The lack of black male role models within our community is increasingly becoming an issue as, many young black males lack the right guidance and inspiration to support them with achieving their dreams and goals. Too often, role models for young black males include rappers who glamorise guns and criminal activity. These rappers (often bias in their views about gangs, criminal activity and guns) present this lifestyle of criminality as the better way of gaining power and success within the community (BBC. 2007)
With lyrics often insinuating that carrying a knife or gun is the better way of gaining respect, power, status and money, can young black males succeed without being involved with criminality?
Yes. The reality often or not is that such activity brings about a prison sentence, death and detrimental impact on families who’s loved ones become victims of this mentality.
According to Reach (government advisory panel), the lack of positive role models is causing young black males to have low aspirations resulting in dropping out of school and participating in gang related trouble. There are increasing concerns that black males are more likely than white males to be excluded from school, be jailed for committing criminal offences and become victims of crime. “Black boys and young men desperately need a greater diversity of images and portrayals, showing that black men can be, and are, successful in a wide range of careers including business, teaching, the law and health care” (BBC.2007).
The lack of male role models within homes also constitute to this concerns among young black males. It is estimated by Human Rights Commission (2011) that 65% of African-Caribbean children are raised by one parent – nearly always without the father (The Guardian. 2013) “A father is someone who further guides the mind of a young child”, a father is seen as someone who protects and provide security for his family. The absence of a father in a home may result to a young person “looking for security outside the home by older gang leaders” as they are not in the protection of their father. Their role model then becomes the drug dealer, gang member or rapper promoting crime who has the fast car and is wearing expensive jewelry (hurt2healingmag.2016).
Our young black males need to be taught that, they do not need to be drug dealers or gang member to have fast cars and expensive jewelry. There needs to be a shift of focus from rappers and celebrities to doctors, lawyers, business men as such professions also bring about rightly a level of power and authority as well as income. Positive black role models such as Paul Boateng (High commissioner to South Africa, also one of the first black MP’s in 1987), Damon Buffini (City banker, Head of Permira private equity firm) David Lammy (Labour MP for Tottenham) and Michael Fuller (Chief Constable of Metropolitan Police) should be recognised as inspiration for young black males and should be dominating the media and our televisions.
What we allow our children to see and listen to as well as questioning their motives and ways of achieving their aspirations should be a deliberate practice within our homes.
Early intervention in regards to educating our children needs to start at home. Parents and families need to be robust and be realistic in advising their children about potential consequences of criminal activity and gang involvement. Our children need to be informed that practicing lyrics learned in a song and carrying around a knife will not make them a boss, but rather get them a criminal record which will have a detrimental influence their future.
Father figures such as uncles, male family friends should consider acting as role models for young black males in their communities. It is important to help out your own, but it is also vital to help the young black male walking down the street you do not know as criminality affects families personally as well as the society.
The lack of positive representation of black role models is a growing problem within our community. We as a community need to support charities that are addressing such issues and motivate our children to see the benefits of earning success rightfully. Role models have a tremendous impact on our young black male’s development. Children and young people are surrounded by many influential models within the society, peers, TV personalities, gang members, celebrities, family members etc.
Our young people “learn through observation and imitation”, It is therefore important to give them examples of positive behaviors to observe and imitate (Albert Bandura. 1977).
References and Further Reading