Black Men in America: Behind the Numbers

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Last Monday we looked at the numbers. To help re-kick-off our race and class series, we looked at the big-picture facts and figures being generated by researchers and academics about the “crisis” of black men in America. We also had a rather intense discussion on the role of culture vs. the role of structural and institutional problems in generating the problems behind the numbers.

Now we’d like to do a follow-up show that gets behind the numbers to the real, lived stories and experiences of black men in America. We’d love to hear your personal stories, like the sort that listener Malcolm Z has graciously shared with us already. What’s your life like? What have your experiences been with education and jobs and employment? What role did some of the cultural forces mentioned in the previous show have on your upbringing? Does your life reflect the stats, or have you “beaten the odds”?

In addition to your own stories, we’d love to hear your suggestions for guests (as usual), and for other ways to explore race and class in America. What other shows should we be doing in this series?

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  • If at all possible, you should try and get David Harvey on as a guest.

    Though born and educated in Britian, he spent extensive time researching and teaching in the US and has written seminal works on issues of class, ethnicity, urbanization and environmentalism, always with a keen eye on issues of social justice and exploitation.

    Since he is British, (where in a BBC poll last year Marx was voted the greatest philosopher: he also need not shy away from a serious critique of capitalism and bury theory behind a stream of statistics.

  • I’d like to add a couple of comments to the above. Harvey is often called a Marxist geographer, but I think that label will create incorrect preconceptions if you have not read any of his works. True, Marx is always beside him or in the shadows of his thinking, but he doesn’t begin and end with a narrow materialist analysis. For one, he engages with other theoretical threads, such as gender, environmentalism, postmodernism, etc. and lets these challenge, fill out and rework Marxist theory. Harvey also wanders intellectually through many spacial fields, from the global to the urban, to the factory floor and to the physical terrain of our bodies.

    He reminds us, at least he reminded me when I was drifting through the virtual existentialism of postmodern thinking and identity politics, that while people want to be recognized and valued for who they are…women, black, pink, transgendered, latino, hyphenated, rapper, second lifer, muslim, socccer mom, chowhound, Buddhist, native American, whatever…they also want the opportunity to try to become something more, and this requires that they can satisfy basic needs, such as a living wage, clean drinking water, health care, enriching education, etc.

    David Harvey now teaches in the Department of Anthropolgy at City University of New York.

  • Vijtable

    Having been an educator in East Palo Alto, CA (where there is a significant black population alongside Latinos/as and Pacific Islanders) I think the crisis comes from structural issues. These issues create a cultural environment that fosters complacency about these issues. Basically, our education system (specifically sex education) harms all people growing up in all lower-income communities.

    Sex Education: In essence, abstinence-only education programs, mandated by the governement, teaches the absolutely wrong lesson: contraceptives, specifically condoms, don’t work. They say this explicitly, using scare tactics. They also purposely ignore the statistics. Schools with access to greater resources (and better test scores) are under less scrutiny from government observers, and therefore are able to more easily ignore government mandates related to sex-ed.

    Education in General: Add to the sex-ed problem that black men attend college in lower numbers, and we have a situation where black men (and women) are miseducated about contraception and reach “adulthood” earlier. Abortion’s availability or not, more conceptions means more births. More young black men and women, who have yet to establish themselves in adulthood, who aren’t stable in their careers, are in a situation where they are caring for a child.

    Correcting the actual lessons about contraception will help black men and women with family planning, and therefore their children will be able to have improved chances at having good “numbers.”

    Improving the education system would take more work. The system would need to put a disproportionately large amount of money into the lower-income districts to shrink classrooms and increase resources. This investment will pay off with improved qualitative education, and improved test scores. It would result in education actually being equal. An equal education means better college opportunities, and prolonged youth.

  • reality_bytes_it

    Isn’t it interesting that the “testiment” upon which Robin used to get the string started from Malcom Z blows away many of the liberal canards that many gravitate towards?

    Macolm Z never cited explotation or sex education as barriers to his growing up to prosper – he says it was due to his parents.

    The nanny state cannot raise kids with education in lieu of family. Hillary may claim that it takes a Village but it seems that Malcom Z says otherwise.

  • Vijtable

    reality – I think you may need to read more closely Malcolm Z’s report. He points out that is upbringing was an exception in his community. What I am describing is the community. Having heard eighth graders parrot to each other the uselessness of condoms, and seeing girls be absent from school for months due to pregnancy, I am speaking from experience. A community that is not given the tools, as Malcolm Z was by his parents, is not given a chance.

