My Kim Doan
May 15, 2012
The destructive portrayal of black men in our society is inevitable. The media has forecasted African American men as uneducated, unemployed, athletes, criminals, violent, hypersexual dropouts, and are considered as not a “real” man. Negative stereotypes that take place in media are perceptions of how people believe black men are suppose to be like. John Riley stated, “There are millions of positive black men out there, but they are hard to find in the news. The media tends to focus on black men when they are acting like, or actually being thugs.” Black men are not credited enough and are not recognized for their hard work and contribution in our society. I had the privileged of interviewing Mr. Dion Tate, whom I believed, challenges these negative stereotypes of what a black man is suppose to be.
Dion Tate was born and raised in Fresno, California with his five siblings: Henry, Karen, Marcia, David, Gary, and Deidre. His parents, Ollie and Elmer Tate were both loving parents, as they taught them the meaning of love, value, life, education, and forgiveness. Both were very educated individuals. His parents have always been supportive in everything that he has done. Mr. Tate always wanted to become a teacher. As a little boy, Mr. Tate had an intimate relationship with his father before he passed away. His father would always make time for the family. With his father’s passing, he felt discouraged and felt distorted taking place in the household. Mr. Tate looked up to his older brother as a father figure. He imitated what masculinity was through his brothers. His mother was a hard worker. Even though his father did not want his mother to work, she wanted to help contribute the family in any way that could have.
Dion Tate and his beautiful wife, Natasha Tate, have three children together: one girl and two boys. At home, Mr. and Mrs. Tate both share the household work with their children. When I asked him how he felt about men doing women’s household work such as cleaning, cooking, and washing the dishes, Mr. Tate proclaimed that, “There is no such thing as women’s work. All housework is family work.” In his household, he emphasized the importance of his children knowing what responsibility is. “The household work is divided, and each week it is alternated for everyone to do the same amount of work.”
Throughout his teenaged years, Mr. Tate worked numerous part-time jobs before deciding to go to school to get a degree. After graduating high school in 1986, he attended college, but dropped out to start working instead. In 1998, Mr. Tate began working as an associate pastor at Central Community Church. An associate pastor is someone who is second in charge of the church and is ranked behind the senior pastor. He wanted to give back to the community, and believed that devoting his time to the church was a way that he could do so. In 2003, he started working as a banker for Wells Fargo and shortly, he began teaching at Al Connor Elementary for one year. Mr. Tate decided to go back to college where he attended Fresno Pacific University and received a degree in Organizational leadership in 2010. For his pastime, he enjoys coaching football and track.
I believe Dion Tate exemplify what it means to be a progressive black man. He is a well-respected man known for his endless involvement to his community. He is passionate about his work, and is optimistic about life. When Mr. Tate was an associate pastor, he made a difference in his church by listening to what others had to say, and made changes to collectively benefit the community as a whole. He never felt like he had authority or power, not even in his own home. He is devoted to his wife, Natasha, and not once had he ever considered or thought about having an affair. He treated his wife like a queen, and provided her with a good life that she deserves. He believes men and women are created equal. What his wife had to say is just as important as what he had to say. He is not afraid to express his emotions to his wife or his children. He emphasizes the importance of letting out your emotions. He does not feel that just because he cries in front of his children, that it is considered less of a man. Mr. Tate is passionate about teaching and encourages his students to excel in academia. Black men are portrayed as uneducated, unemployed, violent, aggressive, lazy, dishonest, and hyper-sexualize. Dion Tate does not exemplify any of the stereotypes. He is considered a role model in the black community and to his family. As he stated in the interview, “being a black man is hard. Life is harder on us, but that does not give us an excuse to fail.” He challenges these stereotypes, and urges others to do so as well.
When Mr. Tate was younger, his father would always show him affection. Just like his father, Dion believes it is essential to show affection towards his children. Like the character in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Dion Tate is a very attentive of his children. He ensures that his children do not have to experience the discrimination that he had to endure. He believes in education, and the power that it holds. He makes every effort to be involved in his children’s life. He won’t hesitate to drop any of his plans from his busy schedule for his children. When it comes to household work, his children are encouraged to help around the house. According to Mark Anthony Neal, “Not only does the sharing of activities help provide a more egalitarian view of how gender functions in the “real” world, it also has the potential to help young children embrace those views.”
In Collin’s article, Booty Call- Sex, Violence, and Images of Black Masculinity, she stated, “Mass media’s tendency to blur the lines between fact and fiction has important consequences for perception of black culture and black people.” What was fiction has now become a part of reality, and our society has mistakenly accepted this negativity of what it means to be a “real” black man.
Dion Tate is one of the most intelligent, strongest, and brightest African American man I know. The way he approaches education has motivated me to continue on with my education. He said it is never to late to learn. He makes sure education is the main priority to his children. He took his struggles merely as a motivation to accomplish the dreams that other people did not believe he could do. Now, as a teacher and mentor at Al Conner Elementary, he encourages his students to strife to do better in life. He encourages them to never let anyone bring them down. Dion Tate is truly an inspirational figure in his community. Never is he ashamed of whom he truly is. He does not give in into the negative portrayal of African American men but rather is empowered from it. He believes that everyone has an opportunity to a better life.