(ThyBlackMan.com) “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” (Frederick Douglass, 1817-1895)
A life of fear
This article is written from the perspective of an African American male based upon research, less this writer be saddled with the title most often attributed to those of us that attack the problem; and become part of the problem; being labeled by detractors: “Angry Black Male.”
Life for black men in America can be drastically different than for that of our white peers. Perhaps the most pervasive difference is the fear for our safety that men of color feel in their own country—due to its unjust criminal justice system. A routine traffic stop is not just a routine traffic stop—for black men in the USA, any interaction with police can literally become a matter of life or death.
If you watch the news programs, you’ll see countless instances of unarmed black men being mistreated or even killed by police officers. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. The list goes on and on. Killings of unarmed black men by white police officers across the nation have garnered massive media attention in recent years, raising the question: Do white law enforcement officer’s cherry-pick Black suspects?
And those are only the stories that the mainstream media picks up on and disseminates via various print and electronic outlets. Every day, in communities across Urban America, black men fear for their lives in a way that their white peers simply do not. A subsequent visceral fear and mistrust of the police are natural reactions to the horrific treatment of black men in America—especially among young Black men.
America’s history of slavery is but one example of the country’s deep-rooted lack of respect for black lives. America’s unfair treatment of black men, by an increasingly militarized police force, is yet another symptom of this systemic issue.
And this disparity goes far beyond the personal, lived experience of countless black men in America. The data is staggering. The military-industrial complex endangers the dignity and safety of black men throughout the USA.
OpenInvests.com notes, “People of color account for 37% of the US population, yet they represent 67% of the prison population. Black men are nearly six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men.” These numbers are terrifying, and demonstrate just how deep the problem runs.
A 2018 Washington Post article entitled There’s overwhelming evidence that the criminal-justice system is racist. Here’s the proof by Radley Balko gathered and summarized an extensive list of the actual, conclusive evidence of this issue in modern America. These facts and figures, showing the racism of the American criminal justice system, are indisputable.
Balko explains, “Frank R. Baumgartner, Derek A. Epp and Kelsey Shoub reviewed 20 million traffic stops. … they found: ‘Blacks are almost twice as likely to be pulled over as whites — even though whites drive more on average,’ ‘blacks are more likely to be searched following a stop,’ and ‘just by getting in a car, a black driver has about twice the odds of being pulled over, and about four times the odds of being searched.’ They found that blacks were more likely to be searched despite the fact they’re less likely to be found with contraband as a result of those searches.’”
The issue—clearly—falls with the criminal justice system as a whole, and not with the behavior of black men in America. The rates of criminal activity by black men have been found time and time again to be the same, or less, than their white counterparts—the difference lies, instead, with how often that activity is policed. White Americans are no less likely to commit crimes, but they are far less likely to get caught for doing so. The racial profiling of black men, especially young men, is rampant.
Balko also cites how, in New York City, a “2014 telephone study of urban men found that ‘participants who reported more police contact also reported more trauma and anxiety symptoms, associations tied to how many stops they reported, the intrusiveness of the encounters, and their perceptions of police fairness,’ and that ‘overall, the burden of police contact in each of these cities falls predominantly on young Black and Latino males.’”
That phrase summarizes it perfectly: the burden of police contact. It’s the weight that black men in America shoulder, which their white counterpoints simply do not. These are the radically different anxieties that black men experience across the USA—fear for their lives, fear for their safety, and fear for their basic dignity.
The Post articles continues: “While black youths make up 14 percent of the youth population, a 2018 study found that they make up 53 percent of minors transferred to adult court for offenses against persons, despite the fact that white and black youth make up nearly an equal percentage of youth charged with such offenses.” Clearly, young men in particular shoulder this unfair burden.
The Post also cites that, “According to a 2018 study by Pew, 1 in 23 black adults in the United States is on parole or probation, versus 1 in 81 white adults.” This mistreatment is not subtle.
As if that weren’t enough, Balko summarizes that, “According to a 2016 study by the Sentencing Project, mass incarceration combined with felon disenfranchisement laws have led to severe underrepresentation of black Americans in the voting electorate. … ‘One in 13 African Americans of voting age is disenfranchised, a rate more than four times greater than that of non-African Americans.’”
So, not only are people of color stopped, arrested, and mistreated more often, but that racism translates into their exclusion from American politics. These injustices ripple into every facet of life in the USA.
Obviously, activist groups like Black Lives Matter and From Boys to Men Network don’t exist in a vacuum. Their formation is a direct reaction to the clear disregard that the American criminal justice system has for black lives; specifically, young black males, more than anyone feel that pressure. Activists everywhere; Blacks as well as those whites that sympathize with the challenge, are standing up and saying: This is not okay, this is not normal, and we will not allow it to continue unchallenged. America we are better than this as a progressive, God fearing nation. Let’s change for the better for our children’s sake! My Christian values are summed up in this passage of scripture; as I offer up to you, the reader, with hope for tomorrow:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)
Staff Writer; Stanley G. Buford