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A Lack of Skills, and Confidence

August 23, 2020 (523 words)

Of course not every black man of limited means is violent, or traffics in criminal activity. But there is a generation of law-abiding African-American adult men, now in their thirties and forties, who seem to have no discernable skills whatsoever.

And they also seem to lack confidence in themselves.

In my admittedly limited, anecdotal experience, there is a marked passivity to many of these guys that comes off as their having no instincts on how to do anything. It’s as if they don’t think themselves good enough, or smart enough, to function in a white man’s world. Even though they are every bit as intelligent as the whites they may be working alongside of.

The black men I am describing are ones I have encountered in a blue-collar work environment. They are affable gentlemen for the most part, though a few have become frustrated with their lot in life, and express that as rage at “the system.”

In my amateur analysis, their lack of confidence was hatched long before any of them entered the workforce. What might be described as the missing piece of their character development was the absence of a father in so many of these men’s lives.

In my up-close, first-hand experience with upwards of twenty African-American men over the last couple of decades, it’s not that the father skipped town. He was around, but chose not to live with his off-spring, at least not during the formative years. He was a tangential presence, at best, in his children’s lives.

As most of us have come to know, mothers are in charge of nurturing their children and making sure they feel loved. Fathers, on the other hand, are in charge of acclimating their children – and especially their sons – to the realities of the outside world. This is the very component so many black men of my acquaintance are clearly lacking. This is the source of their lack of confidence.

Again let me state the control group for my little behavioral study consists of guys “from the neighborhood” who were unable to score anything other than minimum wage jobs, before joining my small operation as warehouse workers and delivery drivers. They tend to come and go after a few years, which is why I’ve encountered such a sample size.

(Another side note: In my line of work I don’t get to hang out and rub elbows with African Americans who are Ivy League professors, investment bankers, or research scientists. Such men no doubt are brimming with confidence, and can think rings around the likes of me.)

By comparison, working-class whites have historically benefited from growing up as part of intact nuclear families. These white fathers have always had their pronounced flaws, especially when operating under financial stress, which seems to be most of the time.

They may not have been shining examples of concern and caring when it came to executing their parental duties. But more often than not they managed to get their children – and especially their sons – ready to face the outside world, just by virtue of being there and grinding it out every day.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr
August 23, 2020

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