    You are right, though, that parents need to raise their children. But children cannot raise children, and that is what I faced. Mid-twenties mothers of sixth-graders (11 year-olds) were not uncommon. And these women, often unsupported by the absent fathers, were working two or more jobs to make enough to support their children.

    Who raises the children when society doesn’t take care of the caregivers? Do we let them do it on their own? Or do we, as a civilized society, enable the parents to be able to raise their children as Malcolm Z’s parents raised him? Do we punish the mother for the father’s crimes? Do we punish her for the bad education she was given about contraception? Do we punish young people for the miseducation they received which led them to a pregnancy and abandonment? I wish these were hypothetical questions, but they are not. This is the reality of the community around Malcolm Z.

    Malcom Z cited 40% of black males end up in prison. And he was right that these black men need to take responsibility. But so do I. So does everyone in this country. And we make it worse. Most of these black boys are convicted on minor felonies. Our country then takes their rights away. For the rest of their lives, they cannot vote in most states. I failed my brothers and my sisters, and while I may not be culpable, I am most certainly responsible.

    That is what current-Senator Clinton meant when she said “it takes a village.” We are all responsible for the outcomes of all our children. If, more often than not, a group of people are not being helped by the village, by our civilized society, then Malcolm Z will remain an exception, and will never be the rule.

    I can say so much more about the fact that black people were never given reparations, and the fact that racism is inherent and structural, and the fact that black people are pulled over more often than white people, despite the number of white drivers and black drivers. But I won’t.

    I’ll leave it here: The odds are the odds for a reason, they ARE true. As long as we blame the poor for being poor, and celebrate the exceptional, who through luck or will or both overcome the odds, we will continue to be barbarians. If we change the odds, then we’re doing something. I noted two factors in the thing that creates the black male “crisis.” You noted another. I proposed solutions (one easy, one hard) to both of my factors. So, in the interest of improving our society, what is your solution, reality, to the “family” problem?

  • reality_bytes_it

    Vittable – Then as long as we are listening poeple like Malcom Z then let’s take it all the way. African Aemricans say that the school systems are failing them and the majority back School Vouchers – link provided in another thread. And the statistic that Malcom Z sites of 40% of black males end up in prison is PROOF that it isn’t poverty that causes it – its culture. Black women are POORER than black men because of the cause that you site, the children that the African American culture has said is alright for African American males to leave them with. Hispanic males are more likely to be poorer yet have no where near the prison rate – culture. Then, all statistics show that the rate of black on black crime means that these poor poverty stricken prisoners – African American – men were not FATHERS, they were not MEMBERS of the VILLAGE of which you wish them to be the were PREDATORS of those same African American members of that village. Then they are glorified in Hip Hop and Rap music.

    Once again, I think that the most interesting point is that Malcom Z sounds like he agrees more with people like Bill Cosby, Supreme Court Justice Thomas, Condi Rice and Colin Powel than the so called “leaders” like Jesse Jackson and Cornel West who many refer to as “Race baiting poverty pimps”.

  • reality_bytes_it

    Before posting any comments to this post I would suggest that poeple click the link and read that authors bio.

    “What we need is a culture war.

    Specifically, we need aggressive, concerted action by members and institutions of the respectable black middle class to do open combat against the rise of an ancient enemy: a bold, seductive street culture that exalts lawlessness, addiction and anti-family behavior like pimping, sexual promiscuity, ignorance and personal selfishness.

    Smiley and civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson tend to gloss over a split that has run through black culture for more than a century: the need to choose between the narcissistic pursuit of short-term pleasure . . . .

    My former professor, Orlando Patterson of Harvard, recently weighed in on the topic in The New York Times, scolding black leaders for “the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group’s cultural attributes – its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions, and the resulting behavior of its members – and the relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing.”

    That mirage of street life tempts countless kids to discard the virtues of education, hard work and personal decency.

    More teachers, preachers, politicians, journalists and other black Americans with a pulpit need to enlist in the battle against the self-defeating lure of street culture.

    Reality_bytes_it – I find this thread interesting in juxtaposition to the upcoming show on Hip Hop.

