The Plight of the African American Male in the United States: An Africentric Human Service Provider
Updated: Jun 24, 2020
This article describes the historical relationship between the African American male and American society. Theoretical perspectives on the etiology of the violence and criminal behavior of African American males are presented. The author contends that to clearly understand this phenomenon we must recognize that African Americans have since the time of slavery been the basis of American economy.
If you try hard, you will always break the back of misfortune.
Laura Murphy, director, American Civil Liberties Union, Washington National Office, stated before the Congressional Black Caucus Brain Trust on Juvenile Justice on May 14, 1996 that:
Today in the United States, we are experiencing the widest gap in income between its wealthiest 5% and its poorest 5% of any industrialized society…. [O]ne in three young black men between the ages of 20-29 is in prison or jail, on probation or parole on any given day. And if this is not shocking enough, one study found that African Americans are imprisoned at five times the rate of their counterparts in apartheid South Africa.
The overrepresentation of African American males in the criminal justice system and as victims of crime are well known. While African Americans constitute 13% of all monthly drug users, they represent 35% of arrests for drug possession, 55% of convictions, and 74% of prison sentences (Mauer & Huling, 1995). In the Federal Bureau of Prisons' institutions, approximately 98% of the prisoners are male with 38% being Black. Manning Marble confirms these statistics in his article "Racism, Prisons and the Future of Black America” (2003) and presents data to demonstrate the incarceration rate of Blacks is still increasing with an increase in the number of youth being charged, tried, and sentenced as adults.
During the 1980s, the school dropout rate for African American males living in the inner cities increased to between 40-50% (The Contemporary Crises of America's Youth and Families, 1997). According to Murphy (1996) 75% of all African American school dropouts in their early twenties are under the supervision of the criminal justice system. Murphy states:
The average dysfunctional, poorly educated and violent child between 12-15 years old who is convicted of a crime and sentenced to ten years in an adult prison...will have as his role model an older, more sophisticated convicted criminal to help him develop during his formative years. And then he will be released back into the community, in his early to mid-twenties, at his peak of physical power, unsocialized, undereducated, and unemployable. He will be a model of the very person we, as society, wish to avoid.
In addition to the actual financial costs of incarceration, the cost to the African American community is tremendous. The costs on the community level include creating a sense of fear that drives out the educated and financially stable families as well as small businesses, while fostering a negative perception of the community and African Americans in general. Crime and violence deprive families and communities of positive male role models, fiscal and emotional providers and protectors of the family and community. Ammons (1997, p. 201) quoting Miller, Cohen, and Rossman's research estimates the unit of cost of a homicide including the fiscal value of pain, suffering and quality of life approaches $2.4 million. Ammons further estimates that in 1991 African American males lost 41.73 years of life population and $99,611,763 per 100,000 population due to homicide.
Violence committed by African American males is an escalating problem in America. The use of guns and violence in many African American communities has increased in recent decades to the point that it is an integral part of community life (Wilson, 1991; Gibbs, 1984; Canada, 1995; Ward, 1995). Even sites, such as schools, which were once considered safe territory are experiencing an increase in the appearance of guns and violence (Noguera, 1995). Socioeconomic position is an important determinant of mortality risk for Black men (Smith, Wentworth, Neaton, Stamler & Stamler, 1996). According to Singh & Yu (1996) Black males, especially ones with poor education and low income, are at increased risk of both injury and injury-specific youth mortality.
Clayton (1992) posits that homicide is one of the most important issues facing criminal justice agencies and public health officials during this decade. He theorizes that the value system of an individual is the most significant predictor variable in the etiology of crime. A criminal value system, he believes, is developed as a result of a particular group's long term exposure to discrimination and an inequitable social and economic system.
