Are Black men still brothers?

I do believe that we as human beings are connected on many levels. There are a number of aspects to my identity to which I could have focused. I could have talked about my human family, my Christian family, my Black family, my anti-violent family, or fatherhood. Today’s focus is Black men and the brotherhood, or lack thereof, among us.

I was in the grocery store the other day doing some shopping. As I turned down the aisle I saw an older Black man coming towards me. Living in a predominantly white community I am always aware of people of color. I am particularly on alert for other Black men. We live in a world where Black men are arrested, jailed, and killed at alarming rates. This is fact not fiction. Let me interject a few points here:

  • Many Black people (especially men) are targeted. Black people are pulled over, arrested, and jailed at higher than any other racial or ethnic group.
  • Some Black men make themselves easy targets. The prison culture, self-destructive music, and lack of social responsibility has a strangle hold on Black men. Our young Black men are leading destructive and self-aggrandizing lives.
  • Often we as Black men target one another. The majority of violent crimes committed in the United States are intra-racial.

By in large the majority of Black men do not fall into any of the negative categories that I have listed. However, in comparison to others we are still behind. We have a lot of work to do.

As I was saying earlier, I am always aware of other people of color, especially Black men. This is particularly true when I am in predominantly white communities. Most people are either aware or are on high alert for “others”, they just won’t admit it. Being aware of others is not a bad thing. Your response to this otherness is what often gets us into trouble. As I was approaching this older Black gentleman in the store I was not sure of what to expect. Here is what I mean:

Would he walk past me in silence? Would he pretend that I was not there? Would he pretend that there is no collective history that binds us? Would he pretend that he is not free and that he is not able to acknowledge my presence?


Would he give me the subtle nod? Would he acknowledge my presence? Would he air on the side of caution? Would he at least admit that we have something in common? Would he acknowledge that we are united in the struggle?


Would he acknowledge my presence with a verbal “hello” or “what’s up”? Would he take down his guard for one minute to connect with a fellow human being, a fellow black man, a brother?


Would he acknowledge my presence with a handshake? Would he give me some dap? Would he give me a business handshake? Would he give me “the” handshake? Would he be willing to openly recognize our brotherhood?

MJ and JayZ Handshake

All of this thinking happens within one millisecond. Honestly, it’s rarely a thought process anymore. I find myself acknowledging everyone in which I can make contact with.

Are Black men still brothers? Who is qualified to answer this question? This is a question that can only be answered by the individual Black man. Webster defines a brother as a male offspring having both parents in common with another offspring. Who are the “parents” of Black men? This requires the Black man to know who he truly is. What connects one Black man to another? For decades we have been brothers in the struggle, united in overcoming the ills that plagued the Black community. One Black man rises up and he reaches back to help his brother. Somewhere along the line we lost our way. No one is interested in being of service; instead we all want to be served. We want everything to be given to us without the work. This is the quickest way to absolute failure.

We must get ourselves out of this state of disillusionment. Black men are walking around without any clue of who they are or the power they hold. Maybe this is a symptom everyone in society is suffering from. Our Black men are slaves to money, music, sex, shiny objects, celebrity, material possessions, violence, and hyper masculinity. We have decided to conform to society. We are always on the prowl for the newest identity to replicate.


We blame our circumstances for everything that is wrong with us. We live in a society in which making eye contact is seen as confrontational. Black men will walk by one another every day on a quest to be like someone else, instead of embracing the treasures in our hearts and minds.

Are Black men still brothers? It’s possible that it is a brotherhood with a strained relationship. There is no common goal. There are no objectives. Everyone knows what the problems are. Black leaders talk about them every day and profit from them. The young leaders are watching the elders bicker, name call, and ridicule each other in public. Many young Black men are waiting on Black leadership to show them the way. People are waiting around to be told what to do. Instead of waiting for someone to give you something that may never come, blaze your own trail.

There are a hundred things you can do to get started on your trail. Here are five quick things you can do to begin blazing your own trail.

  1. Maintain a positive attitude. A positive attitude delivers positive results.
  2. Read good books. The quickest way to increase your knowledge and vocabulary is to read.
  3. Set goals. People with goals succeed.
  4. Think. Most people walk around like robots. Use your brain to get creative.
  5. Know your history. It’s important to know history so that you do not repeat it.

You are in the driver’s seat of your life. Take control of the wheel. Do not conform. Make the decision to rise to the top by blazing your own trail. Let nothing stop you from ascending. As you rise you will clearly see the truth. We are brothers, whether we like it or not.

“Accept responsibility for your life. Know that it is you who will get you where you want to go, no one else.” -Les Brown

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