The Bridge: Dismissing Black Mythology

By Darryl James

If you haven’t read the works of Chancellor Williams of George James, you may still be amongst the thinking Blacks who realize that misinformation about the standing of Africans and African Americans has been the order of the day for centuries.

But if you are a dead brained knee-grow who passes on the latest piece of mythology about your own people, you should do the race a service and either educate yourself or solder your ignorant lips shut.

Black mythology is one of our greatest challenges, because when a people believe they are in a specific state, or doing specific things, those beliefs and thoughts dictate their actions.

One of the most glaring problems facing African Americans is the media’s love affair with Blacks, especially Black men.  They love having us on the news, but the coverage is largely relegated to perpetual poverty, crime and other “bad” behavior.  While we are neither the dominant nor the majority population, the negative media coverage is disproportionately high when it comes to us.

Many of our other difficulties stem directly from the misinformation that we pass on to each other, presenting lies and half-truths as “known facts.” But if one of us presents factual information to challenge the lies, the ignorant knee-grows are likely to challenge right back with: “where’s your data?” That question will be launched even if data has been presented and even though no challenge was ever issued when the lie was accepted and passed around.

It is no secret that African Americans have an image problem. It is also no secret that the media misrepresents African Americans. What is ostensibly a secret is that many of the most egregious things being said about Black people are being perpetuated by Black people.

In another Black Top Ten list, I’d like to dispel some of those myths.

Accordingly, these are the top ten things that Black people should stop saying about Black people:

The Top Ten Black Myths

1                 There are more Black men in prison than in college.

False. The misleading “evidence” comes from studies such as the one conducted periodically by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a Washington-based research group.  JPI found that there were 791,600 Black men in jail or prison and “only” 603,032 of them in colleges or universities.  They presented the findings as “evidence” of more Black men in prison than in college. As late as 2004, the US Census reported that there were 864,000 Black men in college. The numbers that people (including the JPI) quote are ALL of the Black men in prison, versus ONLY the free young Black men of college age, which spans the late teens to the early twenties. And yet, the myth is still a myth. Any of us can do the math: Out of the 40 million-plus African Americans that the 2008 Census found, less than one million are in jail or prison. The reality is that while there are too many of us in prison and more of us in there than others, there are NOT more of us on the inside than on the outside.

2                 Black people, particularly Black men are lazy.

False.  How can a people who built this nation and did it for free suddenly become the laziest people in the nation?

According to the US Census Bureau, 68.1% of all Black men and 62.3% of Black women over the age of 16 are in the civilian labor force, compared to 73% of white menand 59.9% of white women.  With racial discrimination and other challenges, more of us are still working than sitting at home.

While the majority of poor people in America are Black, the majority of Black people are NOT poor.  Of the 40 million-plus Blacks in this nation, 8.1 million have incomes below the poverty line.

Now, what we do with our money is another story…

 3                 Black people abuse the Welfare system and are swelling it beyond capacity.

False.  First, the actual number of Black families on Welfare has been decreasing since the early 1970’s, when 46% of the recipients were Black. By the end of the 20th century, that number was down to 39%, as compared to 38% whites who were non-Hispanic. If the comparison were strictly based on race without ethnic identification, whites clearly outnumber Blacks on the Welfare rolls.

In addition, 40% of the families on Welfare have only one child, while the number having five or more is only 4%.   And, by the last decade of the 20th century, Welfare accounted for just over 2% of the Federal Budget, while defense accounted for 24%.

Benefit programs for farmers and big businesses far outweigh the Welfare program. Who is abusing welfare?

4.   Most Black men are married to white women.

False.  According to the most recent Census statistics, more than 90% of all Black men who are married are married to Black women.

Please stop lying about what you see (which isn’t data—you could be looking at co-workers) and stop using celebrities to cast an indictment on an entire group.

5.  Affirmative Action unfairly provides opportunities for Blacks.

False.  First, Affirmative Action is inappropriately used to define Black preferential treatment and “quotas” but it was actually designed to benefit a number of groups who have been discriminated against, creating parity in the workplace.  Since the 1970’s, Affirmative Action has benefited white women more than any other group. Secondly, no one who perpetuates this myth ever talks about other types of Affirmative Action, which benefit other races.  For example, the Japanese descendants in America, who were each rewarded $20,000 in 1988 as reparations for internment during WWII, or the legacy programs which benefit people such as the dimwit son of a Bush who screwed up the world economy while in the white house.

6                 Let’s kill two ignorant rumors with the pursuit of truth: Poor Blacks would be better off if they stopped using drugs and took better care of their communities; and, Blacks need to stop pushing drugs to their own people.

