Black Men In American Society

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For most people when they see a black man the first thing that pops into their mind is a negative stereotype. People are most likely to associate black men with things like violence, poverty, and being uneducated. Stereotyping is a way of placing general characteristics on a group of people. Racial stereotypes have been prevalent in the united states since the early nineteen hundred’s. Being a black man in America is already hard on his own after the backlash from slavery but also being a black man and being labeled with all kinds of negative stereotypes has made it harder for black men to fit in with American society. Society has created a stigma against black men that has caused them to live in fear of being true to themselves and pressured them to work twice as hard to feel accepted. Black men are not treated equally because they have to work harder to achieve the American dream, are victims of social profiling, and are labeled as violent. The American dream has been portrayed as something that can be accomplished by anyone to gain success in America regardless of race, skin tone, and cultural background as long as they have the ambition to acquire that success. What is not made public to the people is the reality of the inequalities that occur to those with different gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or social class. Black men in specific have been a big target to inequality throughout American history making it harder for them to achieve personal success and live out the American dream.

The reason they have a harder time accomplishing their goals is that they lack opportunities.

Due to the bad image black men have been given by society those who hold power are least likely to give a black man the same opportunities they would offer a Caucasian man. In “Just walk on by A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space” Brent Staples states that when he used to work as a journalist in Chicago he rushed to the office of a magazine he was writing an article for with a deadline story in hand and was mistaken for a burglar. The office manager called security and harassed him all the way to his editor’s door. Staples quotes “I had no way of proving who I was. I could only move briskly toward the company of someone who knew me” (235). This is an example of what many black men have to go through in America and how the behavior of those who hold prejudice against them can affect their opportunities. Not only is Brent staples a journalist but he was there to deliver an article he wrote for the magazine. The behavior this office manager showed is proof of how the way others view black men can not only affect their opportunities but minimize their worth making it harder for them to achieve success. The sense of feeling powerless limits the ability of black men to seek out positions of power or speaking out on topics they feel strongly about without feeling fear of being punished. This issue can be labeled as part of the consequences racial profiling has had in society. Racial profiling has created mistrust in law enforcement, hostile environments for black men, and social tension in communities. Black men have to experience being put in uncomfortable and unfair situations due to the color of their skin regularly a good example of this is on “Just walk on by A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space” by Brent Staples. He mentions a negative experience he went through due to racial profiling in which he was walking at night and a woman thought he was following her most likely thinking of him as a criminal. Mr. Staples quotes “It was in the echo of that terrified woman’s footfalls that I first began to know the unwieldy inheritance I’d come in to - the ability to alter public space in ugly ways” (234). All black men have to do is simply exist to be associated with the negative stereotype that society has created for them. Not allowed to prove themselves otherwise they live in a world in which they will automatically be perceived as criminals. Racially profiling black men from an early age causes groups of people to turn against each other and lose trust. Our communities are an important part of succeeding in life. Tension in communities builds up faster with every unjust act against black men. The feeling of injustice that develops between people in communities creates an issue. Black men being targeted often end up accepting the negative stereotypes by seeing themselves as inferior. Furthermore, the media often portrays black men as perpetrators of violence. The portrayal only focuses on violence in between individuals to divert the fact that while some black men commit acts of violence far more are victims of violence itself. In “Just walk on by A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space” Brent Staples shares a story in which he went to Illinois to write an article about a murderer who was born there. He was mistaken as the murderer by the police when he got there and was hauled at gunpoint from his car. Brent quotes “such episodes are not uncommon. Black men trade tells like this all the time” (236). Around the country, black men are stereotyped to be violent, disrespectful, lazy, and more. In “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria” she talks about the stereotypes she had to face due to her cultural background and quotes “Mixed cultural signals have perpetuated certain stereotypes – for example, that of Hispanic woman as “hot tamale” or sexual firebrand” (227). This is similar to how black men are seen as a threat in society whether it is in the business world, law enforcement world, or the general public. This stereotype has made it hard for black men to thrive in society. Black men are often seen as a threat therefore doing something as simple as shopping at a grocery store can cause them to get followed by security to ensure they aren’t stealing or receive wary looks from others just because they are black. It is said that these stereotypes affect black men in their everyday lives. In “Muslim American Women in Campus Culture” by Shabana Mir, she mentions a student by the name of Latifa and quotes “Latifa swiftly recognized that her home identities and cultural capital were identity possibilities blocked off in campus and repackaged as “baggage”. This is a society that no matter how much a black man tries to cover by trying to fit into what America considers to be a functioning member of society he will never fully be accepted by others because of his ethnic background. He will always be looked at as uneducated, poor, violent, and a criminal. Just how to Latifa her culture and religion were “baggage” when trying to fit in with American society to a black man the color of his skin is “baggage” as well. In “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson towards the end of the story Ms.Jackson’s character Mrs.Hutchinson screams “It is not fair, It is not right” (310). As the villagers approach her with rocks and then are upon her. Mrs.Hutchinson is a good representation of what being a black man in America is like having the rocks represent all the obstacles that are thrown at black men to keep them from being successful in society. The way she shouts “It is not fair, It is not right.” but the village ignores her cries due to being blinded by what has been labeled as a tradition making it normal and acceptable to behave this way towards others. As stated in “The Declaration of Independence” by Thomas Jefferson “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal…” (545). This is an important quote that has been said to represent what it is to be American and what the country was founded by. Regardless of this being a representation of America unfortunately it does not apply to everyone especially not black men in America. To conclude, the stereotypes that circulate in American society make it hard for black men to achieve the American dream, victims of social profiling, and labels them as violent. It is unfair that black men have to be seen in a negative light as statistics or stereotypes by the majority due to their ethnicity and skin tone. Though it is unfortunate and unfair black men continue to look forward and work hard to shift these negatives into positives and overcome the stereotypes. 

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