  • reality_b_i, you suggested that the number of blacks hitting prisons is some evidence that poverty isn’t the reason they’re there. But I think you have overlooked something in your attempt to simplify. Think of it this way for a second – the correlation between being black and being poor is very high. As a scientist, I look at that correlation and I think there must be a reason or two behind it. But my understanding of bio makes me doubt that its any inherent black characteristics that are leading to impoverishment. There’s just not enough similarity among blacks to explain the similarity of their predicament. But there is an explanatory factor that they do all have in common – discrimination based on skin color. This is, of course, at the root of the culture that you are decrying, the fact that black people are constantly identified as such by both blacks and others gives them an incentive to act according to the stereotypes. People like it when blacks live up to those stereotypes, because they then feel like they can know what to expect. But despite the force of those expectations and incentives, conforming to those stereotypes is a mistake that only deludes citizens of every race into thinking they know what’s making blacks tick. I hope I haven’t obscured my own point by oversimplification.

    So yes, there is a destructive culture being propogated, and its reinforced by both blacks and others. But the path leading away from there has everything to do with poverty. Cultural veneration of crime or no, individuals are smart enough to opt for real employment, when it appears in a form that allows the workers to respect themselves. Think of the black people you see in the workplace, and how professionally they behave. They are totally capable of engaging themselves and making huge contributions, but their reputation precedes them and ruins the deal too often. I think the real burden of action lies where it always has: with employers. Their task isn’t easy – they will need to be patient and forgiving while training their new employees, and they will need to show levels of respect they may not be accustomed to if they hope to secure loyalty of their new workforce. But you have to give respect to get it. Therefore they’ll be rewarded with a dedicated black workforce that cares enough about their businesses to protect them from disruption. For example, you can see how a black gang would be discouraged from robbing a store that employed ten black people. And rightly so! In fact racist gangs like that could even help the situation by making obvious the practical advantages of hiring blacks (that’s not an endorsement, but think of it as getting more black customers because the black workforce knows what kind of service they need).

    Culture isn’t going to disappear or evolve quickly. But what is needed is reforms in our schools and our economy. Make no mistake: poverty IS the problem. Personal responsibility is the best way out, but its not something we have a lot of leverage over as a community, so it makes a lot of sense for us to start cooperating a lot more.

  • reality_bytes_it

    I too use statistics in my daily job. Black women are poorer that than black men and they do not commit as many crimes nor go to jail as frequently. Hispanics of all sexes are also poorer than black males and yet, they do not commit as many crimes.

    There is no correlation.

  • reality_bytes_it

    So who does Malcom Z sound more like, Bill Cosby of the other so called black “leaders” at this rally?

    Bill Cosby tells New Orleans blacks to reject crime

    Cosby, whose criticism of some aspects of modern African-American culture has stirred controversy in recent years, told a rally headed by black leaders that the city needed to look at the “wound” it had before Katrina struck.

    “It’s painful, but we can’t cleanse ourselves unless we look at the wound,” Cosby told the rally of about 2,000 people in front of the city’s convention center.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, you had the highest murder rate, unto each other. You were dealing drugs to each other. You were impregnating our 13-, 12-, 11-year-old children,” he said.

    “What kind of a village is that?”;_ylt=Ao7niSKrWkbKVyAdwSQLWO2s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MjBwMWtkBHNlYwM3MTg-

  • nother

    In the car with one of my best friends and two acquaintances – this weekend in Vermont after a big season ending party the night before. We are still in a kind of free-form party vibe and the sun is shining through the windows. One of the guys says, “throw in that David Alan Cole cd.” The other two guys say “yea yea, throw it in.” They ask me if I know who he is, I say no.

    While one of the guys gets the cd, the other two proceed to tell me how great this guy is, “he’s raw, man.â€? That’s great, I say, “I like country music, and I like anything music that is raw.â€? After the big build up, the cd begins to play. I hear the chorus of the song and I take pause. The chorus says something about having a girlfriend and her running off with a n_gger. Then the next refrain says something about something bad happening to “youâ€? and it’s because of a n_gger. At this point, things are cloudy in my brain. The three guys are laughing and it’s getting progressively louder – my mind is racing – is this song being ironic – what’s going on – I don’t want to react and be too politicaly correct, ruin the vibe. The laughter is growing – if I don’t laugh soon, I’m not part of the vibe – wait, the laugh feels hollow, it feels cold. After the second refrain I’m realizing that this song is not being ironic, it’s being racist – at that same instant, I feel the muscles on the corner of my mouth begin to raise – the beginnings of smile? – laughter? Wait – stop – think – focus! This is bullshit, guys! Turn that off! I don’t need to listen to that. The dynamics become very uncomfortable – “chill outâ€? they say, “relaxâ€? “We are just having fun” they cry. I reply: “If there was a black guy in this car you wouldn’t be so toughâ€? – and that’s the end of the dialogue. There is silence for about 15 minutes. After a while, a different topic is brought up and we move on. These are not bad people, they are good people who have succumb to a weakness, a weakness we all have lingering in the shadows

