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24.08.2004 Diaspora News

The Trouble With Black "British" Men

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"There is no single cause for the problems young black men face in Britain today. But one thing I do know is your race, colour or class shouldn't make you deny yourself genuine opportunities or hold you back or limit your ambitions." David Matthews

Are black males in this country in crisis? In this three-part series author and journalist David Matthews unpicks the misconceptions that surround African-Caribbean men in Britain today to reveal the real problems they face.

David grew up in an environment where crime, violence and social decay were seen as the norm and knows people who have been shot, shot others or taken drugs.

However, through self-determination David got his act together, went to university and forged a career as a writer - something he had wanted to do since childhood.

Programme 1: Work and Education Only 25% of African-Caribbean boys get five good GCSEs compared with 51% of the population as a whole.

Black men are also being under represented in the traditional professions of law, medicine, finance and teaching.

David tries to find out why they prefer street life and turn to music, yearning for success as producers or as footballers as a way to escape the lives they are currently leading.

To discover why so many black boys are going off the rails David goes back to the school room and speaks to Tony Sewell, an ex-teacher and educationalist known for his controversial views.

Tony believes that African-Caribbean boys are under intense pressure from their peers to conform to certain stereotypes of black masculinity and are often denied decent male role models.

Programme 2: Crime David explores the criminal sub-culture and bad boy image which is gripping black youth culture and confronts a startling statistic: British black men form 12% of the prison population despite being just 1% of the population as a whole.

His contemporaries in the 70s and 80s saw street life as a form of rebellion and a protest against racism and social exclusion. But today, it seems, a worrying number of youths, armed with guns, knives and a gangster ideology, have found a new urban enemy: each other.

To explain why this is the case David meets a range of people, from cult South London DJ Yardi to QC Courtenay Griffiths, who blame a combination of the media, Jamaican Yardie culture, the lack of adult role models and absent fathers.

Programme 3: Sex How accurate is the sexual stereotype of the black man as a well-endowed super-stud who can't hold down a long term relationship and who's a bad, absent father?

David wonders what its prevalence means for relations between black men and black women and the state of the black family. If the statistics are anything to go by, it hasn't had a positive influence: 48% of African-Caribbean families in Britain are headed by a single parent (mainly mothers) compared to 22% of the general population.

David concludes that maybe it's time for black men, including himself, to take a long, hard look at what they value in themselves as men and redefine what it means to be a black man.

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