Monday, March 15, 2010

Young Black Men Are Precious Too

Young Black Men Are Precious Too
by Phill Wilson
NNPA Columnist

(NNPA) - My recent Op-Ed piece titled “Precious and a Princess” kicked up a firestorm. Some readers were offended because I compared the lives of some Black women to that of Claireese ''Precious'' Jones’s life in Lee Daniel's film Precious -- even though many Black girls live under the burdens of poverty, domestic violence, molestation and, yes, HIV infection.

One reader was upset that I talked about teaching our daughters how to use condoms rather than just encouraging abstinence. I agree we should encourage our daughters to abstain from sex until they are in healthy, stable relationships. But there is a large (and growing) body of research showing that teaching our children only abstinence instead of comprehensive sex education that includes abstinence as well as clear safer sex guidelines just leaves them in greater danger of having unprotected sex, putting them at higher risk for HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases. HIV/AIDS is a deadly disease. We have a responsibility to ensure our children have every possible weapon to protect them from infection.

Another reader attributed Black women’s struggles to their embrace of feminism, rather than structural issues like racism, failing public school systems and the declining availability of urban manufacturing jobs for high-school-educated men. I vehemently disagree. Returning women to the back of the gender bus will only rob them of the power to control their own destinies.

But the most provocative comment came from a man who chastised me for focusing on the plight of Black girls and women because Black men are in far worse shape than Black women. And by almost every measure, he’s right. But this is not an either/or proposition.

Black women faring badly, but better than Black men, are not mutually exclusive facts. Raising Black women up does not mean pushing black men down. Suggesting we take better care of our daughters does not exclude the need to take better care of our sons.

So I want to say some things about the condition of Black boys and young men. Recent data show white men facing an unemployment rate of just over 10 percent compared with over 18 percent among Black men. Among young Black men without a high-school diploma, the data are catastrophic; nearly half have no jobs or even prospects for employment. These rates are based on a labor-force number which excludes those in prison; given that there are five times as many Blacks behind bars as whites, including the incarcerated would make the terrible unemployment gap even worse.

Black boys/young men are 40 percent of the male US prison population, but represent only 13 percent of the male population in the U.S. If research shows that half of Black girls ages 14 to 19 have an STD, the rate must be also be high among our boys. In 2006, Black teens ages 13-19 accounted for 69 percent of new AIDS cases among teens. Research also shows that the HIV rate among urban gay and bisexual Black men under 30 is in the range of 50 percent.

Recently the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Black AIDS Institute conducted focus groups on attitudes about HIV/AIDS in Black communities. One of the panels involved only Black men. In addition to asking their perspectives on a host of AIDS-related issues, we inquired about the state of their lives. Some of the answers we heard were sobering.

We learned, for example, that young Black men don’t just feel isolated from white America -- in fact, many of them have written White America off and have long given up on being accepted by the larger society. The shocker is they feel isolated from Black adults, leaders and institutions, from the community that they would traditionally turn to when mainstream society rejected them.

Many young Black men believe that Black America has rolled them under the bus -- that the oppression they face is not only coming from white people. White women, they say, aren’t the only ones clutching their purses and crossing to the other side of the street when they seem them coming; Black women and grandmothers are pulling away from them as well.

The truth of the matter is, a lot of Black adults think of young Black men only as a problem, not part of the solution. As alienated and disillusioned as they might be, young Black men want to participate in our community. We are only fooling ourselves if we think that our community can improve itself while leaving Black boys and young men behind. Just as elevating Black women makes our entire community better, so investing in Black men is good for us as well. As Martin Luther King admonished us forty three years ago, “We are bound together in a single garment of destiny”. We need to do both.

Phill Wilson is the founder and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute ( He can be reached at

On W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio:
2010 State Of The Black Union
“It Ain’t About Tavis, It’s About Us, & It's About Time!”

See also...

Mid-South Men's Forum Preview Show:

Differences Aside, New ‘Men’s Forum’ Ready To Tackle Solutions:

April 13, 2008~The State Of Black America Part One*

April 20, 2008~The State Of Black America Part Two

April 27, 2008~The State Of Black America Part Three

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special: Yes He Did...So Now What??? Defining The Obama Presidency...

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