    In the spirit of Malcom z from ROS, it all starts with personal responsibility. I could write beautiful mind-blowing blogs all day about institutional racism, but if I don’t fight that racism in my own private institution, it all rings hollow. A civil rights activist once told me to confront anyone telling a racist joke, make a scene, make them uncomfortable. At the time, I was young and naïve and I thought, come on now, that idea is a little drastic; I’m just trying to mind my own business here. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong – confrontation is an opportunity to make a real difference. Sure you don’t work for the ACLU, sure you feel kind of helpless when you contemplate the enormity of the problem of prejudice – but it’s vital that you take control of the difference that is in your control. When someone makes a racist joke, make a scene. That doesn’t necessitate raising your voice – it necessitates changing the dynamics in a slow deliberate way – saying simply that the comment offended you. Of course, they will be defensive, and they might accuse you of grandstanding, of getting on your high horse and being righteous – and you will nod your head and let them say that – and you will let the conversation end with your initial comments – and ultimately, you will take comfort in the idea that these people will be reluctant to freely play this racist music to people again – they will think twice before telling that racist joke – and maybe just maybe, the spreading virus will end

    The racism of the 60’s and beyond, has not gone away, it has just cloaked itself with subtleties. As a white man in this society, I can tell you, it is relatively common when a few white guys get together to make a subtle black joke, or make a subtly derogatory comment about black people – It happens a lot for instance when discussing the current NBA. People don’t usually says anything overtly racist, but there is almost an implied wink – “I get you man, I’m there.â€? We’re in this together, right (us white guys)? If the shit hits the fan, I got your back.

    It hurts to say that although I rose to the occasion in this situation, I have broken into that empty smile in the past; I have enabled that cold laughter with my own forced laughter. It’s a separate battle every time. It’s a challenge every time. But you must – I must – rise to the occasion. It’s like they say at AA, I’m recovering and I take every day at a time. As Americans, we are all recovering from racism and we must deal with this one day at a time.

  • Thanks nother for sharing your experience and thoughts with us. It brings this topic to the level of the everyday and gives us a glimpse into what really lies behind the numbers and in our hearts and minds.

    For me, living in another country where I am the ethnic minority has helped me to become much more sensitive to how difference is used to unite, to build walls of indiffernece and to degrade. The irony is that there is this tremendous desire to be recognized and accepted by those around you. Social boundaries take shape not usually because the few want to protect some sacred culture they have, but because the many in excluding them help reify their difference. When I first came to Japan as a poor student, I lived without a mirror for many months and rarely saw my own reflection (shaving was hell). Then one day walking home on a frosty Sapporo night, I glimpsed this image of a big foreign looking guy in a store-front window. Hey, that’s me, I soon realized. In my minds eye I had started to look like everyone else in my desire to be alike. Of course, as a visual minority I can’t. That I accept. But why must my physical features and mannerisms play such an important role in defining who I cannot be and who those that exclude are?

  • I think we have to be careful to listen to Malcolm Z without assuming that he speaks for all black men. We need a multitude of voices to get a true reading.

    Also, it can be difficult to for those experiencing the pressures of life that we can never endure, to even articulate what drives their behavior. Survival often shuts down the ability to see at a meta-level.

    Next, it is impossible for us who never have to endure the relentlessness of racism, to put ourselves in their shoes.

    What we can do is what nother did in the car on a personal level. And continue to critique and seek to change institutionalized racism in our goverment, education and media systems. We can also, ask ourselves what we can do repair the damage that we have done. If I broke your window, you would expect me to replace it. I would have to give up resources to do so. If I have kept you from the opportunity of a decent education and fair opportunity to participate in society economically and otherwise, what should I do to make up for it?

    It is not a matter of personal responsibility vs societal responsibility. They are not mutally exclusive. Both must be activated at all times.

  • nother

    Ahh, Opening Day! I type these words as Schilling winds up for the first pitch of a new season – of new promise.

