Not all news about black men is negative. For decades now, we’ve heard negative news coverage, data, conclusions drawn by social scientists and even some in our own community that the black man in America is dangerous, deviant and dysfunctional. The media will peddle surface views to the masses – one must be willing to research and work to uncover the truth.
New data, for instance, shows that black men are – and have been for quite some time – moving into the mainstream like never before.
The truth is black men are surging forward and upward; more black men are poised to enter the middle class than ever before; plying new roads in finance, authorship, entrepreneurship, family, faith and fitness.
According to Black Men Making it In America: The Engines of Economic Success for Black Men in America by W. Bradford Wilcox, Wendy R. Wang, and Ronald B. Mincy, there are three principle engines driving this surge of new prosperity and achievement by black men: the U.S. military, the black church and the institution of marriage.
Although all three play major roles, it is the black church that interests me the most, in particular the role the church plays in preventing young men from contact with the American criminal justice system.
The authors of the report write: Black men who frequently attended church or other religious services at a young age are also more likely to reach the middle class or higher when they are in their fifties: 53% of those men who attended church as young men made it, compared to 43% who did not.
The authors’ further state that the most likely reason for this phenomenon is that churchgoing may lift black men’s income by reinforcing prosocial behavior. Churchgoing is also linked to greater odds that black men reach the middle-class or higher-income brackets in midlife.
Research also suggests that churchgoing reduces the odds that black men have contact with the criminal justice system and increases the odds that they are employed or in school.
This is great news and reinforces the view that exposing young black boys to church at an early age is an effective deterrent to a life of crime. Does it mean that all boys who attend church never come into contact with the criminal justice system? Of course not. It just says that young black churchgoing boys are less likely to be exposed than are.
It’s more than just Bible study, prayer and Sunday school – it’s also discipline, character-building and social skills that the church offers.
Whatever we suggest that the church is not, we cannot argue with the fact that organized religion on some level instills young men with, as the sociologist Elijah Anderson terms it, a “code of decency” that encompasses personal responsibility, gainful employment and a “positive view of the future”.
There are many black churches that offer some form of ministry for men and include mentoring programs for the black boy demographic specifically. Do we need more? Indeed we do!
It is important that we recognize this forward and upward mobility of black men in America and continue to create and foster the environment that will keep our men on the road to achieving great things.
Black men are surging forward and the church is at the forefront of that effort.
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