There are so many areas that we, the black men are referred to as “unknown.” Society has been discounting the black man for hundreds of years and he has literally become unknown. We’ve lost a generation of black males to the streets, gangs, drugs, unemployment, violence, crime and broken homes. The question that we need to ask ourselves is will we allow the next generation to be lost or taken from us as well.
A quarter of black Americans live below the federal poverty level, a rate about twice the national rate. More than a third of all black children live in poverty, and almost two thirds grow up in homes without both parents. In some cities, more than half of all black boys do not finish high school, and by the time they are in their 30’s almost 6 in10 black high school drop outs will have spent time in prison. Half of all black men in their 20’s are jobless. The typical black household earns only about 60% of the earning of white households and has a net worth only about 10% of that of whites. The HIV/AIDS rate is highest for black Americans and blacks are more often the victims of inadequate healthcare. In 2008 the government has been enforcing drug laws that put young poor black men and women at a higher risk of incarceration. Two generations ago, you could go through a phase, get in trouble with the law, get involved with drugs for a minute, hustle a little dope until something happened to scare you straight. Today, you no longer have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes or be scared straight. Due to harsh Federal and State drug laws you mess up the first time and it could men a lengthy prison sentence. And that one prison sentence could affect the rest of your life and the rest of your family. You are the unknown. You can’t vote, you can’t get a job, you can’t get a grant or financial aid for school, you can’t live in public housing (not even with your momma), and you can’t get health care. You can’t support yourself or your family. The only thing you can do is exactly what the system knows you will do, commit more crimes to survive. This is why the recidivism rate amongst blacks is so high. For first time offenders, the rate of re-incarceration can be as high as 15%, for individuals with prior criminal history it can be almost 40%. These individuals don’t want to commit any crimes and be at risk of going back to jail but they feel they have no choice, it’s do what you do best or starve. The choice thereafter becomes instinctive. They are trying to survive in a society that wants to keep them unknown.
While we do believe that people in prison are a danger in society, there is something gravely wrong when there is a 2.2 million people in jail and almost 1 million of them are black, when the fact is that black people make up only 13 percent of societies makeup on a whole. If you as a parent have been incarcerated, your children are 6 times more likely to go to jail because you did. Most minorities know someone who knows someone that is in jail, that’s been to jail, or that’s been to jail themselves. Conversations about inmates in prison seem normal to us. Prison in the black community has lost its negative stigma. In 2007 the Bureau of Justice reported that the leading cause of death among black males ages 16 to 34 was black on black homicide. Today’s youth are disrespectful and wreckless as many participate in criminal activities for some feeling of acceptance and family. It is probable that their fathers aren’t in the home because he has either purposely disappeared, been violently killed or incarcerated. In 2008 it’s a sad truth but one in three is likely.
The black man is disappearing from existence in record numbers. They are being lost to poverty, HIV, violence, death, and incarceration. We cannot continue to treat these problems like many of us do our personal problems- we ignore them. We have already lost our fathers, brothers and men, we don’t want our children to be lost as well.
How do you perceive the black man of today? What can be done to bridge the gap between the races?