The Challenge of Being a Young Black Boy in America
My husband and I are the proud parents of three daughters and two sons and the even prouder grandparents of two grandsons and three granddaughters. Thinking about our children and grandchildren made me come to a stark realization that our grandsons are growing up in a world that has challenges that no other group has to be concerned with. Our young Black boys are living in a time where homicide is the leading cause of death among young Black men, and in most cases, the Black victim was killed by a young Black man. Our young Black boys are growing up in a society where many Black people have been unfairly treated by a criminal justice system that places greater value on a white life than a Black life. Our young Black boys (and girls) fear the police. Yes, there are many good police officers, but there are still so many that mistreat our people. I also fear for the health, mental health, and overall well-being of our young Black boys. We are living at a time when Black men have much higher rates of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and strokes than white people, and they develop these chronic conditions up to 10 years earlier.
In the history of our country, no other demographic group has fared as poorly, so persistently, and for so long as the Black man. Black men are drastically overrepresented in the prison population, accounting for 32 percent of the prison population but only 6 percent of the overall U.S. population. They are five times more likely to be incarcerated during their lifetime than white men and they are more likely to serve longer sentences than white men. Black men have lower levels of educational attainment. Only about 28 percent of Black men (aged 25–29) have a bachelor’s degree or higher, while about 30 percent of Black women, over 40 percent of white men, and nearly 50 percent of white women do. On average, Black men experience higher unemployment rates, lower labor force participation rates, and lower earnings than their white male counterparts. If things do not change soon our young Black grandsons will face a greater rate of imprisonment, a greater chance of being unemployed, a greater chance of being less educated, and a greater chance of being killed. As a mother and grandmother, I want to do my part in helping to improve these percentages for the better. It starts with educating each other and speaking up about systemic situations.
My normal conversation is about the well-being of women and girls, but Black Boys Matter. This is not just a saying on a t-shirt or a slogan on a bumper sticker, it is a consciousness that must be embraced and addressed. Our young Black boys and men are faced with overwhelming obstacles to survive and thrive in this country. How do we begin to chart a path and prepare a new road that will allow our male progeny to become all they are capable of being? We must embrace the concept of each one reach one and teach one. This is our village and it takes all of us to raise strong boys to become strong men. In order for our Black boys to be it, they must see it. We must provide young Black boys with access to Black male role models across several areas, including academics, the arts, business, and entrepreneurship. Black boys should be able to see and touch successful Black men. Let us continue to pray for our young Black boys and remember what Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” #BlackBoysMatterToo
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