African Americans’ Social & Racial Identity Under Attack

The social identity of individuals is linked to their racial and cultural identities which give them a sense of purpose in life. It is common knowledge that Italians, Greeks, Russians, Germans, French, Swedes, Finns, Norwegians, Spaniards, to name a few, have identifiable cultures that are linked to their social and racial identity and that this identity is embraced, welcomed, and accepted throughout the Western world. These cultural groups are known for their goods and services, foods, modes of production, religions, and regions. However, a radically different story emerges about people of color, specifically African Americans. When reflection is given to individuals of African extraction, what thought comes to mind? Naturally, racialized societies throughout the world associate negative images to persons, groups, or things they do not understand or to those things they perceive as different (See Images of the outsider in American law and culture: Can Free Expression Remedy Systemic Social Ills, Chapter 21, pp. 225-235.) These negative images usually come from a white racial frame that is sustained and maintained by systemic racism.

African Americans have been the subject of racialized and discursive discourse that has socially constructed them as criminals and amoral human beings, which challenges their humanity and their right to a legitimate social and racial identity. Such racialized discourse has its roots in slavery, was reproduced during the Jim Crow era, and is maintained today through systemic racism to keep them from having a healthy identity, one that the world can appreciate and respect. When CNN’s Black in America aired during the month of July 2008, Fox News invited both black and white contributors to share their perceptions of the CNN documentary. These contributing sycophants used offensive and racially-charged statements to demean African Americans. To this end, African American guest speakers were expected to express bigoted and inflammatory statements against their own racial group with reference to crime and out-of-wedlock births, suggesting that African Americans lack moral character and can only be identified as criminals and an amoral people. Earl Ofari Hutchinson writes that

The image of the malevolent black male is based on durable and time-resistant bedrock of myths, half-truths, and lies. The image was created during the European conquest of Africa, nurtured during slavery, artfully refined during the nadir of segregation, and revived during the Ronald Reagan-George Bush years. . . . To maintain power and control, the plantation masters said that black men were savage and hyper-sexual. To strengthen racial control, late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century scientists and academics concocted pseudo-theories that said black men were criminal and mentally defective. To justify lynching and political domination, the politicians and business leaders of the era said that black men were rapists and brutes. To roll back civil rights and slash social programs, Reagan-Bush Limbaugh type conservatives say black men are derelict and lazy.

When racist media, such as Fox News, use black intellectual mercenaries to pander to white audiences to denounce a cultural practice or particular behavior in African Americans in general, they are, in essence, identifying African Americans as subjects worthy to be oppressed, absolving a racialized society of all blame for their oppressed condition and the reason such behavior has become a normalized practice.

With this said, many African American men and women do not have the luxury of marrying and raising a family together under normal circumstances because of many black males’ difficulty acquiring gainful employment with medical benefits. Without gainful employment, African American men are essentially unmarriageable. With so many African American men lost to the prison system and with little economic advantage, many are reluctant to marry because they cannot support a family.

Finally, Kenneth Estell, as well as many other black scholars, documents African Americans’ contributions to America. Estell documents both black achievements and chronicles their accomplishments, such as Blacks’ creation of national organizations, involvement in politics, entrepreneurship, gains in education, religion, literature, the media, performing arts, music, sports, military, science, medicine, military, and many other achievements.


  1. Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

    Mary! I was just about to add another comment to your most recent post. But I’ll do that here.

    To this post, first off, is there another culture defined by its male adolescents? Would anyone suggest that Kid Rock or Charlie Sheen or Jersey Shore is the epitome of white culture? No. That’s nonsense reserved to rationalize continued racial oppression of black folks.

    Secondly, to the point of marriage in the black community – a while back, RR posted an essay discussing marriage rates and how the decline in marriage rates among white women was explain vs that of black women. Of course, the (Washington Post?) article being discussed blamed the decline among white women to white men’s changing economic status. Meanwhile, no such exculpation was offered to black women. Subsequently, I found another article that explained that the tiniest change in eligible men to eligible women ratio could have a profound effect on marriage rates. Thus, what’s really hurting black men is their unemployment rate in addition to their incarceration rate. To wit, if Republicans/Fox really cared about family values, they’d support ending the drug war and the disparity in cocaine sentencing. But alas, they don’t.