The purpose of this article is to link the development of the plight of African American males to their history in the United States and demonstrate how the systemic structure of the United States continues to affect the status of African American males. The author explores significant historical factors, and describes Merton's theory of social anomie, which has historically been employed as a sociological explanation for deviance. The position of this author is that the existing social system structures the environmental conditions of African American males to increase the probability that a significant percentage of them will continue in their historical role as a commodity which contributes to the economy of the United States (Dyson, 1995). Yet, they receive the least amount of social and economic benefits (Robinson, 2000). This author asserts that human service professions and social work in particular, since social work is the profession which articulates as one of its functions the advocating for social justice (Social Work Code of Ethics, 1996), have an obligation to address the plight of the African American male.
Swenson (1998)contends that the revised Code of Ethics (1996) includes "substantially more attention than the previous one to social justice as a responsibility of all social workers including attention to diversity, oppression, and populations at risk” (p. 528). She further states that social work theories and practices should be congruent with the practice of social justice. She contends that social workers have been burdened with theories that are not particularly congruent with social work values. Swenson supports ethnic sensitive theories and practices because this can be the process by which a particular ethnic/racial group filters data through the lenses of their experiences. Thus, an ethnic-sensitive approach has the potential of not denying people the social dimension of their existence nor the imposition of Eurocentric cultural norms and values. The social justice analysis and offered solutions in this work proceed from an Africentric perspective. This is a perspective which:
is sustained by a commitment to centering the study of African phenomena, events, and persons in the particular cultural voice of the composite African people. But it does not promote such a view as universal. Furthermore, it opens the door for interpretations of reality based upon evidence and data secured by reference to that world voice (Asante, 1996, p. 69).
The author of this article contends an Africentric perspective is complimentary to an ecological approach as it addresses the person-in-and of the environment and provides the theoretical framework to conduct holistic assessments that have the potential to provide culturally competent intervention programs.
This article is not intended to be a complete and comprehensive analysis of the relationship of African American males to the social and economic structure of American society but to present an analytical paradigm, seldom addressed in scholarly social service literature. This article is an attempt to raise issues for further research, debate, analysis, treatment programs and advoсасу.
Social stratification is the ranking of people in a vertical hierarchy that differentiates them as superior or inferior. It is structured social inequality based on the norms and values of a society and perpetuated through the society's social institutions and socialization process. The differentiation upon which the hierarchy of social stratification is based is made according to the interrelated systems of race, class, and gender. These hierarchies of stratification place groups, individuals, and families in ranked order within the larger society. The consequences of this placement are that the rewards and resources of society (wealth, power, and privilege) are unequally distributed based upon the society's criterion for ranking. This unequal distribution of rewards and resources produces life experiences and opportunities that differ for various groups (Allen, 1970; Eitzen & Zinn, 1995).
Society, also, punishes differentially based upon social stratification. Hill (1993) contends that social stratification and racism are the key societal factors negatively affecting the African American family, and, in particular the Black male. Many African American males finds themselves on the lower rungs of the stratification ladder (this is not to argue that many African American women are not in a similar position) reaping the fewest benefits and receiving the most punishment.
American social stratification has its foundation in English social structure. Historically, the United States owes many of its norms and values to the English. When the English invaded "America” they brought their English culture with them. This included their worldview: axiology, epistemology, logic, ontology and cosmology. At the core of English values, norms, and customs is a vertical, linear, competitive worldview (Longres, 1995; Trattner, 1994). This worldview emphasizes fragmentation, conflict, and domination. In this worldview, the universe is seen as comprised of separate elements in continuous conflict. The world is understood in categories with elements in each category being rank ordered from superior to inferior. The central position of conflict in this worldview produces an emphasis on domination and control (Schiele, 1994).
Feudalism, Capitalism and the New World Order
The foundation of English social and economic structure is the pattern of social stratification known as feudalism. English feudalism was based on ownership of land and the availability of large pools of laborers to work the land (Trattner, 1994). The nobility owned the land and through exploitation and greed reaped the benefits of the labor of the serfs. In order to justify their oppression, the nobility promulgated a belief system which said they were intellectually superior to the serfs and it was their moral obligation and duty to rule them and it was in the best interest of the serf to be ruled. The English and other European invaders brought this oppressive doctrine with them to the “New World.”
