngest). actually i've had to lead discusions twice, and i think i have to do the relationships discussion (#Irony).

    i don't say all that to toot my horn or anything, but it's tough, because you can't see if what you're trying to get across, "clicks" immediately. that, and the fact you gotta work to keep their attention, those are the 2 main things, lol.

  20. i couldnt comment yesterday but this is a great post. found myself nodding throughout pretty much the entire thing. and i completely agree with the sentiments in the comments about starting to mentor at an earlier age, especially for boys. it's a sort of race, we have to get to them before the streets do. and while it can be taxing and time intensive, mentoring can literally save a life. and if you can't commit to consistent mentoring, look into speaking at schools about the importance of having a plan, going to college, respecting women, etc. you can talk to a crowd of 1000, and if it changes the course for 1 or 2, then you've accomplished something huge.

  21. Great post, Dr. J.

    We definitely have to do better with giving back to the community. I’m not from the hood, but from the rural South, where its worse because there isn’t a boy and girl’s club. The No Boy Scouts. There’s really nothing for young boys or girls. But at least, the girls have Girl Scouts. I think. The point is, most of us who did well in school, and had our parents pushing us to be great no longer live there. We all moved away, without any intentions of ever going back to that little town in South Carolina. The classmates who stayed are the ones who were wayward in school, if they finished school. The girls who were pregnant in HS, the boys who were constantly in and out of trouble. And they are the role models for the younger group. Its rough. My mom went back to the classroom and she says the kids don’t seem to have any dreams of anything, and its sad. They don’t have any real role models in their community.

    Since living in Raleigh, I’ve mentored “disadvantaged youth”, and you’re right, its mostly women. And usually, many of the boys stop coming because they don’t want to talk to girls. They want to talk to men, and the men aren’t there. We have to do better.

  22. I'll say this as someone who has mentored and reached back and all that other stuff…
    If you're going to talk about mentoring youth, make sure you condition the youth to be receptive and to seek the help that they need. I've tried to mentor young men but if they have no real respect for the clean cut man who doesn't have a jail record, isn't all the way hood and doesn't profess to be a pimp, it won't be effective. They will refer to the ones they see as "winning." It's hard trying to tell a young man "stay in school, go to college/learn a trade and live a square's life" when they can see someone who hasn't put forth nearly as much effort "win" by having wads of cash, a car and chickenheads running after him. Trying to counteract the BET effect isn't as easy as sitting down and talking to them. There has been years of programming that needs to be deconstructed before effective change can happen. I'm in no way implying it's impossible, but by the time we get to them, will they be ready to hear what we have to say?

    Good post but as I will always attest: It's starts with family and home.

  23. I agree with this post wholeheartedly. I am a single mother of a son and I try my best but I know that the fact that his father isn't around brings its own set of challenges. I know the statistics and I try my best to point him in the right path. I have been blessed to be apart of great community programs (though my volunteer efforts) that afford me great contacts and insight in to programs that my son can benefit from. However, when i think about the children that don't have that I am sadden. I think as a communtiy we need to all do better. A lot of us have the mind set that I'm going to worry about "mine". We need to be accountable for the things and people around us.

  24. A couple days late, but the fact that there are only 32 comments is a testament to the very dilemma that u speak of in the post. I raised the same concerns around the time President Obama was elected. I feel that many black ppl feel like the struggle has ended b/c we have a black president not realizing that we as individuals have more impact on our community than he does. I taught for several years (I don't anymore) and as recently as last week I had to suffer the heartbreak of one of my male students being killed. That doesn't sit well with me. I used to talk to my male students and tell them how much they would be needed in the future and for them to prepare themselves now. But I'm a female and I have no idea how to help a boy be a man nor can I understand what it means to be young, male, black and most times poor in America. It's a hard job reaching to these boys b/c a lot of them are lazy, emotionally unavailable, and brainwashed by the rapper lifestyle. But they need us. I often have felt guilt for leaving the school system but I had reasons outside of the children that pressed me to leave. I loved the analogy you used about the zombies and can relate b/c at times I've been afraid, disgusted, embarrassed, pissed or all of the aforementioned when dealing with some of our black boys. We just really need to take back our kids and train them to become productive members of society.

  25. Here's a problem that we have to address, and it speaks to why some black men who become somewhat successful don't go back to give back: some of them are still hurt and broken themselves, and a little bitter. There are some of them who feel like they became successful in spite of their environments and the people who took far more than they ever gave. I'm not saying it's right but there is some stuff that has to be addressed before we can even talk about giving back. In order to give back to the community, don't you have to be given something by the community first besides a hard time? I'm not saying it's okay to not reach back and help somebody out, but we have to be honest about the pain and scars often left by the community in the lives of these men that struggled to make it out.


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