Posted in Blog

How We Label Black Boys

I found out today through Twittter’s moments, that 23-year-old Saddique died in Camberwell (London) from a fatal stabbing this week.

I want to address the way that black boys and young men victims are labelled by the media following their death. Once again, Saddique has been labelled a rapper, this time in the Drill music genre.

Many will not understand why this is a problem, so I’m going to explain: the connotations of the label “rapper” as I explained in a previous post, are extremely negative; it dehumanises the victim and promotes the racial bias that because these black boys are involved in a particular genre of music, they are looking for trouble and thus deserve to die.

I also want to address negative assumptions within our own community. I personally haven’t listened to much Drill music, however one person today told me it’s quite violent and another person has also said that some gangs use the genre as a method of communicating their violent intentions to other gangs.

Yes, gang culture is a problem; nobody is denying that. But my problem is that we are falling down the same trap as the white people by saying things like: “they’re not helping their situation”, or “they bring it on themselves”.

Again, we’re dehumanising these boys and young men and ignoring the fact that white supremacy and institutional racism plays a massive part in keeping black men in a place of inferiority. Remember, I trained to teach in a boys’ secondary comprehensive school, where the majority of the staff were white and would openly bully the black boys by telling them that they were stupid, that they would amount to nothing because of the colour of their skin and that there was nothing for them because they did not belong in this society. They were also constantly labelled as aggressive troublemakers (even the quiet black boys who were just trying to live their lives). Mainstream media is also constantly telling us that Black boys are the largest group of underachievers. Some of those boys told me that I was the first teacher ever to come along and tell them that they were worth something and to encourage them to aspire to be something more.

If you are told something enough times, eventually you’re going to believe it, so if you’re being told at school (or even at home, because we have to admit that there is a problem with psychological abuse from parents within our culture) that you’re worthless, but older boys are telling you the opposite and giving you the acceptance that you’ve been craving your entire life, which leader are you going to follow?

Don’t get it twisted; I am in no way excusing the path these boys and men are taking. What I am saying is more needs to be done to change the direction they are being forced into.

I’m going to end with a quote from Maya Angelou’s “The Heart of a Woman”, which I happen to be reading again, where Angelou’s son Guy has been threatened by a gang (called the Savages) and she is actually contemplating the concept of who these boys are behind the facade of violence:

First I had to understand the thinking of the Savages. They were young black men, preying on other young black men. They had been informed, successfully, that they were worthless, and everyone who looked like them was equally without worth. Each sunrise brought a day without hope and each evening the sun set on a day lacking achievement. Whites, who ruled the world, owned the air and food and jobs and schools and fair play, had refused to share with them any of life’s necessities – and somewhere, deeper than their consciousness, they believed the whites were correct. They, the young black youth, young lords of nothing, were born without value and would creep, like blinded moles, their lives long in the darkness, under the earth, chewing on roots, driven far from the light.

I understood the Savages. I understood and hated the system which molded them, but understanding in no way licensed them to vent their frustration and anger on my son […] something had to be done to contain the lawless brood of alienated teenagers. 

Rest in power Saddique.

XOXO

Author:

I’m Cece Alexandra and I have Epilepsy. Since being diagnosed, my life has changed significantly. After studying and teaching Humanities and Literature for all of my adult life, I was bullied and lost my job a month before qualifying to become an English Teacher. Once you fail the Teacher Training course in England, you cannot ever retrain; I then became too sick to work because of my Epilepsy. I am now currently studying an MSc in Mental Health Psychology with the University of Liverpool. My disability provokes me into raising awareness for invisible disabilities, which I also actively partake in with Epilepsy Action. Part of that awareness is to help fight against invisible disability discrimination - I believe that this behaviour is not cognitively unconscious; modern society is actively partaking in a hierarchy of disabilities and I believe that there is not enough psychological research to prove this. I am also clinically interested in Cultural Psychology - particularly Collectivist Culture, and wish to pursue this further in my academic career.

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