The "New World" offered unique opportunities for ownership of land that were not available in England (Trattner, 1994). The major obstacle to ownership of the lands of North America was the presence of the indigenous people. The indigenous people had attained a high level of civilization before the Europeans came to the New World (Weatherford, 1988). However, their worldview differed vastly from that of the European, i.e., the concepts of collective land usage, cooperation, sharing with the less fortunate, and life as grounded in spiritual development were central to the indigenous people's worldview (DuBray, 1993). The two cultures collided and based upon an Eurocentric worldview, one culture would have to dominate and destroy the other. Thus, the Europeans enacted a policy of extermination toward the indigenous people.
In order to justify committing genocide, the Europeans rationalized and promulgated a view of indigenous people as being dangerous, illiterate, infidels and savages. They were portrayed as intellectually and morally incapable of making decisions in their own best interest, particularly concerning the welfare and use of the land and its natural resources and wildlife. This policy of extermination, fueled on moral and religious grounds, resulted in the theft of lands and the displacement of the surviving indigenous people (Trattner, 1994). Once the Europeans confiscated lands, the stage was set for the development of the American version of feudalism---slavery. The slave trade and "New World" slavery were the mechanisms for a more sophisticated and exploitative capitalism than had existed previously in the history of the world (Rodney, 1974).
Once the land of the indigenous people had been seized, laborers were needed to work the land. In the early days of colonial America, indentured servitude was common practice. This arrangement was most often established between Europeans and Europeans (Longres, 1995). However, because of eventual assimilation of European immigrants into mainstream American culture, this arrangement did not provide a consistent pool of low wage/free labor. Europeans also attempted to enslave the indigenous people, however; because they were in their homeland, they often escaped and blended in with non-enslaved indigenous people, offering armed resistance to the colonial Americans (Anderson, 1994). The failure of European Americans to secure a large pool of cheap labor by indentured servitude of Europeans and enslavement of indigenous people prompted them to look to Africa for their labor pool.
The social policy of slavery afforded European entrepreneurs a continuous supply of free labor from which they could maximize their production profits. Kidnapped Africans became both the producers of the market product and the market product. Africans were chosen because they were from a totally different culture, another land, and were of a different skin color and phenology than the European. Thus, escaping and assimilating into the white population or that of the surviving indigenous people was extremely difficult and in most cases impossible. In order to stabilize this large pool of free labor in America, the Europeans attempted to destroy: the African language, so the kidnapped African peoples could not communicate with one another and form bands of resistance; the African religions, so the people would lose their spiritual power and faith; and all the other aspects of African culture, so the people would forget who they were (Akbar, 1984). The result was a significant destruction of African family patterns and practices, religions, economies, and other aspects of the culture. The process of oppression was to have the kidnapped African internalize an Eurocentric worldview which placed the European in a superior position while the African was relegated to a position of inferiority. The White aristocracy constructed class divisions among kidnapped Africans to create dissention. The house-slave and the field-slave constituted the major separation among the kidnapped Africans. The house-slaves were taught by the "master” to see themselves as a privileged and superior group to the field slave. Differences were also developed based on skin color. The closer one's skin tone was to white, the more acceptable one was to the "master," thus the more privileges a person received (Harvey, 1995). Much of this preference based on skin color was the result of the lighter skin Black being the offspring of the "master.”
Not surprisingly, much of the ideological legitimization for the contemporary misery of African Americans in general, and black men in particular, "derives from the historical legacy of slavery, which continues to assert its brutal presence in the untold suffering of millions of everyday black folk” (Dyson, 1995, p. 111). Anderson (1994) and Robinson (2000) both contend that no other enslavement has engendered such intense emotional attachment, conflicts, hatreds and wealth for as many nations as did Black enslavement.
