American Paradox Young Black Men by Renford Reese is a break down of the view and role of Black men in modern society. It goes through the past struggles, triumphs, and  perceptions in a way that shows how Black men define their own masculinity. Common themes in this book included education, pop culture, and the justice department.

The book began with a survey asking young black men whether or not they read books outside of the classroom. An alarming number of them do not. It breaks down the behavioral issues that many blacks exhibit in inner city schools. It shows how many blacks are underachieving. It shows how society values a black man’s sexuality, but has no respect for their intelligence. Here is a direct quote from the book:

So much of black masculinity is defined by one’s relationship with women. One reason homosexuals are deeply despised by black men is because heterosexual black men cannot fathom someone not being attracted to women. Moreover, many black men cannot understand the failure to pursue multiple women.

This book goes on further to explain how many Black women needs to hold black men to a higher standard so that they will be forced to do better. It noted how people such as Ludacris, Nelly, Too Short, Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim, Eve, and Alicia Keys portrayed the tolerance of underachieving black men and their objectification of women. It challenged hip hop listeners to pay more attention to artists such as Nas, The Roots, Talib Kweli, and Common.

It explored the fact that there is a disproportional representation of Black men in the penal system. It showed how many black men do nothing to prevent from being institutionalized. Philosophers such as John Locke and Socrates were quoted to show how Blacks can apply philosophy to the improvement of the black community. Historical occurrences that were outlined were the LA Riots, Brown v Board of Education, Plessy v Ferguson,  and the incarceration of MLK Jr.

Overall I recommend this book to young black students as well as those that may be serving time. Here is a list of notable characters mentioned in the book that should be researched for further learning. Just because they are listed doesn’t mean that I am advocating their positivity (I’m not sure if that’s a word, but oh well) or negativity.

Marcus Garvey

Langston Hughes


Denzel Washington


Michael Jordan

Huey Newton


Cornel West

David Robinson


Louis Farrakhan


Booker T WashingtonJesse Owens