    Allison, I like your broken window analogy. There is this attitude out there that seems to say, hey sorry, but things have changed, so get over it.

    Sidewalker speaks to your point about putting “ourselves in their shoes.” Personally my little stab at that idea is – when I’m sitting in a place where there is one black person and many white people, I consciously try to put myself in their shoes, I look around and envision a room full of black people and I’m the only white person – then I try to extrapolate that scenario out to my whole day. Of course this is wholly inadequate in knowing true empathy, but it’s something. It gives my mind a platform to ask myself questions about identity and such.

    I love the idea sidewalker, that you were startled when you saw your reflection. That you saw a “big foreign looking guy.” That’s deep man. That says so much.

    A quick note about the ROS community. In those quick moments in the car when I encountered that racism – but before I reacted – I remember thinking that I would blog about the ease with which these guys had engaged in this, how prevalent this virus still is. My next thought though was, if I write that blog, the community will want to know what I did about it. It’s weird but I felt the pressure and expectations of Peggysue and Allison and others and those few moments. I would like to think that I would have reacted anyhow, but that was my thought process. It’s amazing how time slowed down and all those thoughts went through my head.

  • Robin

    Hey sidewalker- I’m a big David Harvey fan (we’ve done at least one show with his CUNY colleage Neil Smith) but I hadn’t thought of him as someone who would fit in this series. I will take another look at his stuff and see if I can figure out a way to make that work.

    Re: the culture conversation, thanks for pointing to the Errol Louis piece, reality. Do we need an entire show about culture here? I’m intrigued by the notion that “blacks need a culture war” (like a fish needs a bicycle? or really?). It keeps coming up here, for better or worse.

    Thanks all around for a thoughtful, provocative conversation on these last few shows.

  • I was with my best friend and two great buds the other night and these guys are all really big fans of Cam’ron, which actually is saying a lot because these three guys happen to be very well versed in a lot of rap and they’re pretty critical of much of it. They really think he’s ahead of everyone else in the game, and that as you listen to his words over and over you realize ever more layers of meaning. These guys have never lived in Harlem, so their understanding of the material is severely limited by that, but to flip that around, their understanding of Harlem life is, perhaps, significantly enriched by the emotions that Cam’ron does manage to convey to Persians and white kids. One such lesson was evident in my friend’s solemn consideration of the line “The Tech kept us righteous”. The concept of an honor code necessitated by the atmospheric changes around people who are carrying guns, evoked by one line. It was one line that kept me thinking for the rest of the week.

    When you’re carrying a gun, you’re enforcing. Whatever you see, you either allow, or intervene. Most of the time, that corresponds with keeping the peace, letting people go about their business, and actually making them secure in the idea that if some really violent jerk showed up, he’d most likely be deterred from abusing someone by the gun-wielding folks. Carrying a gun around your community is therefore a significantly effective way to protect that community. In some circumstances, its also a very effective way to manipulate or profit from people in the community. But focusing on the latter misses the point. There are very appealing things about carrying guns that have very benevolent, responsible, and mature motivations. It lets you feel trustworthy and prove that you indeed are. It helps you feel safer from attack or robbery. It allows you to stand up in protection of your home, where officers of the law fail to enforce justice at almost every opportunity. That’s without even getting into the bonding created by those intense responsibilities, trust shared between friends and between strangers and between foes. I’ve never envied those living in environments where gun toting is the norm, but I’m very impressed by the behavior of the vast majority of young men who aren’t getting out of line or hurting people. I have no difficulty at all believing that ‘righteous’ is the proper word for describing the behavior of most young black men who are walking the streets with guns.

    But white people who don’t grow up on those streets don’t have any concept of the level of maturity that is actually displayed by these armed kids. So they are irrationally afraid to spend time in rough parts of the city, they move their homes, schools, and offices elsewhere and create Problems. They have no idea what kind of justification those kids have for packing, because they don’t understand, among other things, how the police would treat people there if not for the vigilantes. I’m not claiming I know. But I am claiming a lot of sympathy for people who want to carry guns for some very good reasons.

