Through Our Eyes: African American Men's Experiences of Race, Gender, and Violence

Through Our Eyes: African American Men's Experiences of Race, Gender, and Violence

Through Our Eyes: African American Men's Experiences of Race, Gender, and Violence

Through Our Eyes: African American Men's Experiences of Race, Gender, and Violence


How have African American men interpreted and what meaning have they given to social conditions that position them as the primary perpetrators of violence? How has this shaped the ways they see themselves and engaged the world? Through Our Eyes provides a view of black men's experiences that challenges scholars, policy makers, practitioners, advocates, and students to grapple with the reality of race, gender, and violence in America.This multi-level analysis explores the chronological life histories of eight black men from the aftermath of World War II through the Cold War and into today. Gail Garfield identifies the locations, impact, and implications of the physical, personal, and social violence that enters the lives of African American men. She addresses questions critical to understanding how race, gender, and violence are insinuated into black men's everyday lives and how experiences are constructed, reconstructed, and interpreted. By appreciating the significance of how African American men live through what it means to be black and male in America, this book envisions the complicated dynamics that devalue their lives, those of their family, and society.


“WHEN WE THINK about the violence that we commit against ourselves in different forms and the violence against other people that we commit, we must forgive ourselves for what we do to other people, but we need to forgive ourselves for what we do to ourselves. That’s something that we often don’t have the opportunity to do. We often don’t realize that it’s something we even should do.

As black men, we get so caught up in these processes of manhood and masculinity in a white male-controlled environment. We allow other people to define who we are. We just need to recognize our history in this country going back to slavery in the western world and bring all of that forward and look at our examples. The way we treat each other, the way we treat ourselves in terms of the expectations that we have of ourselves or our failure to follow through: why do we fail to step up and just be the man we need to be? We need to come to terms with who we are.

I have an understanding of where I was, to give me an understanding of where I am, and what I have the potential of doing. That’s not simple rhetoric; it’s not just words stringed together coming out of my mouth. That’s my reality. I got to understand where I am from. I am the product of all the stuff that happened growing up: I watched my mother being battered and knocked in the head; all the instances of racism; my interaction with women in my life and their families; and all of that is important. It produced me. Going to the joint is a product of that, and I have to understand that. And it forced me to reflect on what made me the man that I am now.

It means being forced in a situation where you have time. You go to prison, you go to jail, and you are forced into a little cell, and it’s hard not to see yourself. You lay on that bed, and you look at the ceiling. But so many of us lay on the bed, and we shut the world out and refuse to see; they are not ready to see. It’s painful. Wherever you are, when that opportunity arises have the courage to look at yourself and all the ugliness and all the pain that comes with that ugliness. It’s not so much the pain that happened to you. But more so what you did to other people and what you did to yourself. Take the opportunity to reflect and have the courage to acknowledge that I wasn’t a good father, that I wasn’t a good husband, that I wasn’t a good son, and that I wasn’t a good community member…. Have the courage to acknowledge all of that and then look at it and say, that’s what it was, and this is what I am going to do about it.

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