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Where Are All the Black Men?

Where Are All the Black Men?

by Tieranny Woods

A few weeks ago, my co-fellows, Monica and Krysten, and I were tasked with presenting a case study on a particular incident or situation that has taken place at our site placements. These incidents were then brought in and discussed with one another, focusing on the larger social issues that surround them. As Monica was giving her case study (and as I had heard from her previously), she gave the breakdown of the employees that work for Plant the Seed.  I noticed that none of them were black men. During her case study, Krysten also presented the demographics of the people that work for the Nashville Food Project, noting white women and two black women, but again no black men. While Krysten continued to present her case study, I began to think of the demographics of my site placement, Tennessee Justice Center, and recognized the pattern that no black men worked there either. I then looked at the Scarritt Bennett Center and noticed that there were black men present. However, there is only one black man that works in leadership, the rest (though still few in numbers) work as staff.  The question “Where are all the black men?” came into thought.

When it was my turn to present my case study, I decided to focus on this question. As I became more aware of the absence of black men in all of our respective circles, I became somewhat upset, but more so confused. I was not so much confused as to why black men are not present, but more so confused at the idea that all of our respective site placements, and Scarritt Bennett, are social justice oriented, many with a direct focus on race and race relations. Yet, there are no voices from a direct group of people that are needed in those conversations… black men. This also made me think of my own privilege in relation to how I am able to access certain activities that many men of color do not have.

We discussed this dynamic and questioned how non-profits can work to make themselves more accessible to men of color, especially those non-profits that are run by non-people of color, but that are racial justice oriented. One aspect we discussed were the qualifications that many jobs require, like bachelor degrees for entry level positions, discussing who usually has access to these degrees, as well as access to other opportunities that make way for connections into certain job positions. We also looked on a broader level, discussing mass incarceration, biases in hiring practices, the educational system, and overall representation of black men in society. Issues such as these continue to make it hard for black men, and people of color in general, to gain access to job opportunities that they should have the right to be in.

As I go about continuing to reflect on this observation, I want to become aware of my own privilege, as well as dive deeper into our view of non-profit work. We must work to change the face of racial justice led non-profits and make their staff fit the profile. Until this is done, one must question the mission and identity of social justice oriented non-profits.

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Tieranny Woods-4-ZF-5574-08444-1-001-004Tieranny Woods is a 2016 graduate of Vanderbilt University. She is currently a Belle H. Bennett fellow at Scarritt Bennett Center where she is exploring social justice at the Tennessee Justice Center.