    Check again how many young black man have spent time in prison for drug or weapons charges. Then realize how clearly both these menaces can be seen as effective coping mechanisms for the poverty and hate that were thrust upon these communities. Yes, we ought to deter young boys from smoking crack and then shooting their dealer to steal his cash and stash. But the policy of punishing weapons charges is in some sense ignorant of the reality of the ghetto. A lot of people carry guns sometimes. That doesn’t mean they should be forced to a horrible place where they’ll be isolated from women and free people. I’ve always been an advocate of gun control, but I do not advocate prison, especially when the defendent has not significantly harmed others. Most black inmates fit that description. Their incarceration seems more and more like persecution which is being prosecuted by a racist political system that professes ignorance on its way to disenfranchising its underclass.

  • Potter

    I don’t have much to say about this bur what I will say is that I feel more and more that we are a segregated society. I don’t feel that I have enough contact with black people in my daily life out here in the burbs.

    There is a reason for this.

    On my “block” we have a black surgeon. He is extraordinary. But he should not have to be so to be here.

    When I go to New York City, or even Worcester, I feel the craving for the encounter in out socierty that shamefully still has not happened between black and white.

  • Potter

    ( sorry for the typos but that’s how I feel essentially,)

  • To Chris and the gang and the esteemed guests–

    This was truly your finest hour.

    (I’ll see if I can summon the poet for words on the way home).

  • black8cat

    I get angry when I hear black men complain of racism, yet thousand are extremely sexist!! Christen men try to be the “head of the home”, which is degrading and sexist from a woman’s perspective. Snoop Dog and many more singers promote extreme sexism and female degradation. Walk the talk!!!! Respect women, and women will respect you!!!!!

  • dear deborah

    It seems to me that various Cultures contain varing versions of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders – that may be passed on from Gereration to Generation.

    Here are three stanzas from my poem “. . . and what about OUR Children?”

    A Prayer Poem for Peace – that seem to be appropiate to share

    Why shouldn’t a Child who witnessed

    His Mother’s or Brother’s – Family or Friend’s death when They got shot

    from a ‘neighborhood shooting’ in His Home

    want to challenge Our Systems that did not work for Him. . . ,?

    and roam. . ,

    into another Culture in the “Streets” and create a Family/System of His own!

    Becoming a Gang Member to feel safe and not alone.

    The rules at School and Child’s play

    will no longer save or make sense of His day.

    Don’t expect Him to be able to concentrate on His books

    because with out Traumatic Stress Treatment

    He’ll be focused on peripheral vision and a second look!!

    We should not punish Him

    or his Friends

    for loosing Trust

    yet work

    with OUR Communities

    and Government’s systems

    for New Solutions

    towards Healing Traumatic Stress Syndroms

    We ALL must!

    . . . and what about OUR Children?

    The long version of this poem – about Post Traumatic Stree Syndrom/Disorders being at Global proportions and other current issues will be on the internet soon and I will inform you All as to where. Thanks

  • nother, if we met, I’d give you a big hug. You have a knack for making this very detached medium strike the heart with your expressions of your personal experience. Thank you.

    I should, that as the most vocal critic of the use of the word community in relation to this ROS blog, I do find that I refer to the dialogues here often. My community of knitters is getting used to me interjecting sentences that begin with, “I was participating in a thread on ROS the other day about this…..”

    The opportunity to attempt some form of articulation of my thoughts and feelings on meta-issues in life and receive feedback, counter-points, requests for clarification, etc. is definitely informing how I approach my daily life. It is a loop, where i have an outlet for things that roll around in my head but aren’t pertinent to toss out during a mundane interaction while at the same time, enlivening a dialogue that I turn around and bring back to my mundane interactions.

    Thank you ROS – staff, guests, and bloggers.

  • nother

    Allison, I will call you on that hug someday. One of these days I would like to drop by your shop in JP and say hi. I looked at your website and I was very impressed. You practice what you preach. Too bad I don’t knit – maybe if there was a TV I could watch the sox on 🙂

    Your words were very sweet and the pat on the back pushes me forward. You are one of my ideal readers when I post, so thank you. Whenever I scroll down a thread I stop at your name first.

    I realized early on that there would be much smarter people posting on this site so I had to decide what I could contribute. And I desperately wanted to contribute to this new venture, Chris and Mary contributed so much to me when they had the “Connection” I wanted to give back, even the smallest way. So I said to myself, what can I offer that is original, and my answer was – me. I can offer my unique view from my little perch and offer it in a sincere, humble, and thoughtful way. I don’t care if a reborn Einstein was blogging on this site, he wouldn’t know what the view is from my little perch. It’s easy when posting to regurgitate something you heard on NPR earlier in the week, it’s hard to look inside yourself and then expose what you find on a blog.

