Black Men Among Most Disadvantaged, Least Helped in U.S.

Among disadvantaged people in the United States, the most needy and least helped are probably African-American men, according to a new book from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

Black men suffer in a variety of ways, including being stereotyped as reckless and having little regard for their children. They are also disadvantaged because changes in the economy have depleted the number of well-paying, manual labor jobs, said Waldo E. Johnson Jr., Associate Professor at SSA, who is the editor of Social Work With African American Males: Health, Mental Health and Social Policy, recently published by Oxford University Press.

“Contemporary characterizations and depictions suggest that African-American males harbor a lifelong disregard for their own personal development, and a lack of commitment to their loved ones and society in general,” a societal attitude that keeps them from being helped, he said.

Most African-American men do not fit the popular stereotype and fulfill their responsibilities to their families and society, but the stereotype persists, fueled in some ways by media images, Johnson said. But the problems they face are real, and social workers should feel challenged to put the tools and resources of their profession at work to help black men in need, he said.

The book is a collection of studies, which details the disadvantages that black men face and suggests ways they can be helped. The contributors are leading scholars in social work and other related fields from around the country. Among the findings reported in the book:

• Black male youths are likely to grow up in single-parent homes. The boys often don’t have fathers residing in the home to serve as role models. Without paternal involvement, boys are more likely to develop ideas about what it means to be a man based on negative media portrayals and depictions, which leads them to be emotionally uninvolved and apprehensive.

• Black males, even as boys, are more likely than other male peers to suffer from stress-induced depression and other physical and mental health problems that may result in homicidal and suicidal behaviors as they mature. Their health problems continue throughout their lives with higher incidences of depression, high blood pressure, heart problems and prostrate cancer. African-American men have a life expectancy similar to that of men in developing countries.

• Black boys are more likely to experience difficulty in school and are less likely to graduate than any other group.

• African-American males’ socioeconomic status contributes significantly to their likelihood of being arrested and spending time in prison.

• African-American males have longer periods of joblessness and lower salaries due to underemployment than men from other demographic groups.

Despite their problems, few programs are designed specifically to help black males, and social workers may not view them as part the families and communities that the workers serve, with the result that black males’ individual needs go unaddressed.

“It is critical to utilize both social work research and practice to articulate these and other challenges that adversely impact the physical, mental, and social health and well-being of African American males,” Johnson said.

In his book, Johnson proposes that effective programs need to replicated, such as well run after-school programs that promote educational achievement and provide sports and other outlets for boys. Social service providers need to open up programs for fathers as well.

There are also some public policy steps we can take, said Johnson, who calls them the “Plan for Success.” They include establishing an independent education and wellness plan for every African-American male born in this country, providing a school-to-work link that enhances opportunities for African-American men to work and finally, giving African-American men access to public housing.

“Many communities discourage single men from living in public housing, which signals negative value and worth as individuals and members of families who need places to live,” Johnson said. The plan can help men move forward and become fully participating members of society.

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30 thoughts on “Black Men Among Most Disadvantaged, Least Helped in U.S.”

  1. not me and my dad are like the most spoiled black people on the face of the planet myd ad didn’t even take responsibility for me and still got to raise me..

  2. There is always someone in a person’s life that helps them know the truth, so they can find God’s Will and Purpose for their life, without excuses. It begins with their personal decision to get out of where they find themselves after they did not listen to these good people, providing all the advice they needed, that they did not accept and did their will and purpose and made decisions with consequences they now have to live with.

  3. For sure underprivledge happens; always has. Those that rise above it to be successul made a personal decision to rise regardless of their circumstances. This truth has been repeated, repeatedly, throughout the world over time, regardless of anything other than a personal decision to rise above the circumstances one deals with during their life, to become successful and achieve their dreams.

