Destined to Fail and Surplus to Requirements? “The Problem with Black Men”

By Lee Pinkerton

image2The spur to write this book was a very personal one. I started it when I was 40 years old, unemployed, in debt and wondering where it had all gone wrong. From outside appearances I may have looked reasonably successful, but in my own eyes I was far from the levels of achievement that my early childhood promise had suggested. But I was not just wallowing in self pity. Ironically, although I hadn’t been in stable employment (meaning a contracted job as opposed to self employment or freelancing) for over six years I was still the most successful man in my extended family. By the virtue of the fact that I had been to university, was married, owned my own house and my own car, I was by far the most accomplished. For my nine male cousins, (six resident in Britain three in America) unemployment and familial instability was the norm. Those dreams of high flying careers in law and medicine that had been the aspirations of our grandparents and had been embraced by our fellow Asian immigrants had been long since abandoned by us. It seemed that for a Black man in Britain, just avoiding an early death, a life of crime or residency on a psychiatric ward were the only achievements we could take pride in. The lack of any real success amongst the men in my family and the other Black men I saw around me let me know that my own lack of achievement was not down to my own shortcomings alone, but something more pervasive. My nine male cousins and I weren’t some strange aberration, we were following a trend.

Jamaican Migrant's arriving in the UK

Jamaican Migrant’s arriving in the UK

Mine was the traditional upbringing of British-born children of Caribbean immigrants. My grandfather came to Britain in the 1950’s full of hope to make a better life for his wife and nine children. His seven daughters did relatively well all finding employment in the National Health Service, which was one of the biggest employers of Caribbean immigrants at the time. His two sons fared less well though. Not being academic enough to become doctors and not wanting to take the menial job of hospital porter, the NHS offered them no openings (male nurses were yet to be invented back in the 60’s and 70’s). So throughout the years that should have been their productive working lives they drifted between petty crime, self employment and unemployment, the youngest son spending his latter years in self imposed exile, so bitter and isolated from the rest of his family that he refused even to attend his own father’s funeral. My grandfather must have wondered in his last days, as I do today, why his daughters had flourished whilst his sons had floundered. The sad fact was that as the Black men of his sons’ generation came of age and entered the job market they had become surplus to requirements. Whilst the country was crying out for foreign labour in the 1950’s to help rebuild the country and bolster the male workforce that had been decimated in the Second World War, by the 70’s and 80’s all the job vacancies had been filled. There was now a surplus of labour and the strong backs, and eager hands of the sons of Caribbean immigrants were no longer required. But somehow the Caribbean daughters still managed to make their way.

 My contemplations were made all the more acute by the fact that I too had fathered two sons (but without the accompanying seven daughters). How was I to advise them how best to succeed in life when I clearly had not yet worked it out myself? Evidently education was not the simple answer that the first generation had thought, as my own relative academic success but lack of career advancement had proved. And either consciously or subconsciously the current generation seemed to have realised that too, as more and more seemed unwilling or unable to complete even basic schooling. And with each passing year the situation seems to grow worse.

Some young black men are part of gangs as depicted in tv show top boy

Some young black men are part of gangs as depicted in tv show Top Boy

Where my grandparents’ and parents’ generation had to be wary of attacks from racists, teddy boys, and the skinheads that followed them a generation later, my own sons have to be wary of youths who look just like them. This current generation of Black youth has become so alienated, so venal, and so distant from any way of achieving real success in the mainstream, that they have created their own warped value system in which they distinguish themselves in the street and gain respect through robbing, or murdering or gang raping other teenagers who look just like them. The children and grandchildren of African and Caribbean immigrants who would have regarded themselves as brothers and sisters in arms, colleagues at work, brethren and sistren in the church, united in the face of a hostile unwelcoming country, are now deadly enemies because they happen to live in a different post code or are members of a different gang.

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.  The topic of my research project when I was studying my Masters degree in Psychology was investigating the over-representation of mental illness in general and schizophrenia in particular amongst the Black community in Britain. From my research I found that there was no single reason for the disproportion. Contrary to my expectations, it wasn’t due to the alienation of living in a foreign land, or to the toll of daily racism that one faced as the child of an immigrant, or even to the racist preconceptions of the medical staff. There are a myriad of contributory factors why one would have a mental breakdown and they are all interconnected. My investigation into mental illness now makes up chapter five of this book. The other reasons that I feel are the contributory factors of our sorry state in this country make up the other four chapters.

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.

