Archive for May, 2013

At the start of 2008 a friend of mine predicted that it would be the year of the Black Man, and as the year evolved he was proved to be right.

It was the 40 year anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, but it was also the year the world had its first year Black F1 racing champion (Lewis Hamilton), the year a Black man captained the England football team (Rio Ferdinand), and the first Black man to manage a premiership football team (Paul Ince).  Most significantly it was the year that Barack Obama became the first Black President of the United States. When Obama won the Presidential election, Black people the world over were filled with pride and new hope.  On the morning after his election victory I like many others received this text message.

Rosa Parks sat,

so that Martin Luther King could walk,

so that Barack Obama could stand,

so that our children can fly.

Does Obama's success mean that racism is no longer a barrier to success?

Does Obama’s success mean that racism is no longer a barrier to success?

But were Black people right to feel such pride?  Barack Obama can be claimed by whites just as much as he is by Blacks.  He is infact of dual racial heritage, as is Lewis Hamilton, and Rio Ferdinand.  And Obama was not part of that American civil rights legacy of struggle.  None of the ancestors on the Black side of his family came to America in slave ships, they were never cotton pickers or share croppers, and they never marched for freedom in the 60’s.   When his African father met his white mother it was as an overseas student at the University of Hawaii. Obama spent only a matter of days with his father and was raised by his white mother and his white grandparents. It occurred to me that maybe it was because of his unique racial heritage that he had the confidence to run for President when no-one gave him a chance.  He didn’t listen to all those people, (particularly Black ones, myself included) that said a Black man could never be President.  Just like those who said that ‘Black men don’t play Golf’ before Tiger Woods came along, or that ‘F1 racing is not a Black man’s sport’ before Lewis Hamilton.   Maybe it was because he wasn’t hampered by those shackles of mental slavery that he was able to succeed so spectacularly.

Lewis Hamilton - another successful Black man breaking down barriers.

Lewis Hamilton – another successful Black man breaking down barriers.

But what about the rest of us? Can the success of Obama, and Hamilton, and Ferdinand inspire Black men throughout the diaspora to new heights?  We sure as hell hope so, because aside from those success stories, most ordinary Black men are struggling.  We are over-represented in all the places that we don’t want to be – the school exclusion figures, the young offenders institutions, the prisons, and the psychiatric units – and under-represented in all the places we should be – university graduation ceremonies, in the boardrooms, at the business breakfasts and business dinners, at the school parents’ evenings, on the schools’ boards of governors, even in the park playing ball with our sons.

In the States 47% of the penal population is African-American, but only 3.5% of the college students. We are 37% of the schools suspensions and have the lowest life expectancy. We have the highest homicide and cancer rates, and over 30% of the African-American males between 18 and 25 are unemployed.

In the introduction to his excellent book Outliers, another high achiever of mixed parentage Malcolm Gladwell argues that when looking at success stories we should not ask ‘what are they like?’ but rather examine the circumstances of their birth for clues to the secrets of their success.  In my examination of the failure of Black men I will do the same thing and argue that when we look at the many areas in which Black men are failing, we should not look at the particular failings of these individuals, but instead look at the circumstances of their birth for clues to the origins of this malaise that blights the Black community.  This is not to let off the hook those Black men who are bad fathers, or gang members, or drug dealers, or prison inmates, but rather to understand the phenomenon.  Once we can understand the causes of the problem we can go about changing it.

Mal;colm Gladwell - his book 'Outliers' examines what it takes to be a success.

Mal;colm Gladwell – his book ‘Outliers’ examines what it takes to be a success.

In The Problem With Black Men I have separated what I see as the Black community’s main problems into five areas and address each problem in turn with its own chapter.  At the end of each chapter I offer solutions – things that can be done on a personal individual level to improve the situation.  For each of these topics there are those that argue that the root cause is institutional racism.  Black boys are excluded from schools in such numbers because of the racism of the teachers.  They enter the penal system in such numbers because of the racism of law enforcement officers, and are misdiagnosed as schizophrenic because of the racism of mental health professionals.  They struggle to find employment because employers are unwilling to employ Black men, and thus contribute to the break-up of the Black family because whilst Black men are denied access to the world of work, Black women are let through, and are thus leaving their Black men behind.  All of these explanations maybe true, but if we just blindly accept them then we are accepting the role of mere victims. We are giving all the power to ‘the other man’, and there is nothing that we can do except to ask very politely if the white man would be so kind as to remove his foot from our necks!  I for one am tired of waiting for a kindly white man to come along and save us.  That is why, whilst acknowledging the role that white racism has to play, I am putting the onus firmly on Black folks, as the causes of and the solutions to our problems.

My book 'The Problem with Black Men' offers  solutions to our problems.

My book ‘The Problem with Black Men’ offers solutions to our problems.

 

The Problem With Black Men is available now on Amazon on both paperback and Kindle formats

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Nearly 50 years after his assasination, the harrasment of Malcolm X’s family continues…..

Davey D's Hip Hop Corner

Got a disturbing phone call earlier today noting that the grandson of Malcolm X, Malcolm el Shabazz had been murdered in Mexico. Initially I heard it was Mexico City but published reports are stating it was in Tijuana.. I doubled checked and hear it was actually Mexico City..  In either case the word was he was robbed, shot and tossed off a roof..I’m at a loss for words..I can only imagine what his family is going through.. The father of two was a good man destined to do great things..