According to Anderson (1994), "black enslavement was the first instance in history that had worldwide collaborative, race-oriented support for slave trading. Prior to the 15th century, slavery was more a one to one phenomenon.... Never had there been a situation where all nations of Europe were collectively against blacks on the African continent” (p. 69). Slavery helped to assure the exclusion of Africans from any possible benefits of a capitalist economy. This economic exclusion was fueled by "the fear of competition and the desire both to protect the poor-white class ... and to prevent it from sinking any lower” (Fanon, 1967, p. 88). A permanent underclass (serf) population defined by race was thus established in the United States (Glasgow, 1982).
Welsing (1991) theorizes that racism is a social structure built on the concept of white supremacy and is promoted worldwide, in response to the worldwide numerical minority status of whites. Wilson (1991) describes:
The need by whites to maintain their highly positive self-perception compels them to deny, distort and rationalize their past criminal and immoral behavior towards Afrikans in America and their current complicity in maintaining the vast majority of Afrikan Americans in conditions of stifling subordination; to project stereotypical images onto Blacks as innately inferior in intellect, characters and morals, and on the young black male as innately crime-prone (p. 7).
Glasgow (1981) in his work on the Black underclass contends that racism is at the core of social problems encountered by Black males in America. He views the issue of racism as being a structural problem, which for many young Black males results in unemployment or underemployment. For so many of these young "Brothers” the streets are where they spend their time, in a state of frustration and growing alienation from the resources of American society or the "good life.” Racism also has been identified as a major underlying cause of criminality and violence in African-American communities (Wilson, 1991).
Material consciousness is the psychological state that results when one defines one's essence as purely material rather than spiritual. Material consciousness is the outcome of inordinate value being placed on material items. Beverly (1997) defines material consciousness as a false consciousness by which one defines oneself through the accumulation of material possessions because he/ she has lost their sense of significance and perceive of their existence as marginal. The roots of material consciousness are found in the competitive materialism of an Eurocentric capitalistic worldview. It is the antithesis of the synergistic, ecological, cooperativeness engendered in the collaborative, traditional, African worldview which historically placed value on morality, community, and relationship with the Creative Force (Dixon, 1976).
Material consciousness produces an attitude that devalues that which is sacred, that which cannot be created by man (e.g., water, land, air, animals, minerals, plants, and human life). Material consciousness, taken to its extreme, produces immoral, self-destructive societies, and individuals that have a wanton disregard for life.
Although the latter affects society in general, its impact is felt more acutely on those who have been systematically excluded from the flow of society's goods and services. Competition for resources fueled by material consciousness creates the fertile ground from which violence among African American males sprouts. The media inflames this mixture by marketing materialism (Wilson, 1991) and producing entertainment that glorifies drugs and violence (Hahn, 1998; Hoberman, 1990).
The seeds of "material consciousness” among African Americans were sown in slavery. According to Akbar (1984) slavery produced mixed attitudes toward material objects and property: on one hand there is a tendency to resent property and to take a secret delight in attacking it, and on the other hand there is an unnatural attraction to material objects. The author contends this is due to the historical absence of the right to ownership and the intentionally attempt to destroy the African personality which has its essence rooted in spirituality.
Non-Appreciation of African/African American Culture
The author contends that a significant factor in African American violence and crime is the lack of knowledge and appreciation of African/African American culture. Schiele (1998) labels the latter concept as cultural alienation. He purports that through the process of cultural oppression the dominant group's culture is forced on the oppressed group and the oppressed group's culture is rendered as marginal, illegitimate, or non-existent. It is through this process that the oppressed group's cultural and historical integrity is denied, with the intention explicitly and implicitly to nullify the humanity of people possessing cultural difference in this case people of African descent.
