Interview Review: How to Be an African-American Male in America

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University of Richmond
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Have you ever wondered how African- Americans especially males feel about their stay in America? Well, this curiosity forced me to arrange for an interview with Taylor (Not the real name) who is an African American man just to understand his side of the story and most importantly learn how African Americans men go about their lives. My interview experience with Taylor was awesome, he was a very nice guy, and he talks openly about different issues. However, before the interview, I reminded him that his participation in the interview was completely voluntary and it was okay for him to refuse to answer some of the questions. Moreover, Taylor requested that we keep his identity confidential and I gave him my word. To get a feeling of how it was to be an African-American man in America, we made random visits to the places where there were a lot of African American men including their favorite dancing clubs and also the neighborhoods where they lived.

Taylor lived in Brooklyn. Therefore most clubs which we visited were located in Brooklyn or just on the outskirts of Brooklyn. The most notable experience of the African- Americans way of life was in the club called Bembe. This club is known for accommodating dozens of African- American who regularly visit the place to dance and have fun with their counterparts. I was able to interact with several African-Americans who were in the place, and many of them were friendly and always responded to my questions. After several hours of making conversations with other African-American in the club, Taylor and I left the club. Now, having understood how others felt and thought of different aspects of life, it was Taylors time to respond to my questions to allow me to get full information about the African-American. The first part of my interview questions was about the African-Americans, and this is how Taylor responded.

First, Taylor explains that he is a proud African American and he is happy with his status. However, he states that being an African-American man comes with a lot of challenges and gives an example of how most people in the society especially the police view them. In his example, he states that African- American men are likely to be stopped by the police while driving than when the white men are driving. According to Taylors remarks, he has never understood why such disparities still occur even in the 21st century where America is an advanced economy. In general, Taylor describes himself as a modern African-American man who has the privilege to live in a society where there a lot of racial groups.

Second, Taylor states that he first realized he was an African-American when he was five years old after being told by his parents. He explains that in 3rd Grade he had many friends who were white and one day he was curious of their skin color and decided to ask his parents why he didnt have the same skin color like them. His parents at first were hesitant before explaining to him that he was an African- American and they were whites. He also explains that he learnt a lot about the African-Americans from the TV and he could notice that there were significant difference in the way they dress and talk. Moreover, Taylor states that his parents had certain attitudes towards other races and that is when he realized that he belongs to the African Americans group.

Third, Taylor explains that African-Americans face a lot of challenges in todays society, this is because there are a lot of generally held misconceptions about African-Americans. He states that nowadays we are hearing a lot of incidences where police officers are randomly shooting African- American men. This is because the police officers and by extension the whole community sees most African- American men as criminals. In fact, Taylor tells me that most people are afraid of African-American men and boys, this is because they see them as gangs. He adds that the situation is so bad that 1 in every 3 African-American males born today is likely to be jailed at some point in his life. Moreover, Taylor explains that most people think of African- Americans as broke people with little education, and according to him that is the main reason why we have less African- Americans in the corporate world.

Fourth, Taylor tells that being an African-American comes with a lot of advantages and disadvantages in equal measure. He starts by explaining that the biggest disadvantage of being an African- American is that you will often carry the weight of the stereotypes, this is because you are regularly seen as the bogeyman of a dominant culture. The other disadvantage is that you will become an unnecessary target of racial profiling by police officers. Moreover, you are likely to be compared to any other African-American person by other races since they believe you are all the same. However, according to Taylor, there are a lot of advantages to being an Africa-American compared to the disadvantages. He states that African-Americans come from a rich heritage of people who know how to survive and overcome hardships that seem insurmountable. Taylor adds that nowadays the world is marked with a deep-rooted desire for equity and justice. Therefore there are a lot of human rights watch agencies that are helping African- Americans get justice and also cushions them from racial profiling. Moreover, according to Taylor being an African- American means that you can share non-verbal communication with other African-Americans in events of cultural obliviousness.

