Introducing The Next Generation Of Leaders And Thinkers

An Accurate Representation of the American Black Male

Growing up as a young black male in America, one is faced with an inaccurate negative narrative about themselves. While it is not good to simply ignore all the negative, it is demoralizing to only hear negative about one’s own particular demographic, as well as negatively affecting the public’s understandings and attitudes related to black males.

Negative stereotypes such as portrayal of black men as thugs, criminals and fools reduce self-esteem and expectations. Research into stereotype threat involves giving people measurable tasks, while at the same time reminding them of the stereotypes their particular demographic A growing body of research shows that when a member of a group comes into a situation where a common stereotype of their group is highly relevant, they experience a number of effects, such as increased anxiety and self-consciousness about performance. Attempts to suppress these feelings use up mental resources needed to perform well on cognitive and social tasks.

For example, an elderly person, when reminded of how people often associate age with memory loss, will struggle more with memory tests. Asian-American schoolgirls did worse than usual on math tests in situations that emphasized the fact they were female, and better than usual in situations that emphasized their Asian heritage. This same idea of stereotype threat applies to black males, who are keenly aware of stereotypes that peg them as unintelligent and under-achieving, and they consistently suffer from the results of such stereotype threat in contexts such as testing or job interviewing.

Expert research confirms that frequent repetition of the problems of black males can obscure more accurate and positive dimensions of their reality, and worse, can end up reinforcing false stereotypes. It has been confirmed experimentally that exposure to stereotypical African-American characters and behaviors in entertainment programs has negative impacts on beliefs and attitudes about African Americans. The more television white viewers consumed, the more their evaluations of racial minorities reflected their negative TV characterization.

Despite the dismal and inaccurate media portrayal regarding black men,“the truth is that the vast majority of black men will not be incarcerated, are not unemployed, and are not poor. In fact, millions of black men are flourishing in America today.”

In a new analysis of Census data conducted by the Institute of Family Studies, it was found that more than one-in-five (or about 2.5 million) black men ages 18 to 64 have made it into the upper class of the income distribution.

Black men have made significant strides over the last few decades. The share of black men who are in the upper-income bracket rose from 13% in 1960 to 23% in 2016.  Moreover, poverty among black men has dropped dramatically over the same time, with the share of black men in poverty falling from 41% to 18% since 1960. Did you catch that? There are many more black men in the upper income class than living in poverty. The vast majority of black men are not poor. The share of black men in the middle or upper class has risen from 38% in 1960 to 57% today.

In addition the share of blacks who have graduated high school so is also at the highest level on record. In 2017, 87% of blacks ages 25 and older had a high school diploma or equivalent.

Attitudes have very real effects on the lives of young black men and been linked to:

    • directly affect the likelihood of being hired or promoted;
    • directly affect the likelihood of school admission;
    • directly affect school grades;
    • directly affect treatment within the justice system;
    • directly affect chances of getting loans;
    • end up affecting self-realization and individual development;
    • end up affecting the state of social policy (e.g., punitive laws and police practices that impact communities).

Thus, correcting these attitudes is of utmost importance. Seeing as it has been confirmed that the media creates rather than reflects negative understanding, it must be more aware of the direct consequences the stories it portrays has on real life people.

Photo: FINNDEN STUDIO via Pexels

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