    Though, what I find as frustrating as anything else is how white Americans can discuss issues like black incarceration, and not even realize their culpability in the matter. When a white convict has the same or better chance at getting a job as a black guy with no record, clearly the issue is not black culture.

    And let’s not even get into the myth of the deadbeat black father!

    Now, to the previous post concerning colorism – on an episode of THE STEVE HARVEY PROJECT, a couple they sent out on a date came back to do the post-date interview. Steve asked the guy if he found the woman attractive. The guy said he, after all, being a fitness model, the lady had a nice body, plus, “She’s light-skinned.” He added that being dark-skinned himself, he preferred light-skinned women. I better note before I forget that the girl wasn’t all that “light.” Lighter than him, yeah. But she was darker than Steve, even assuming for bad lighting. I always thought “light-skin” was a description reserved for blacks with yellow or pale-brown complexion, with pale-brown being limit on the darker end of the scale. The woman looked more reddish-brown to me, not “light-skinned.”

    But anyway, the guy had to add the addendum about his own dark complexion because both Steve and his date looked at him funny. (I think even Shirley, Carla, and Nephew Tommy made some audible mumblings in the background. I can’t remember. They were off-screen.) That two, or at least one, light-skinned people rebuked his light-skin preference – that’s a good sign, right? Or at the very least, it’s interesting! I heard the comment, saw the reaction, and immediately thought of you. They had a good date, but I’m 90% positive old dude’s light-skin preference will keep him from getting another.

  2. phelonn

    Hello, Blaque Swan. Your point about major newspapers providing a more substantial explanation for the reason there is a decline in marriage for white women to white men, due to economic reasons, but no explanation for black women to black men, I suspect they would not comment on this issue because marriage between black men and women is almost non-existent for whatever reason from a dominant racial frame. Don’t forget the negative moral baggage that holds sway over this mindset! For white society, the news outlets cater to white Americans, marriage between black men and women is not viewed on the same level with whites. Remember, black people are not considered a “moral people and upstanding citizens” that come from “good family or good stock.” Whites do not hold African Americans to the same standards they have set for themselves, especially when these standards represent “a strong moral value system.” Whites are aware that systemic racism exists, but they may not be willing to admit that it affects every area of black people’s lives. I am not excusing black men for the crimes they commit, but systemic racism helps to keep them from bouncing back into society. When black men are incarcerated, they have little to no economic opportunity waiting for them upon their release from prison. Since systemic racism prevents the masses of African American men from achieving economic success, they cannot afford to marry. Today, black men and women engage in non-connubial relationships where majority of black children are born outside the sanctity of marriage. I read an article about 5 years ago by a black newspaper columnist who wrote that black women have learned to live without husbands, but they are not willing to live without children. So this tells me that many black women want to be married and have families, but black men are not in the moral, social, or economic position to be the husbands or fathers they should be, which seems to be an intergenerational problem. Systemic racism is harder on black men than it is on black women. I am not saying that systemic racism treats black men and women differently, but it strikes at the very core of black men’s manhood by interfering with their ability to take their rightful place in the family as well as in society like white men. Therefore, black women have learned how to survive by keeping the black family together even if it is dysfunctional. Finally, speaking to the issue of colorism, colorism is as pervasive in the black community as white racism is in U.S. society. Typically, darker complexioned black men tend more often to pursue lighter complexioned black women or white women. Slavery, Jim Crow, and modern day systemic racism have done much harm to black men’s psyche and sense of self, rendering them almost useless to black women with the exception of their ability to procreate.

    • Blaque Swan

      I can’t remember whether or not I’ve read this comment, or even why, if I read it, I didn’t reply. APGifts new comment brought this back to my attention, so if it’s not too late, phelonn, thanks for the reply. I wholeheartedly agree.

  3. MarlanaFranklin

    I think that racism is a good contemporary issue to try to better understand and to hopefully make aware, that it is still prevalent in today’s society. Especially within today’s youth. If we try to understand and become better informed about racism and its negative effects, I think we would have more tools to help stop it and spread awareness about it too.
    Also, if we choose to ignore the fact that racism is still very prevalent in society today, then we are ignorant and in turn do not learn how to fix a issue that hurts everyone.

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