Rescuing the Black Male

Article excerpt

The recent riots in Los Angeles underscored the deep frustration and sense of hopelessness among young black men in the United States. The combination of poverty, joblessness, despair, and alienation are "the social chemicals that bring the urban crucible to predictable eruptions of violence and a flood of so-called social problems," say the authors of Cool Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America.

Black men's despair for the future is not without cause, according to psychology professor Richard Majors and sociology professor Janet Mancini Billson. "The statistics show a clear disadvantage to being born black and male in America: Black males have higher rates than white males on mental disorders, unemployment, poverty, injuries, accidents, infant mortality, AIDS, homicide and suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, imprisonment, and criminality; they have poorer incomes, life expectancy, access to health care, and education."

Young black men tend to view these problems as assaults on their masculinity, and they seek to alleviate their stress by adopting a "cool pose"--a mask of aloofness and superiority crafted to convey pride, strength, and control, the authors argue. But this facade itself contributes to the young black man's evermounting problems. By cultivating emotional detachment, he fails to develop nurturing relationships, which contributes to mental disorders and interpersonal difficulties, according to Majors and Billson.

The authors believe that the young black male can still be saved from his bleak future and offer several suggestions for social programs, intervention, and policy changes, including:

* Afrocentric socialization: "a value system based on African civilization and philosophy . . . , [emphasizing] humanity's oneness with nature, spirituality, and collectivism. This perspective is in direct contrast to the Eurocentric world view, which encourages controlling nature, materialism, and individualism. …