Author and former NFL player Robert Jackson is fed up.
He isn’t upset with the policies of government officials.
He’s not lashing out against “the white man.”
He isn’t blaming all of his problems on the “system.”
Jackson is, however, fed up with male peers in the African-American community who he says are making “too many excuses” and blaming everyone else for their failures.
Jackson addresses this issue head on in his new book No More Excuses: Black Men Stand Up and calls on all Black men (including himself) to put aside various excuses that have been used to keep them from being strong fathers, husbands and leaders in the community.
“Speaking for myself, my friends and other Black men, we are always making excuses about why we’re not doing this or doing that, and it’s time to put that to an end,” said Jackson. “We have an opportunity to make a change because all things are possible through Christ. Some of us grew up in challenging circumstances, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a change for the better or help someone else make a change.”
Jackson’s book appears to be part of a growing movement of African-American commentators and writers, male and female, who are encouraging their people to stop blaming others for current problems and combine their strength and resources with other Blacks to change the circumstances they do have control over.
Steve Perry, author of the book Man Up: Nobody’s Coming to Save Us, agrees with Jackson that stubborn racism notwithstanding, Blacks have many of the ideas and resources they need to alter some of the challenging conditions they face. Perry believes disparities in education and industry will not disappear until Blacks take a fresh look at both racism and their personal responsibility. He encourages his readers to tap into their strength and stop occupying “the peculiar position” of victim.
“Fortunately the answers we seek are much more complicated than ‘blaming the man,’” said Perry. “Black people are at the helm of many of the systems that impact our lives today. We raise, entertain, feed, lead and educate our children. Once we recognize that we, more than any other group, have the power to transform our currently deplorable circumstances we will finally take hold of the opportunity to foster a healthy Black community.”
In his book, Jackson, 37, writes about common excuses that include not succeeding because of growing up without a father, choosing a life of crime because of growing up “in da’ hood,” blaming racism instead of laziness for not finding a job, refusing to care for children because of disagreements with the mother (“baby mama”) of those children and not taking care of themselves physically because of lack of time.
“I’m just tired of seeing Black men fall,” said Jackson. “Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and others didn’t die just so that we can kill each other in the streets, die from preventable diseases and watch our children mess up their lives. It’s time for Black men to stand up.”
Jackson once enjoyed the convenience of his own “excuses” while growing up in a rough area of the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood in Indianapolis. Raised by a strong mother, Jackson never met his father. He was also abused by his stepfather, molested by an aunt’s boyfriend and was stabbed as a kid while a gang jumped him for his shoes.
Jackson remained very angry about those incidents for many years, and that angry bitterness affected how he viewed himself and interacted with others.
“At some point in my life I had to say ‘look, it’s time to stop making excuses about daddy not being there and other challenges, because now I’m a daddy,” said Jackson, the married father of a 10-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter.
After graduating with a degree in industrial technology from Western Kentucky University, Jackson played professional football as a running back with the Minnesota Vikings. Today he works as a motivational speaker and award winning pharmaceutical sales representative.
Jackson outlines solutions to problems in the African-American community throughout his book. He calls on Black professional men in the area to take more time to mentor youth, especially African-American males.
“A lot of guys who grew up in the hood but are now successful doctors, lawyers and businessmen drive right through their old neighborhood on their way to houses in Geist,” said Jackson. “I’m not telling you to avoid the suburbs, I’m saying stop through that neighborhood sometimes and help out a young man who needs a positive role model.”
Jackson acknowledges that there are racists who don’t want to see Blacks succeed, but he believes a bigger barrier to success is envy among African-Americans against others who are successful.
“We have to quit hatin’ on each other and start helping each other,” said Jackson, who noted that a Black person helped him get his position in pharmaceutical sales, then he in turn trained five more African-Americans in the industry.
“In order to succeed we sometimes have to work harder and look out for each other,” said Jackson.
He believes Black men can also “stand up” and build stronger relationships and families by improving communication with Black women and doing their part as fathers.
Alma Gross, a mature woman who has been married twice and raised three children, believes that many of the values held by men in her generation are different from those held by young adult males.
“I was blessed to be married to two wonderful men who worked hard and took pride in their role as fathers,” she said. “But it seems like many men today are dodging responsibilities. We can look forward to a better future if more of them would step up and help guide our children instead of letting these women do all the work.”