African-American Men: An Endangered Species

SSM35“We need to spend time bolstering black boys/giving them a sense that their country cares about them and is willing to invest in them.” – President Obama

Why am I not given the benefit of the doubt? Why did I get pulled over for no reason? Why am I being followed in this department store? Those are just a few of the questions I have asked myself as it relates to being an African-American male here in America. What is going on with African-American men in this country is a travesty that goes beyond judicial inequality. The fatherless home epidemic, HIV/AIDS issues, mass incarceration, and killings have all contributed to making the African-American male an endangered species.  

During the horrid days of slavery African-American men were often separated from their families, but in today’s African-American community too African-American males are walking away from their responsibilities as fathers. America is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to fatherless households but the numbers in the African-American community are astonishing. According to government statistics, a whopping 72% of African-American children are born to unmarried mothers.

Dr. Natalie Carroll, an obstetrician who has dedicated her 40-year career to helping black women, feels that this is unfortunate. “The girls don’t think they have to get married. I tell them children deserve a mama and a daddy. They really do. A mama can’t give it all. And neither can a daddy, not by themselves,” Dr. Carroll says. “Part of the reason is because you can only give that which you have. A mother cannot give all that a an can give. A truly involved father figure offers more fullness to a child’s life.” (http://www.theroot.com/buzz/72-percent-african-american-children-born-unwed-mothers)

 According to Children-our investment.org, homes without fathers ultimately affect children in numerous tragic ways:

     * 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes

    * 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes

    * 85 percent of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes

    * 80 percent of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes

    * 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes

    * 75 percent of all adolescent patients in chemical-abuse centers come from fatherless homes

    * 85 percent of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is destroying the African-American male population. According to the CDC among MSM (men who have sex with men), black/African American MSM—especially young black/African American MSM—are at highest risk of HIV. In 2010, black/African American MSM accounted for almost as many new HIV infections as white MSM, despite their differences in population size. In 2010, black men accounted for 70% (14,700) of the estimated 20,900 new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent blacks. The estimated rate of new HIV infection for black men (103.6/100,000 population) was seven times as high as that of white men, twice as high as that of Latino men, and nearly three times as high as among black women.

For black men, the rate of imprisonment decreased by 9.8 percent from 2000 to 2009; in 2000 they were incarcerated at 7.7 times the rate of white men, a rate that fell to 6.4 times that of white men by 2009. Despite those statistics African-American men are still more likely to get convicted of crimes than their white counterparts. According to The Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men will serve time in prison over their lifetimes.

“Prison has become the new poverty trap,” Bruce Western, a Harvard sociologist, told the New York Times. “It has become a routine event for poor African-American men and their families, creating an enduring disadvantage at the very bottom of American society.”

Below we outline the top 10 facts pertaining to the criminal-justice system’s impact on communities of color (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2012/03/13/11351/the-top-10-most-startling-facts-about-people-of-color-and-criminal-justice-in-the-united-states/):

 – While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned.

– Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated.

– According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates.

– African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison.

– African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American.

– African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.

– The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more like to be sentenced to prison.

– Voter laws that prohibit people with felony convictions to vote disproportionately impact men of color.

– Studies have shown that people of color face disparities in wage trajectory following release from prison.

If you are an African-American male and you survive being raised in a fatherless home, do not contract HIV/AIDS, or get arrested, there is still a chance you will be killed by another African-American male. Although the U.S. murder rate has been dropping for years, an analysis of homicide data by The Wall Street Journal found that the number of black male victims increased more than 10%, to 5,942 in 2010 from 5,307 in 2000. Overall, more than half the nation’s homicide victims are African-American, though blacks make up only 13% of the population. Of those black murder victims, 85% were men, mostly young men (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304830704577496501048197464.html).

There is an intense debate within the African-American community on how to save our men. Some have argued about “the system”, others about the crumbling schools and lack of jobs, but if African-American men are to be saved, it has to start with us. 72% of African-American children are born to unwed mothers. In 2010, black men accounted for 70% (14,700) of the estimated 20,900 new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent blacks. According to The Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men will serve time in prison over their lifetimes. Overall, more than half the nation’s homicide victims are African-American, though blacks make up only 13% of the population. Of those black murder victims, 85% were men, mostly young men.

We are the only ones who can remove ourselves from the endangered species list.

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