We’ve been bamboozled, says Janks Morton, the producer and director of the DVD What Black Men Think ($19.99). Skeptical of the negative statistics about Black men, women, and families in the media, Morton decided to do a little research of his own. The DC-based cynic talked to the experts, then hit the streets with his camera to find out how many of us had bought into the so-called lies being told. “Black people carry some real undermining and venomous thoughts about each other,” says Morton, whose film is being considered for a NAACP Award nomination. “We have to change the way we think if we want to restore Black relationships.” Morton spoke exclusively to Essence.com about what he caught on camera and why we shouldn't believe the hype.
Essence.com: In your documentary you refer to the state of relations between Black men and Black women as an undeclared civil war. What do you mean by that?
Janks Morton: We’re divided. We’ve bought into the stereotypes and untruths about ourselves. Too many Black women think all Black men are dogs. Too many Black men think all Black women are gold diggers and b*tches. These misperceptions are undermining the way we relate to each other. You can see it in the statistics. Blacks have the highest divorce rates, lowest marriage rates, the highest out-of- wedlock birth rates of any group in this country.
Essence.com: You interviewed many Black women about their thoughts on Black men. Was there anything that surprised you?
J.M.: One woman was particularly venomous. She said, ‘ Black men are either gay or in jail or both’ as if it were a fact instead of a myth. It’s a dangerous way to think. Even if Black women don’t say it, their actions can reflect that.
Essence.com: Can you paint a picture for me of what Black men are based on your findings?
J.M.: According to my research, the numbers support the fact that Black men love and are marrying Black women. The vast majority are graduating high school. There are more Black men in college than in prison and jail. If you look at just the numbers for college-age Black males, there are four times as many in college than jail and prison combined. The crisis of Black men is nowhere near as bad as it is played out in the media and society. Women should know that there are lots of good Black men out here.
Essence.com: What’s the cause of this breakdown in communication between Black men and Black women?
J.M.: Traditionally, Black people’s hierarchal focus has been my God, my family, my community, myself. In 1961, 81 percent of children were born to two-parent households. In the late 1960s, we bought into the mainstream culture’s focus on me, myself & I and put neighborhood, and family, and God after self. In just one generation, we self-destructed. Now 70 percent of Black children are born into single parent households.
Essence.com: We’ve talked about how these misperceptions effect relationships, but how do they affect our sense of self?
J.M.: The stereotypes become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Wherever you set the bar, that’s where people will reach. We’ve told a generation of young Black girls that you have to stand on your own two feet and rely on no one, including the Black man. That’s setting the bar extremely high and if you look at college enrollment, it’s played out. Black women enroll in college in a higher ethnic gender group in this country than anybody else. Young Black boys are given a completely different message. They’re asked ‘can you please not go to jail and while you’re at it, can you try to graduate from high school?’ We are setting the bar so very low.
What Black Men Think can be purchased on www.amazon.com
What do you think of Morton's views on Black relationships and families?