Today President Obama speaks in Chicago about gun violence because the Black Youth Project generated over 45,000 signatures on their petition to have the president come to Chicago.
Having our President speak about gun violence’s largest set of perpetrators and victims is huge. Black boys are traditionally the last to receive political attention. Now that President Obama is championing gun control he has a reason to speak up for black boys.
I’m for all this attention; it’s over due. I would like to see more discussion about the underlying causes. Controlling guns are treating the symptoms. Addressing why boys and young men use guns as their tool of expression is what is needed.
Boys always look for ways to assert their power – they need means to grow into a man. They don’t need it being pulling a trigger of a gun.
Accepting there is a primordial need for young men to discover their masculinity leads us question how can we better direct that urge.
Without guiding them to a mature in a way that serves all, young men will often reach for the biggest stick he can swing. Punishing them after they swings it is not the best use of all resources; include the resource of these young men.
What President Obama should be speaking about
Developing a mentoring system to support boys and young men is not as simple as gun control. Saying we need to take the guns away from these young men is the Band-Aid. Preventing the wound is supporting these boys and young men to develop other forms of expression that address their innate need to assert their manhood.
Our traditional model of masculinity says you are a man when you learn to shut down your emotions and power up your control. Our media as the educators of this model of manhood show us how aggressive men acquiring the most expensive bling are what makes a man. Consciously and more importantly unconsciously these boys and young men strive for success in this model. Then when they succeed we are surprised and upset.
If you want a different result – change the model and the process. Develop a model that directs their masculinity in a way that serves them and their community. Invest in sponsoring these boys and young men to grow up to be men, not live action heroes gone wrong.
This is where it becomes work. To sponsor these boys and young men they need sponsors. Where do you get these sponsors? Where do you get men that are mature themselves? Where do you get men that are driven by a morality that goes beyond material possession and macho arrogance?
To develop these sponsors you need to develop and support a new a model of masculinity. Manhood 2.0 is not a feminized version of masculine. It’s a model of men being emotional in a masculine way, being directed by their own purpose – not Madison Avenue’s and giving back because it feels good.
The good news is there is a wealth of untapped men waiting to step up. They just need to first see that it’s cool to do it. Then they need to know it’s possible and fun. Lastly it needs to be readily available.
When we invest in men to be the men they want to be – we will have the boys and young men we want, and they themselves want. Let’s use the attention President Obama is generating to treat more than the immediate symptom. Let’s begin to address the simple solution of supporting men and boys. Supporting the masculine may not be as sexy as championing gun control, but it will reap deep sustainable rewards.
Organizations such The Challenge Day and Boys to Men are a few examples of what can be done to directly support boys. Showing men a way to win as men through micro-communities for men (men’s groups) addresses the core need, shifting our model of the masculine with men. These solutions aren’t quick fixes, but when applied over a few years amazing results occur.
Boys and men want to succeed. We need to give them a model that works for them, a model that doesn’t use them yet honors them. With a new model and support to win we all will see remarkable results.