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empty The Black Corner Article    empty[Posted 02-05]

Rev. John E. Jackson, Sr. Rev. John E. Jackson, Sr.
What Is The Role Of
The Black Man In America?

Rev. John E. Jackson, Sr.
Associate Pastor for Men's Ministries, Trinity United Church of Christ

Chicago, Illinois
some text

Jesus in responding to one who was an expert in the Jewish Torah/Law as to what was the greatest Commandment replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself…”

What is the role of the Black man in this 21st century culture? I ask this question in hopes that we can begin a meaningful dialogue about African people living in America and how we move forward together.

I have worked with Black men as the minister to men at my home church, so I start with the Black man, because I am a Black man. I have talked with and met with many Black men over the years that are serious, conscious and who love God yet finds it difficult matriculating this maze of masculinity in the 21st century.

On the one hand there have been many books, articles, and forums on getting Black men to be more committed to their families and more visible in the community. Moreover, I have met many Black men who are spiritual, who are with their families, who are visible in the community. On one hand it seems okay for Black women to try and define the roles Black men should have, yet Black men are not allowed to do the same for our Black women.

So let me ask some questions, do we as a Black culture still expect Black men to be the provider of the family? Do we expect Black men in marriage to make sure the mortgage is paid? This seems out dated with the emphasis on mutuality in relationships and Black women’s earning power. Yet there are Black women and men who despite the change in social trends fall back into this perspective that says the man is the one who supplies the basic needs for the family.

What specifically does a mutual relationship where both male and female are co-equal, co-shepherds in the home look like? What are the specifics of how things get done? Who defines the roles of Black men? Do women, or theologians or the culture we live in? I ask these questions because things have gotten so confusing for African American men in this culture in the 21st century. It gets even more complicated because African American men still don’t communicate well among each other. We still don’t share our struggles, challenges and fears well with each other.

Malidoma Patrice Some has said that, “only when I’m among other men am I at my most authentic self.” Yet we are so task oriented we don’t have time to be a part of supportive groups of men that will help encourage us to understand the uniqueness of being a Black man in America and hold us accountable.

What does this mean when we face a Bush agenda for the next 4 years? White men’s voices are heard loud and clear in this fear driven period of this country where white men have methodically taken the banner of protector of white supremacy and thrown it in the world’s face. Is there still a calculated assassination of the Black male image? If so, what are we saying about it in our conversations in the health clubs, the barbershops and on the streets? Are we having conversations to strategize how to present our concerns?

When Colin Powell let his boss put him in check because he expected to go to the conference on Racism in 2000 only to have Bush publicly override him, it signaled something dire for Powell and the Black male voices in America. Now I know many of you say that his boss had every right to override him. Yet consider this, Powell was and is a wealthy Black man who did not need the job he has now given up frustrated. Therefore the only reason for him to be there in the beginning from our perspective (the administration needed his face for credibility) was to address our concerns where the administration so willingly ignored them.

He could have gone anyway and put the administration on notice that he was his own man and that there are some things more important than pleasing a boss in a job he did not need anyway. I am not singling him out, but using his experience as a signal of where we are as Black men and Black people.

So who articulates the role of the Black man in America? What does the world think of the Black man’s influence in the world? What do Black women really think about the importance of their men? What do our children think? What do WE as Black men think about ourselves? Do we care?

Jesus said, “…You should Love your neighbor as you Love yourself…” It seems the whole thing hinges on whether we as Black men Love being Black men. In fact Black people must Love being Africans living in America. Perhaps we have tried to please white folks too much. We have tried to prove that we were loyal Americans. We have tried on our jobs to show that we would be harder on our own to show our loyalty. We have tried to live the life of White privilege.

Now maybe (I think overdue) it is time we see ourselves as a nation within a nation. I don’t mean we have to separate from America, just demand our due as a people. We should not be ashamed to lobby for African people living in a forced Diaspora. Maybe it is time we embraced ourselves as a people, an African people.

I think we have taken for granted that all of us actually embrace our Africanity. Maybe that is one important reason many Black men find it hard getting our footing in this culture, because we are trying to fit into something that is alien to us. Maybe we need to ask Black people, men and women, boys and girls, who are you?

Maybe we should stop asking (at least stop focusing) on what’s wrong with Black men (Black women) and ask Black people, do you love being an African people? Perhaps if we start with identity we can work toward unity among ourselves!

Rev. John E. Jackson, Sr., is Associate Pastor of Men's Ministries and Pre-Marital Counseling at Trinity United Church of Christ. Rev. Jackson is a graduate of Loyola University and holds a Master of Divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary.

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