Africans in the United States have been punished for practicing their traditional culture, (even today there has been minuscule progress in the valuing of African/African American norms) which include behavioral patterns. Kidnapped Africans were taught to devalue anything and anybody Black. They were taught to honor and emulate whiteness (Hall, 1995). In fact, acts of liberation were viewed as psychological illnesses by slaveholders (Thomas & Thomas, 1971). Historically, acts of self-determination have been viewed by whites as destructive, disruptive, or divisive (Madhubuti, 1978).
If one holds a person who looks like them in high esteem they would protect and nurture them. Presently, another Black person is viewed by far too many Black people as worthless or as "just another nigger.” Thus, it becomes easy to physically aggress upon another Black person (Poussaint, 1972).
Merton's Theory of Anomie and Social Deviance
Merton was interested in understanding deviance from an objective envi-. ronmental situation and not as an intrapsychic phenomenon. Merton's (1951) thesis is that American society is held together by the common goal of monetary success and material well being. His conclusion is that this is a worthy goal that cuts across all cultures and classes. He contends that the problem lies in the reality that not everyone has the same opportunities to achieve the "American Dream." In fact, for some groups of people, the access is blocked or at least not readily available.
Merton describes five adaptations to this concept which he defines as social anomie: 1) Conformity--continual pursuit of success goals, using available legitimate opportunities; 2) Innovation-continual pursuit of success goals, using available illegitimate opportunities; 3) Ritualism-giving up on success goals but continuing to go through the motions of using legitimate means; 4) Retreatism-giving up on success goals and dropping out of legitimate opportunities; and 5) Rebellion-giving up on both success goals and legitimate opportunities and setting up alternative goals and opportunities (pp. 193-121).
It is the author's contention that African American males who find the road to economic and material success blocked or non existent to them resort to: innovation which for many of them is stealing, selling drugs or other criminal activities which produce revenue and status; retreatism which Merton describes as giving up and indulging in the abuse of drugs and alcohol and in some cases the hallucinatory and fantasy world of mental illness; and rebellion which for Merton was the substitution of the goal of economic success and the work ethic, resulting in the goal of excitement and violence by youth gangs. Probably, what we experience today is a combination of the various categories. As an example there are youth gangs who sell drugs, use drugs, and use violence to enforce the business of selling drugs (Blakemore & Blakemore, 1998).
The author contends that the historical factors described earlier and the concept of material consciousness establishes the environment to place African American males at risk for being the perpetrators and victims of violence and crime. Merton's theory of social anomie provides a scientific understanding and the basis to predict with some degree of accuracy the reaction of a group of people to these environmental factors.
The New World Order
Due to technology and the new global economy there are progressively fewer and fewer labor intensive jobs, and consequently less of a need for manual laborers (Glasgow, 1981; Madhubuti, 1991), creating staggering rates of unemployment and underemployment in segments of the African American community. More and more young African American men thwarted in their aspirations (Hill, 1997) for material success resort to illegal opportunities for making money. The most popular illegal business currently is the sale of street drugs. Taylor's (1990) research on gang activity in Detroit leads him to the conclusion that drug distribution is the vehicle for social mobility by providing quick and visible rewards of cash, expensive cars and trips to exotic locations for African American youths who have little access and opportunities to obtain these symbols of success.
Evidence exists which suggests that drug operations were established with the complicity of the United States government (Webb, 1996; Bowden, 1998). This may sound like an absurd conspiracy theory to many non-African Americans, but many African Americans know the United States government has a history of attacks on African Americans. Examples include the "Tuskegee Experiment” (Jones, 1981), the Black Panther Party (Marie, 1969), the Republic of New Africa (Obadele, 1984), the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (Harvey, 1994), citizens' rights (Munves, 1975) and the FBI's Cointelpro program. The FBI is known for its attacks on the Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Hampton & Fayer, 1990).