  • nother

    To the ROS staff, bravo! I just listened to the podcast and I second Jon Garfunkel, this was truly your finest hour. (Although I’ve probably said that 4 of 5 times now and I’ll probably say it again next week).

    Your could do a whole show just talking to Abrigal Forrester. I would love to hear his take on other issues besides race, like maybe the Iraq war or if he is a chowhound and where his favorite grub is. The other gentleman were amazing as well, but Abrigal blew me away. We have to keep tabs on this guy; I hope you will continue to give him a platform.

    -His comparison to Columbine and how that school system dealt with the shooting was piercing.

    -His elaboration on the lack of protection for young boys was insightful.

    -His idea that he was so smart that he was stupid – he was using his intelligence in the wrong way. His idea that he sees the leadership qualities out there on the street, they are simply misplaced.

    -His statement about that separate value system ingrained in the street culture.

    -His point about potential mentors having a fear of sharing their own weaknesses.

    Ultimately, the lessons learned here transcended race and class, at least for me.

    ROS, the program you provided here would not be found on Charlie Rose; Terry Gross will not be interviewing these three men anytime soon; the program you provided here was special and I appreciate it.

  • Sorry to be piling on, but nother and Jon Garfunkel are spot on. This show was great. The guests brought not just their idea but their hearts and their discussion pulsed with insight that few social science reports could match. Chris, please bring them back soon, how about for a show on parenting or on community organizations.

  • Abrigal Forrester

    I just wanted to chime in on the comments made in regards to my opportunity to express myself about the pressing issues of Black men in America, and thank the listeners for their recognition and support as well as Chris Lydon for having me. However, I would like to say: the state of the black community has to be resolved not by concentrating on race but the real issue, “RESPONSIBILITYâ€?. One of the greatest statements I have learned in my plight that has stuck with me is; “God will never change the condition of a people or person, until they change the condition of their own souls” Holy Quran. What does this mean, it means that nothing will change for the Black community until the people of the community deal with and challenge the lost souls in the areas of themselves that have been tainted. What happens outside of the community is secondary to what we as a community are now doing to ourselves.

    Those of the community that have been rescued from the insanity have to get involved and educate themselves, so that we can begin to diagnose and rescue our people. Individuals that are financially well off “in our community�, must begin to look at ways to finance the future of their race, and assist those in need of financial resources to create opportunity. We have too many men and women that are wealthy to be waiting on grants.

    The statement “it takes a village to raise a child” is needed now more than ever. It is not the fault of the youth that their futures are being destroyed because they are born into family situations that are not stable, or that they are looking for direction and find it in all the wrong places. The true culture of Black people is one that valued the connection of all children with all the elders; so as to steer their future and make sure the child that did not have correct guidance still acquired what it is needed to become a functional adult.

    Re-directing a community starts with (“standing up for what is right even if it is against ourselves”) right from wrong is not defined by culture or race it is defined by outcomes and consequences. Everyday we all have to ask ourselves how much do I really care about humanity?

    Once again Thanks to the listeners and the WGBH staff!

  • nother

    Abrigal Forrester, thank you for the engagement. Many guests of ROS say their piece and move on. I hope you will recognize the foundation of “wonder” here (in this community of ideas) and revisit on other topics.

    I also hope you will check out this post:, his 12:51am post. malcom z is a friend of ROS that first introduced the idea of personal responsibility to our present debate – you came along after and slammed down the hammer.

    Let me emphasize something, I’m a 33 year old white male, this message that you have graciously emphasized, transcends race and class – I will truly save this ROS podcast with your powerful message Abrigal, and I will play it for my future (I hope) children. I can feel from your message, you are speaking to all of us – to all of humanity – you write “right from wrong is not defined by culture or race it is defined by outcomes and consequences.” Thank you. I am truly inspired.

    please post on the new “race and prison” thread. Many of us have to reminded about the capacity we all have for change. Also, if you’re so inclined, please speak a word to the overt racism by white people, all around us. It’s a virus in our hardware, and we need some ideas to dig it out. Just because we recognize the critter that has buried itself in, doesn’t make it that critter go away, we have to take a backhoe and dig that damm thing out – and everyone’s pretty flowers might just have to go with it!

    Abrigal, how are we going to get black people to vote their numbers? What comes first, the black people voting or quality black people to vote for?

    Also, if there is anything I can do for “Strive” please let me and everyone else know.