This book is an attempt to find the root of the problem and offer a way out of the wilderness, so that our boys will fare better than their fathers and grandfathers did. Read The Problem With Black Men

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Lee Pinkerton was born in London, the child of Jamaican and Guyanese immigrants. After studying Sociology and Psychology at University he spent the 90s as a music journalist, first as a freelancer for magazines such as Mix Mag, Echoes, and Hip-Hop Connection and then as the Arts Editor for ‘Britain’s Best Black newspaper’- The Voice. In addition to this he also wrote a book the Many Faces of Michael Jackson published in 1997. His latest book The Problem With Black Men examines the causes of the social problems facing Black men in Britain and America today.
He can currently be heard as a regular on-air contributor to the ‘ACE show’ on BBC Radio Derby and his political polemics and cultural criticism can be read on the blog-site The Black Watch and his daily musings on Twitter @_Runawayslave.

 

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6 replies

  1. It seems that this book just scratches the surface of what is going wrong in the lives of black men and why the black community has been so slow in finding solutions. Out of all the groups defined as black in the UK be it Africans or Caribbeans. You will see more structure, more stability and more success in those that have strong families, a strong identity and pride.We do not want to be honest about why so many black men have lost their way but to me it seems that too many of our men have been broken and brainwashed. They lack pride, confidence and focus. It is more apparent in men of Caribbean origin and I think most of this is down to them not having a strong, cultural identity or trying to build stable family lives. Too many of Caribbean origin have sought integration and assimilation and it has not benefitted their community. In many ways we need to start from scratch and that starts with building strong families and holding onto our culture.

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  2. There is no problem with Blackmen, after all all men are created equal, the problem is the same for any race that is socialised in the same environments. The problem with black men in White dominated countries is self evidently not about colour or genetics but merely about opportunity and environment.

    There are just as many poor white trash living out identical paths as black men which proves it’s an economical issue not a race issue.

    It all begins with mentality and time is running out for this excuse when you see successful Black men all over the place from President to sport and back again to business.

    Take away a person’s right to excuse his behavior and you arm him with the attitude for success.

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  3. Great article Lee.

    You hit the nail right on the head with this summation;

    __

    “Evidently education was not the simple answer that the first generation had thought, as my own relative academic success but lack of career advancement had proved. And either consciously or subconsciously the current generation seemed to have realised that too, as more and more seemed unwilling or unable to complete even basic schooling. And with each passing year the situation seems to grow worse”
    __

    Sounds like the book delves into the heart of the problem. I really should have bought a copy by now!

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    • the problem goes very deep indeed. Not that long ago I heard this term which I am using more than I did ‘racist’ to describe discrimination against people of colour. The term is ‘blackophobic’, and is better, because ‘racism can be used for any group seen distinct from the western white group or ‘race’, though I hate the term race. Blackophobia is a deeper fear that has been ingrained into the whiteman’s psyche for many hundreds of years and involves also the general patriarchal fear of darkness. They have even tried to makeout it is a science!! This documentary is extremely revealing and a MUST-see: Scientific Racism The Eugenics of Social Darwinism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FmEjDaWqA4 In this film you will see, like you say, it is not only people of colour targeted by this elite attitude which includes blackophobia, but also ‘poor’ people–all thought to be genetically inferior to the ‘upper classes’. THAT is the evil.
      I wonder if you saw the recent documentary about the story of The Black Panthers in America. In the film it was said that the thing that freaked Edgar Hoover out the most was when the Panthers started getting together with a poor whites organization and that is when they went in with COINTELPRO! And they used it to divide and control the Panthers organization itself which seems to have worked.
      About the reality of black youth killing each other, we can look to how the Hip Hop/Rap industry has been used by the rich white Zionist boys who mostly run it who have incited a culture of violence, misogyny, materialism, homophobia, and gangsterism via the musical style emphasis on that sht–more conscious rap being sidelined.
      And about the ‘mental illness’. It is a myth targeted against black people, poor white people and any dissent against the oppressive system. Once they can blame the victims of it then their evil system can remain ‘invisible’. In the mental illness myth they often wil pseudo-scientifically claim that eg ‘schizophrenia’ is genetic and then push their drugs, usually meant for life, at the victim of their myth, but there is absolutely no medical science to support their claims.
      This article really reveals their invasive pattern of oppression–what has happened to the native peoples of America who had their lands, and lives robbed by the whites: How the US Mental Health System Makes Natives Sick and Suicidal http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/06/18/how-us-mental-health-system-makes-natives-sick-and-suicidal-160777
      it is all the fkin same pattern, an elite white group who via cunning mind control creates and maintains divide and control so as to maintain and keep and expand its power over those it believes are inferior and also wants to make them feel inferior about themselves. You have seen the sad study done where black kids are shown black and white dolls and many will say they want the white baby/doll because the black one is ugly and bad?

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