  4. As the only African American Male ( atleast to identify himself as such ) to comment on this post, I am a young man of 24 and a recent college graduate. I find all of your comments to be intriguing, most of which state and disregard “reasons” for the clear statute that African-Americans struggle accomplishing higher education and other professional pursuits. I am not here to provide any anecdotes nor scapegoats for the fact, but the fact is, it’s not a matter of race, but a matter of privilege. I was very privileged as a child and went to only private schools from birth through college, and by no means was my family wealthy but it involves the forethought of a parent to push their child to be better than the parent was ( in my case no one else in my family has finished college). I believe that mentoring is going to be the key in weeding out the “urban” display these children see daily ( gangs, drugs, violence) – regardless of race; and replacing that with dreams of grandeur and the organizational stills to develop a plan to accomplish that plan by any means necessary. To me, it’s not as important to state “yes, African Americans are behind” but more important to disseminate the skills necessary for these individuals to have a goal and accomplish it.

    • Hello,

      I read your comments on the black males, and I must say I have to agree with you based on my personnel experiences. I am also a black male (46) years of age, and I can speak from current and past experiences. One thing I will say after reading your comments is that yes African Americans do struggle more to accomplish education, and opportunities, and the primary reason I believe surrounds what you stated about PRIVILEGE. This word changes the dynamics of the playing field for the vast majority of African Americans

      You stated you were privileged to go to private schools, and we all know just because you go to a private school does not guarantee a recipe for success, however what your exposed to generally as far as education and the one on one interaction with the teacher, and the overall environment is generally better. I believe I’m correct with me assessment? Please correct me if I’m wrong. And, if it is better we both know that a vast majority of our families cannot afford private education.

      The parents in the black/African American communities don’t seem to push their children or have the support systems in place to overcome obstacles, or have the strength to push them to higher achievements.

      Based on what I’ve seen we have to mentor and teach are young people and be their by providing mentoring and other educational resources to improve there overall well being. You had privileges, but a lot of black families don’t have (2) parents in the home, (I’m assuming you did) and that’s also because of decisions we’ve made.

      Let me share something with you pertaining to an initiative that I took on. As a 45 year old man I took my troubled nephew in my home (he has learning disabilities), Bipolar, and some other concerns. I took and chance and I worked with him and I worked hard providing meals for him as well as social programs to make him more rounded. Unfortunately, it did not workout!! For the simple fact he wasn’t use to being away from his family (we resided in Texas). He lied to me and everyone else, and said he was in a gang (which later we found out wasn’t true). I had to send him home {back to Michigan}. I could not put my life in jeopardy play rushing rue let with my life. I was willing to help him as much as I could. I would help another child or young man, if I could; because I feel that is our responsibility.

      I enjoyed reading your comments, and to be honest with your – your commentary took on a well rounded view point that was more complete than the others on this subject matter.

      If you desire feel free to network with me anytime. I send out emails to about 30 people bi-weekly on current events and other hot topics to get there opinions and feedback. I would love to hear from you and your opinion on these topics!

      Stay on Top~



    • Hello JT,

      Priviledge is based on race. This is the mistake most “priviledge” blacks make. You must not just look at yourself, but look at how the overall economic system is set up. If you really look at it, race is not the only factor but it is a high card that is played to control the allocation of resources in this country. I was very blessed as well, working on a phd and a product of a very close family. But I would NEVER ignore the empact of racism on the black male. This is NOT an excuse, but it is a factor. My advice to you is that since you were blessed. Help another brother instead of turning your head to the truth of racism.

      • Privilege is based on race. This is the mistake most “privilege” blacks make. You must not just look at yourself, but look at how the overall economic system is set up. If you really look at it, race is not the only factor but it is a high card that is played to control the allocation of resources in this country. I was very blessed as well, working on a phd and a product of a very close family. But I would NEVER ignore the impact of racism on the black male. This is NOT an excuse, but it is a factor. My advice to you is that since you were blessed. Help another brother instead of turning your head to the truth of racism.

    • Congratulations on being one of the (perceived) determined few who avoided succumbing to the statistics that are clearly & openly slanted against you and our other African brothers in america…

  5. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” If you want equality, stop creating race-focused institutions. If people need race specific institutions, then they are NOT equal. Same goes for gender.

    • Thank you for pointing out one of the manifestations of stereotypes, as mentioned in the article.

      You’ve helped us all achieve a greater understanding of their plight.

