June 9, 2006


Poll Reveals a Contradictory Portrait Shaded With Promise and Doubt (Steven A. Holmes and Richard Morin, 6/04/06, Washington Post)

Black men in America today are deeply divided over the way they see themselves and their country.

Black men report the same ambitions as most Americans -- for career success, a loving marriage, children, respect. And yet most are harshly critical of other black men, associating the group with irresponsibility and crime.

Black men describe a society rife with opportunities for advancement and models for success. But they also express a deep fear that their hold on the good life is fragile, in part because of discrimination they continue to experience in their daily lives.

This portrait of the divided black man emerges from a survey conducted by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. The survey of 2,864 people, including a sample of 1,328 black men, aimed to capture the experiences and perceptions of black men at a time marked by increasing debate about how to build on their achievements and address the failures that endure decades after the civil rights movement. [...]

"I just get frustrated with my brothers. With black men . . . wasting life. But then, on the other hand, I wonder: Is there something in society that keeps us down?" said Edward Howell, 57, a D.C. resident who was interviewed in the poll. [...]

"This country is filled with highly successful black men who are leading balanced, stable, productive lives working all over the labor market," said Hugh Price, former president of the National Urban League. "They're stringing fiber-optic cable for Verizon or working the floor at Home Depot. . . . It's a somewhat invisible story."

On the whole, survey respondents showed a powerful connection to a common history that crosses lines of education, income, age and geography, and stands in sharp contrast to the perceptions of many of their white counterparts.

The poll also documents how the enormous changes in society over the last generations have rippled through the lives of black men. But as the distance between the races begins to narrow, new tensions have emerged in the way black men perceive themselves and their lives:

· Six in 10 black men said their collective problems owe more to what they have failed to do themselves rather than "what white people have done to blacks." At the same time, half reported they have been treated unfairly by the police, and a clear majority said the economic system is stacked against them.

· More than half said they place a high value on marriage -- compared with 39 percent of black women -- and six in 10 said they strongly value having children. Yet at least 38 percent of all black fathers in the survey are not living with at least one of their young children, and a third of all never-married black men have a child. Six in 10 said that black men disrespect black women.

· Three in four said they value being successful in a career, more than either white men or black women. Yet majorities also said that black men put too little emphasis on education and too much emphasis on sports and sex.

· Eight in 10 said they are satisfied with their lives, and six in 10 reported that it is a "good time" to be a black man in the United States. But six in 10 also reported they often are the targets of racial slights or insults, two-thirds said they believe the courts are more likely to convict black men than whites, and a quarter reported they have been physically threatened or attacked because they are black.

· Black men said they strongly believe in the American Dream -- nine in 10 black men would tell their sons they can become anything they want to in life. But this vision of the future is laden with cautions and caveats: Two-thirds also would warn their sons that they will have to be better and work harder than whites for equal rewards.

Unfortunately, Democrats and "civil rights" leaders just talk mau-mau to them and most Republicans are afraid to talk to them at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 9, 2006 9:15 AM

Don't forget the military. Many Black men do well in military careers, especially in the Army.

Another point is that discipline and morality are cultural traits, not racial. Whether one wears his cap crooked, walks around with his shoelaces untied, listens to savage music or holds his pistol sideways are not determined by the color of his skin but by the content of his chararacter.

Posted by: Lou Gots at June 9, 2006 10:27 AM

They could start by "policing their own" instead of circling the wagons.

The black caucus supporting Jefferson's corruption is obnoxious.

They would gain immense credibility if they threw him off the bus.

Posted by: Bruno at June 9, 2006 10:36 AM

Nothing Bill Cosby hasn't said.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at June 9, 2006 10:49 AM

Cosby been very quiet since he was accused of sexual harassment by a female friend, acquaintance, house mate, employee." Just a little sample of what he would have faced had he continued to speak out against the poverty pimps.

Posted by: erp at June 9, 2006 1:07 PM