|Memo to young black men: Please grow up |
As a father with a daughter nearly 30 years old who has never been close to marrying anyone, I was once more struck by what my offspring describes as "a lack of suitable men." She has complained often about the adolescent tendencies of young black men, as will just about any young black woman when the subject comes up.
Those who believe that America is perpetually adolescent will point at the dominance of frat-boy attitudes among successful white men and will say of the black hip-hop generation, "So what? How could they not be adolescent? They are not surrounded by examples of celebrated maturity. The society worships movie stars, wealthy athletes and talk show hosts. These are not the wisest and most mature of people."
There is more than a little bit right about that. Our culture has been overwhelmed by the adolescent cult of rebellion that emerges in a particularly stunted way from the world of rock 'n' roll. That simpleminded sense of rebelling against authority descended even further when hip hop fell upon us from the bottom of the cultural slop bucket in which punk rock curdled.
Hip hop began as some sort of Afro protest doggerel and was very quickly taken over by the gangster rappers, who emphasized the crudest materialism in which the ultimate goal was money and it did not matter how one got it. The street thug, the gang member, the drug dealer and the pimp became icons of sensibility and success. Then the attitudes of pimps took a high position and the pornographic version of hip hop in which women become indistinguishable bitches and hos made a full-court press on the rap "aesthetic."
At the television studio, as I watched and listened to those young men, each of whom seemed to be auditioning for a lifelong part as a "man-child," I discussed this phenomenon with a black woman in her 40s who is a writer.
She had worked for rap magazines, magazines that had focused on black women and in black television. Her analysis was quite direct and could be profoundly true. Her profession and being the mother of a teenage daughter has made her pay close attention and forced her to give these issues a good deal of thought.
The way she understood it was that these young black men do not see growing up as having any advantages to it. One is either current or old-fashioned and outdated. The only success they think they can believe in is had by either athletes or rappers. Young black men. So they hold on to adolescence and adolescent ways as long as they can.
The writer also said, "I am sure many knew of Ed Bradley but they did not identify with him. He was too sophisticated. They identify with the overgrown boy, who is everywhere and who is getting over. He's got a lot of cash, plenty of girls, lots of jewelry, an expensive car. To them, that's the world. Or it's the world they want to be a part of."
So what can be done to make adulthood seem attractive to these young black men?
From one end of the country to the other, adults sleep in the street for nights on end as though they are homeless in order to have choice places in line when PlayStations go on sale. That alone gives us more than an indication of how great a problem we find ourselves facing.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
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