      • Our president is black, enough excuses. Black men are much more likely to be accepted into schools, get loans and scholarships, and to get government related jobs. They are also more likely to take financial assistance in various forms. At what point are they considered to have a fair advantage. Nothing is ever fair enough. Maybe we should just hand out salaries to black males because everything is so unfair. I have worked with plenty of black males who don’t rant about their plight.

        • Our president was raised by his wealthy white grandmother as a permanently-tanned white kid (who ran exclusively with other rich white kids under the semi-caucasian name “Barry”) in a place where the only racism was from whites, directed at the hawaiian natives. He went to school at the most expensive private school in Hawaii. Everywhere he’s gone, he only attended expensive, upper-class private schools, from Hawaii to Indonesia. His experiences are NOT those of the average american negro…they’re closer to The Fresh Prince’s Carlton Banks character. His books (which are fabrications to make the american public feel he has something in common with us besides citizenship and skin color) and the people who grew up with him tell 2 very different stories.

          • Not true. The grandparents were barely middle class. They were definitely not wealthy. Unremarkable midwesterners, they took over raising their grandson after his mother died. Your Carlton Banks comparison is the real fabrication. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • @GGKTHX
      In one short sentence you managed to prove the type of stereotypes that black males who just want to improve their situation like everyone else in the country have to put up with. If a person like GGKTHX is doing the hiring at a company, guess who is not getting hired.

  6. IMO, both inside and outside of school black males can count on very little help from the various forms of social assistance.

    A black boy goes from maleless, female-centric household directly to a male-hostile, female-centric school system without skipping a beat. The same teachers who view white males as defective girls see black males as criminals-in-training. There is a federal manual of girl-only programs that is 3 inches thick—and that doesn’t include state and local programs—nothing for boys. As Tom pointed out, this favoring of girls has a disparate impact on kids depending on socioeconomic status. There have been science camps programs that were free for girls; in which case, a poor family’s only choice is between not sending any of the children or just sending the daughters. (It is my opinion that single mothers would tend to choose the latter.)

    Social assistance goes primarily to single mothers. In fact, single motherhood as a preferred choice among many young black women. A disadvantaged single woman may not have that many more resources than a single man unless she decides to, say, fraudulently mine the feminist-inspired domestic violence programs. But once she becomes a single mother, a treasure trove of gov’t and private assistance opens up to her. Beyond cash, WIC, and food stamps, she becomes eligible for housing and an assortment of training and work-related programs, including private efforts like “Dress for Success.” On the other hand, baby’s daddy (if she can identify him) is on the margins of his child’s life, and the only help he qualifies for is help finding a menial, low-paying job so that he can pay child support. Should he go to an unemployment office, he will run into flyers offering training for stable, high-paying construction jobs…for females only—preferably single mothers—jobs black men would kill for. The outreach for positions in the healthcare industry will be primarily for women, this in a field already 94% female. In fact, with the exception of drug or offender programs, I cannot think of a single program that black men can count on. Oh yes, I forgot: the minimum wage slave jobs so that he can pay child support on a kid his babymama will not let him take part in raising.

    Affirmative action won’t help, even if he’s overqualified: if a company must hire an African American, then you can be assured they’ll hire a black woman. If he becomes homeless, even the shelter will be a deadend sinkhole compared to that of his female counterpart.

    It is black MEN not black women who must bear the burden of double discrimination.

    • “male-hostile, female-centric school system without skipping a beat. The same teachers who view white males as defective girls”You’re an idiot.

  7. Tom,

    I believe that you have wrongly conflated the plight of black boy and girls from boys and girls in general.

    Your argument seemed to rely on an unreferenced MIT study. I believe I recognized that study… and it cannot be used to discussed any supposed disparity between the genders within black families. You cite no references that pertain to such disparities.

    The MIT study only addressed the stereotype of boys being better at math than girls, that the odd fact that when girls are taught in sex segregated classes, given the same resources that boys routinely get, the stereotype threat does not impede girls from reaching the highest levels of math achievement, belying the stereotype that only boys are capable of reaching the highest level of math achievement.