Even if intentional conspiracy does not exist, structural discrimination in the criminal justice system certainly does (Miller, 1996). Hill (1997) provides an example of structural discrimination in the criminal justice system stating:
The passage of congressional legislation in 1986 that instituted the 100-1 ratio that counts one gram of crack cocaine as equal to 100 grams of powder cocaine. Thus, individuals who are arrested for possessing fifty grams of crack cocaine will get a mandatory ten-year sentence, while those who possess fifty grams of powder cocaine will get a one-year sentence. Since blacks are more likely to use crack, and whites are more likely to use powder, blacks will get much longer sentences than whites-although both groups may have comparable amounts of cocaine. Moreover, because similar amounts of both powder and crack have the same destructive effects, one would think they should have equal federal penalties (p. 28).
At the same time that many African American males were losing jobs due to deindustrialization (Glasgow, 1982), many local and state jurisdictions began contracting the management of their correctional facilities to private corporations. One of the fastest growing industries of our time (Silverstein, 1997), the prison industry is fashioned after the feudalistic and slavery models. Prisoners are the new serfs and slaves. Just as in slavery, prisoners are both the producers and the products (Bloomer, 1997). They produce the crime and they become the product, the prisoner. Additionally, they become the source of cheap labor for industries that contract with prisons to manufacture products which the civilian labor once produced (Bloomer, 1997).
Many low-income white communities receive the benefits of having the prisons located in their communities because they provide outstanding opportunities for employment and small business development, in once economically stagnant geographical areas (Illic, 1997; Duke, 2000). Meanwhile, the prisoners are being excluded from any possibility of having a positive impact on American society. As they grow older, they are less involved in crime, but eligible only for low-paying, non-benefit jobs producing a new labor force of day laborers and low-level retail workers. This assumes they are fortunate enough to be released from prison-many prisoners are the victims of the "three strikes and you're out” policy; condemning them to spend their old age in prison, leaving them vulnerable to the wrath of the younger prisoners and creating a need for senior citizen services within the prison industry.
There is a question that must be raised at this point. How planned is the development of the environment for African American males to be susceptible to the commission of crime? The question arises as the United States moves into a highly technological service-oriented society in a global economy where labor can be more easily exploited in Third World countries. At the same time, multinational corporations have entered into the contractual management of social services (Hoff, Huff & Ord, 1996) and corrections (Bloomer, 1997). Does this new private industry answer the question of what to do with the unneeded of society (Miller, 1996)? Is the answer to make them products and a captive labor force which generates capital for the wealthy?
As slavery was a major industry contributing to the world economy from the 15th through 19th centuries (Anderson, 1994; Rodney, 1974; Morel, 1969), and the development of the U.S. financial infrastructure, the prison industry is beginning to have a major influence on the U.S. economy (Sowa, 1997). Practically, every industry in the United States benefits from this growth industry, from the sophisticated trial lawyers, to the textile industry that supplies the prison uniforms and bedding, to the construction industry which builds the facilities, to the banking industry and Wall Street which solicits the financing for the industry (Silverstein, 1997; Ilic, 1997). The effect of these policies on the African American community is tremendous.
As discussed earlier in this work the absence of a male figure negatively affects family structure, parenting, and income (Mendez, 2000). It also leaves a void in the protective fabric of the community, as it is usually middle-age males who protect the community from the exploits of the young bucks and alien non-constructive people of other communities. Another factor that affects the community is the various disenfranchisement laws for felons. These laws vary from state to state, from total disenfranchisement in all elections forever to disenfranchisement in either national, local, or state elections for a specific period of time with certain qualifications attached for franchise reinstatement (The Sentencing Project, 1998). Thus, African Americans who are many times the swing vote in national and state elections lose their political significance. Additionally, African American present less influence on the outcome of elections on a local level that might have grave impacts on their communities.
Implications For Practice
On a micro level, in dealing with African American males, a sensitivity to the "dual perspective” (Norton, 1993) is critical. Through ethnic-sensitive human service theories, analyses and practice the service provider must learn to view life through the eyes of the African American male and African American progressive scholars, so we can effectively interact with the African American male. Through insightful research we must continue to develop the profession's body of knowledge in order to develop effective intervention models in addressing the issues of African American males. Ward (1995) suggests that such programs must assist Blacks to recognize that aggression against others is aggression against self, as well as a violation against the care and connectedness assumed with Black racial identity and community.