Fifth, Taylor explains that for social workers to assist African effectively- American people be it the men, women, boys or girls they should understand African- Americans are diverse concerning socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, appearance, family composition, cultural expressions and geographical. Therefore, social workers should not think that all African Americans are the same. Taylor adds that peoples cultures should also be considered when conducting therapeutic process. This is because the lack of knowledge of a particular clients family dynamics and culture could certainly harm or delay the process. Therefore he advises all social workers to ensure that they have sufficient information about their clients cultures, ethnic backgrounds, classes and other diversity factors before assisting them. Moreover, Taylor explains that social workers should recognize the disparity and convergence between the values of historically oppressed community and those of the dominant society. He says that most African- Americans have experienced a lack of equal opportunity and chance in employment, education, health, housing, social services, criminal justice, and mental care and services. Therefore, during therapeutic process, social workers should consider these factors to assist the African- Americans effectively.

Now the second part of my interview questions was based on the issues of gender; I wanted to know how he felt about the fact that he was an African-American man and his thoughts and experience so far about the African-American men. This is how he responded to them. First, Taylor states that he first learned he was a male when he was about seven years old. He jokingly gives an example when he was in preschool where he once told his teacher that he wants to be a mommy when he grows up. Indeed, at this point, he didnt know whether he was a boy or a girl. In fact, Taylor narrates that he would wear her twin sisters dress and just feel normal. However, when he was around seven years old that is when he started declaring himself as a boy, and he became conscious of the physical differences between him and her sister. It was at this point that he could now differentiate the toys typically used by boys and the ones used by girls. In fact, he adds that he started to gravitate towards the toy trucks, toy soldiers, and blocks. According to Taylor, understanding that he was a boy gave him a chance to express his gender identity freely by adopting a specific hairstyle and clothing, engaging in social behaviors that show varying degrees of dominance, gentleness, and dependency, and doing physical gestures and other nonverbal activities that were identified as masculine. He adds that he became inspired by his Dad since he was the only male he could see around and he wanted to be as strong as his Dad. Taylor concludes that being a man is the best thing that ever happened to him this is because his manhood has molded him to adjust to the severe conditions in the neighborhood.

Second, Taylor states that his family especially her mother told him that men are required to be brave, and most importantly they should often step up and protect what theirs and their families is. He adds that her mother also told him that men have been blessing with physical strength to do heavy tasks. Therefore, he should never be afraid of doing handy jobs in the family. His father, on the other hand, told him that men and women are the same except they are biologically and genetically different. Taylor explains how his Dad told him he was biologically different from girls and how it was okay for him to be that way. His father also told him that girls were tender and soft and men were always required to treat them with respect. Taylor concludes by stating that his sister once told him that women are more sensitive when it comes to feeling both their pain and that of others compared to men. This because women tend to have a natural inclination to help those who are hurting.

Third, According to Taylor most people especially women have a lot of misconceptions about men. First, they believe that men hate emotional women. On the contrary, men love emotional women, and they just hate crazy women. Taylor explains that women should find a way of making their feelings known without stalking every single move that men take. He says that men also have feelings and they like it when women open up to them. In fact, they just want women to keep good communication. Second, there is a misconception that all men are the same. Taylor describes this misconception as completely ridiculous and insane this is because just like other human beings men have different traits and qualities. He adds that different men have different behaviors, there are some who are comfortable with having relationships, and there are others who do not want to be in relationships. Therefore he advises that people should just stop generalizing men. Another delusion is that men are intimidated by successful women. Taylor explains that men are never intimidated easily unless in events where a man is in a relationship with a lady and that lady dumps him for another man. Men are known to be vulnerable to this kind of situations. He concludes by explaining that real men are not intimidated by women, on the contrary, they will want successful women by their side.

Fourth, being a man has some advantages and disadvantages too that is according to Taylors remarks. He states that the disadvantages of being a man are that you are expected to be the bread winner of the family. Moreover, men have less freedom compared to women in some ways. For example, women have more flexibility in the way they dress and spend their leisure times. Also, Taylor believes that the term masculinity which is often used for men comes with a burden. This is because men are often required to proof their manhood in various ways such as with their physical strength, the money they earn among many other factors. Lastly, research shows that men have shorter life expectancy compared to men. Taylor explains that the advantages of being a man include: men never have to worry about getting pregnant, no one expects men to maintain a large wardrobe with just a few good shirts, trousers and a couple of pairs of shoes they are good to go. He also a...

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