    From the data given, we have no idea if there is any disparity in family resource allocation. What this study referenced in the original blog entry does infer, is that there is a disparity in social service resources between black men and black women. Only your unsupported hypothesis, stated as fact, that black girls may be privileged over black boys in family resource allocation. Frankly, I don’t believe it.

    • Candice,

      You are setting up strawmen; my argument does not rely on the MIT study as you say it does. The quote I gave to you came from that study and their analysis, your saying the study had other finding refutes nothing.

      Black men in education is very much a gender issue, along with race. In general boys are behind girls in school with regard to grades, attendance, and college admission rates. This gender disparity only gets larger within black communities.
      It would be ridiculous to argue that black boys problems and under performance in school has nothing to do with the rest of the boys under performance to girls. This article says that black men are under served. It is also true there is a lack of spending on boys in general in education. In fact their is more spending and support for girls even though they are the ones doing better! We need to make corrections in our government spending to reflect the realities, one of which includes boys poor performance in school.

  8. I forgot to add this from the MIT study, “Whereas the boys come from a variety of backgrounds, the top-scoring girls are almost exclusively drawn from a remarkably small set of super-elite schools”

    This implies that the boys out there with the talent are not getting the support they need and deserve, while the girls clearly are. It is not hard to imagine average boys being ignored over girls if even the most highly gifted ones are not getting the support/recognition gifted girls are getting.

  9. @Ray,

    Yes the black community is quite messed up (also your right about point 1). But you fail to realise that most the spending/affirmative action is geared towards girls. Its black girls who have been going to higher education in increasing numbers. The largest academic achievement gap between the genders occurs in the lower class groups. The reason is that feminists and the like have set up all kinds of programs that help girls (not boys in school). And when some poor black family doesn’t have the means to send off both of their kids to a summer science camp who do you think they choose, the sister. The gender gap gets smaller as you look at families with greater means because they themselves can make up the difference it costs sons and daughter.

    Here’s this from an MIT study “The highest achieving girls in the U.S. are concentrated in a very small set of elite schools, suggesting that almost all girls with the ability to reach high math achievement levels are not doing so.”

  10. Are you kidding me? Is this real or some sort of hoax? It is 2010 the day of the black man crying “foul” is over. Incase no one has noticed, a black man has achieved the absolute highest position of authority that this country allows. In response to a few points: 1) One cannot claim that African Americans are wrongly portrayed as “dead beat” dads and in the same breath claim that a cause of their plite is due to the fact that there is no father figure in the home. 2) It’s the media’s fault…really? In today’s age there are very few media outlets that even carry any validity anymore, so to say that the African American male is oppressed b/c of the media’s influence is a weak case. 3) Due to “socioeconomic status” Afican American males spend more time in jail? Oh my God! This is absurd! Does your socioeconomic status hinder one’s ability to tell right from wrong? Good from evil? Rightousness from sin? I think not. 4) For what cause is the author claiming that African American males struggle in school? Is this a “stereotype”? 5) No jobs for longer periods of time due to other demographics getting the jobs? Anyone hear of Affirmative Action? These are just a few points with which I have issue. The author needs to re-evaluate his hypothesis and begin again. If the author simply needs to publish something, there are many current and relavent social issues that need addressing rather than rehashing a dead issue. Thank you

      • @What
        Your contributions consist of calling others idiots. I get that. If someone believes that the current system is focused on helping girls over boys, then you think they are an idiot.
        Perhaps it is not true that more assistance programs exist for girls/women than men. Or, perhaps women need more help than men.
        Maybe it’s your contention that women are somehow inferior to men and therefor need greater assistance. Of course, with nothing more than an ad hominem argument, we will never actually know what your point is. I hope you elucidate further. Perhaps you could couch your argument in a less succinct vernacular for the less enlightened.
        Myself, I can see where Ray and Igor are coming from. What’s more, I fear that a backlash is on the horizon.

        • “What’s more, I fear that a backlash is on the horizon.”

          A well-deserved, long overdue backlash…yes.

          And frankly there has been enough time and exposure of these issues that one can’t really claim ‘ignorance’ either.

          And NO sympathy from me.

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