On the mezzo level, there have been a plethora of programs designed to deal with the impact that African American male violence has on the larger society. Such as, "get tough” approaches in schools which were shown by Noguera (1995) to promote prison-like conditions without improving safety. He noted that coercive methods resulted in the disruption of learning, as well as an environment of mistrust and resistance.
Another drawback of many intervention programs is the current trend to medicalize social problems. According to Lipsky (1980), medicalization allows a worker to avoid personal responsibility for their clients by placing this responsibility solely on their clients' physical or psychological development. It forces the client into a passive role as they are expected to accept labels placed on them as well as society's definition of the problem and the required solution. By not considering the social context of this violence, dominant society is able to relinquish itself of the social responsibility for its development.
The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention is an exception to the latter, this federal agency has been at the forefront of initiating community-based, culturally competent drug, alcohol, and violence prevention programs initially directed at urban African American male youth. Yet, in recent years there have been drastic cutbacks in the federal appropriations for this agency.
On the macro level we are suggesting that national organizations---such as the National Association of Black Social Workers, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice in conjunction with the National Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-coordinate to provide effective job and self-development interventions. Many African American men have plumbing, plastering, painting, automotive repair, computer, and various other skills that can be developed into cooperative businesses. These businesses could also provide apprenticeship opportunities for younger males.
On the macro level, Miller (1996) states that the United States needs a new paradigm to deal with economic and social problems, rather than the criminalization of people. As human service providers, we have an ethical and professional responsibility to act to ensure a just society (Manning, 1997). We must look beyond theories of stratification that assume that inequality is an unavoidable phenomenon, and conflict theories which assume discord are a natural part of society (Eitzen and Zinn, 1995). Human service workers need to develop theories, which encompass social differentiation without the inequalities or conflict of social stratification. The author recommends the above mentioned organizations, in conjunction with other interested national and local associations and organizations, form a national coalition to formulate and implement a national strategy to cease the attack on Black males and reverse the growth of the prison industrial complex into a well-being community complex. One initial suggestion is to turn a number of existing prisons into technical training centers and family well-being institutions.
If human service providers are to develop effective prevention and treatment interventions, new paradigms of analysis, interventions, and advocacy must be constructed. As human service providers work towards a cooperative non-exploitative society, the author contends that an Africentric worldview can provide the basis for this new paradigm. Many Africentric-oriented scholars (Welsing, 1991; Wilson, 1991; Harvey & Rauch, 1997; Lemelle, 1995; Nobles & Goddard, 1993; Schiele, 1994) have moved in this direction. Some scholars and practitioners have developed theories and practice models which are not punishment dominated but are developmental models of self-determination and empowerment for the individual, family and community (Solomon, 1976; Harvey & Coleman, 1997; Yette, 1971). An Africentric model that is effective in providing services to at-risk adolescents (Harvey & Rauch, 1997; Harvey & Coleman, 1997). These services also involved the youths' families. Poitier et al. (1997) described an effective Africentric service delivery model for substance abusing women and their families. And King (1994) describes what he contends is an effective Africentric oriented program for African American males who are incarcerated.
Human service providers have the opportunity to develop culturally competent and effective programs to deal with the impact that violence and other crimes have on African American males, their families, and communities. Programs can be developed that focus on the development of the neighborhood, technical skills, employment opportunities (Steele, 1987); increase positive behaviors, attitudes, communication skills, and hopefulness regarding the future.
Human service providers' associations in conjunction with other national and local groups need to organize against the exploitation of the African American male. As this exploitation historically has lined the coffers of the plantation owners and the wealthy, the judicial continuum conspires to continue this breech against humanity.
Special thanks to Albert Brown who at the time of the development of this paper was a MSW student and assisted in its development.
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