False. This one always confuses me, because Blacks can’t even distribute their own movies or music, yet still get blamed for importing and distributing ILLEGAL drugs.  If a Black man can’t drive down the street without being racially profiled and stopped, what makes anyone think that he could fly a planeload of drugs into the nation and distribute them from state to state and city to city?  The drug dealers in the ‘hood make a lot of money, but nowhere near the cash generated by the true drug lords who import it and distribute it to inner cities across the nation.

But for the record, according to a study by the Sentencing Project, the number of Blacks in prison for drug-related crimes fell by 21.6 % from 1999 to 2005, while the number of whites in prison for drug-related crimes increased by 42 % during the same time period.

7                 Blacks suffer from Black on Black crime.

True, but misleading.  Whites also suffer from white on white crime.  Many crimes, including murder, rape and robbery, are crimes of location, not color. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 85% of African Americans report another Black person as the perpetrator of the crime and 80% of white murders were committed by other whites. However, when race does play a role in crime, the victims of violent crimes are more likely to be Black, while the perpetrators, are more likely to be white.

8          Blacks commit more crimes than whites.

False. Neo-Conservative Whites and self-hating Blacks notwithstanding, the reality of racism in the justice system has to be understood in order to get into the reasons for the high number of Blacks in prison.

In an assessment of the impact of crime on minority communities, the National Minority Advisory Council on Criminal Justice concluded that “America is a classic example of heavy-handed use of state and private power to control minorities and suppress their continuing opposition to the hegemony of white racist ideology.”

Further, according to “The Real War on Crime,” a report by the National Criminal Justice Commission, “African-American arrest rates for drugs during the height of the ‘drug war’ in 1989 were five times higher than arrest rates for whites even though whites and African-Americans were using drugs at the same rate.”

Finally, according to the Federal Judicial Center, the average sentences for African Americans for weapons and drug charges have been 49% longer than for whites who had been convicted of the same crimes.

The simple truth is, more of “us” may be in court, but more of “them” are actually committing crimes.

9             Women outnumbering men in college is a Black phenomenon.

False. According to the US Department of Education, male undergraduates account for 44 percent of student population, while female undergraduates account for 56 percent.  This is not race specific.

10        Black people are incapable of sustaining businesses in their own communities.

False. We had great success before integration. In fact, by 1900, the number of African-American businesses nationally, totaled 40,000, including the Greenfield Bus Body Company, which manufactured automobiles, and a hotel in New York City valued at $75,000. By 1908, we had 55 privately owned banks. By 1912, there were two millionaires, Madam C.J. Walker (hair care) and R. R. Church (real estate).

By 1923, Tulsa, Oklahoma was home to The Black Wall Street, an African American community of 11,000.  Which featured nine hotels, nineteen restaurants and thirty-one grocery stores and meat markets, ten medical doctors, six lawyers, and five real estate and loan insurance agencies, complete with five private planes.

The next time someone passes around one of these tired myths, if you can resist smacking them in the mouth, pass on some real data to them, or at least encourage them to do some research themselves before passing lies as truth.

Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.”  James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opened in Los Angeles in 2011 and will be running throughout 2012. View previous installments of this column at  Reach James at

7 Responses to “The Bridge: Dismissing Black Mythology”

  1. […] James wrote a blog post on Black Men in America in which he debunked ten myths believed about the African American […]

  2. Ann Marie Callegari Says:

    Thanks for debunking the myths about African American men. I am an older student at UC Berkeley with an African American Studies major, and the information you shared is on point. Honestly, had I not returned to school, the information on your blog would be new to me. I am not proud of not knowing my history, but hope to serve as an example that it is never too late. I am 53.

  3. I’m so glad I found this.

  4. MrManoogian Says:

    Thank you for your research and info. Definitely will pass along!

  5. When mys sons were elementry age I would take them shopping. I would show them how automatically they put store detectives on us when I walked in with my 3 sons. I shoed them early, that because of the color of their skin they were labeled.

    I also told them to leave USA to be successful.

    Until USA loses Black American and white Americans labels and start stating American, only.

    There will continue to be disparity in treatment

  6. Please continue to report and inform and teach us. I am one of the many who have been bamboozeled and hoodwinked by these myths. Can you please send me advice on the books and authors I need to read to inform myself and family of the truth. I thank God for the work you all are doing to give us the truth. It is said “you shall know the truth and it will set you free” once we know better we are responsible to do better!

  7. […] The Bridge: Dismissing Black Mythology ( […]

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