Below is a link to give you crucial details as to what went down with Malcolm http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/05/malcolm-xs-grandson-killed-in-mexico-city.php

I met Malcolm a few years back when he was attending school here in the Bay Area and would frequent our radio station.. He was pretty open, candid and someone who had grown and was continuing to grow spiritually and politically..He was…

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On the morning of May 2nd the Today programme reported the story of a performance by Black comedian Reginald D. Hunter at the Professional Footballers’ Association’s annual awards dinner.  Hunter is known for using the ‘n-word’ in his comedy routines, and this night’s performance was no exception.

Reginald D. Hunter - no stranger to the 'n-word'.

Reginald D. Hunter – no stranger to the ‘n-word’.

This was particular embarrassing for the PFA as they have been fighting the battle against racial abuse in the game for some years now, not least in their promotion of the ‘Lets Kick Racism Out of Football’ campaign.  Now the use of the n-word is a contentious issue. As I have previously said on this blog I feel that white people should never use the word in any circumstance, but I acknowledge that many African-Americans reserve the right to use the term in an attempt to reclaim it. But this post is not about who or when it is appropriate to use that word.  What’s got my back up is who the Today programme thought was qualified to discuss the issue. The best participants for the debate would have the Black PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle and Reginald Hunter himself.  But no such luck.  If they were unavailable then how about a representative from the ‘Kick it  Out’ campaign, or a Black ex-footballer like John Barnes who experienced having this term shouted at them from the terraces? No?  Well how about a Black comedian? No, to debate this sensitive issue the Today programme chose white comedian Marcus Brigstocke and white comedienne  Rhona Cameron. So on BBC Radio’s flagship news programme we have the spectacle of three white people, none of whom have ever been on the receiving end of that term, discussing in which (comedic) circumstances it is allowable to use it.  Could no-one on the production team see what was wrong with this picture? They really couldn’t find anyone more suitable – no Black comedian, no anti-racist campaigner, no one?  Did they try and fail or could they just not be bothered?

Marcus Brigstocke -surely not the best person for the job?

Marcus Brigstocke -surely not the best person for the job?

The anomaly was made all the more stark by the fact that not one but three Black comedians had featured on this same station’s airwaves just the night before!  Felix Dexter is a regular feature on the comedy series ’Down The Line’ (Wednesdays at 6pm) and both Nathan Canton and Curtis Walker appeared on the late night radio sit-com Can’t Tell Nathan Caton Nothing (Wednesdays at 11pm). Is it possible that a Black comedian can appear on Radio 4 and yet no Today programme researchers can get hold of their phone numbers?  Or maybe Black comedians don’t get up early enough to appear on Today.  (The BBC must think that all Black people keep vampire hours, as any show for us seems to be broadcast after 11pm!)

Let me restate, this blog-post is not about the ‘n-word’, it is about the BBC’s attitude to diversity.  It’s now over a decade since the BBC’s then Director General Greg Dyke declared that the BBC was ‘hideously white’.  Since then little has changed in terms of its employment practices.  Back in 1997 when I worked for a brief period in the Radio 1 press office, there were only two other Black men in the building – one fixed the computers and the other one was the security guard. And this was hip and trendy Radio 1. Imagine what it was like at stuffy Radios 3 and 4?  Whiter than a snow storm! And though the BBC pay lip-service to increasing the diversity of their work-force, things don’t seem to be changing.  Even the ‘institutionally racist’ Metropolitan Police are doing better, (at least they let in working-class whites) and this lack of respect on the Today programme shows why.  The producers, presenters and execs continue to recruit from their tight little circle of white, middle-class Oxbridge cronies, even when they are debating Black issues! It is a horrifying fact all the male Executive Directors on the BBC Executive Board are white, privately educated and went to either Oxford or Cambridge. So much for diversity!

Jo Johnson and David Cameron - 'Eton Mafia', 'Old School tie', 'Jobs for the boys', call it what you want, it adds up to the same thing.

Jo Johnson and David Cameron – ‘Eton Mafia’, ‘Old School tie’, ‘Jobs for the boys’, call it what you want, it adds up to the same thing.

It is the same situation in many institutions, not least our own government. Witness only last month, the appointment of Jo Johnson as the head of the Number 10 Policy Unit. Mr Johnson, like Prime Minister Cameron and Chancellor Osborne, and so many in the Tory cabinet is an old Etonian, Oxbridge graduate and former member of the infamous Bullingdon drinking club.  Oh, and co-incidentally he’s also the younger brother of London Mayor Boris Johnson.  David Cameron dismissed accusations of cronyism, arguing that he’s only hiring the best brains for the job.  But can’t he see how bad it looks?  This small band of white, middle-class, public-school boys dominate our government, our judiciary and our media, and it seems no-one outside of their clique can get a look in.  They not only control our parliament, but also our airwaves. They not only make the laws, but also set the political and news agenda.  From the outside, it looks like if you’re Black and/or working class the only way you can get a full-time job at Broadcasting House or the Houses of Parliament, is if your pushing a mop or checking security passes.

In closing I would like to remind our heads of government, and those at the BBC, of the words of an old song by Billy Paul.

“Somebody’s knocking on the door, somebody’s ringing the bell,/ Do me a favour, open the door, and let ‘em in.”

If you’d like to read more about the issues raised in this blog post, click on the link to check out my new book ‘The Problem With Black Men’, available now on Amazon.

 The_Problem_With_Bla_Cover_for_Kindle