By RAINA J. JOHNSON
1.5 million Black men are missing from daily life. We need to come at this as a public health crisis. Because it is an epidemic.
“They are missing, largely because of early deaths or because they are behind bars. Remarkably, Black women who are 25 to 54 and not in jail outnumber Black men in that category by 1.5 million, according to an Upshot analysis. For every 100 Black women in this age group living outside of jail, there are only 83 Black men,” the New York Times reported.
This number to me is staggering. Living in Milwaukee, being a single Black woman, I feel and see this void of Black men—I live it. And I’m not the only one.
There are so many places where Black men can be but they just aren’t there.
A few weeks ago, there was a tragic incident in Milwaukee that claimed the lives of 2 Black men, and 2 Black children. It made my heart sink. I couldn’t believe that one incident has made us lose four Black Kings. Four. Let that sink in for a moment.
It just breaks my heart and blows my mind. And I’m not even counting the number of Black men that are dying by gun fire in our streets or due to state-sanctioned violence, daily. The article showed Milwaukee, a population with at least 10,000 Black residents, the percent of Black men is at 42.2% but our city is “missing” 14,000 Black men. FOURTEEN THOUSAND.
I don’t have an easy answer because we don’t have an easy problem on our hands. However, we need to address the multiple reasons why Black men are “missing” from daily life.
As the article pointed out, the disparities and social ills that Black men face are deep and wide ranging. Incarceration, early death, high rates of mortality, military deployment, gender gaps, and H.I.V. related deaths – all have a major role in why Black men are missing.
So what happens when Black men are missing? Black women, who are outpacing other ethnic groups in pursuing higher education, usually carry the load of the responsibilities in child rearing, there are lower rates of marriage, Black children aren’t seeing Black teachers in their classrooms, more children are born out of wedlock, and Black kids don’t see an African-American male as a physician or a dentist.
I found it interesting that the article did show a glimmer of hope: “There are roughly as many African American boys as girls. But imbalance begins to appear among teenagers, continues to widen through the 20s and peaks in the 30s. It persists through adulthood.”
In that statement, I see hope in our children.We all have a responsibility to teach our children that they matter, that they are valued. Click To Tweet
We all have a responsibility to teach our children that they matter, that they are valued. This is something, I teach my son, and I have brought others into his life to show him the same thing.
I believe, especially in the African American community, if we want to lessen the numbers of Black men missing from daily life, we need to have serious plans and laws in place to lessen the social ills that many—too many—Black men face. Let’s create a system where Black women are cheerleaders for the value of Black men and we all foster a system of respect for them, not just love. We need to work on a serious solution to the disproportionate number of Black men incarcerated for marijuana possession, and a way to not criminalize men in poverty. Let’s stop locking men up for failure to pay child support. Let’s ensure they have access to family-supporting jobs and health care to treat mental illness. The list can go on and on, but the point is this: we must to do better, as a community, as a nation.
Raina J. Johnson is the mother of a 5-year-old son, and when she’s not chasing him on the soccer field, she’s a writer and self-described coffee aficionado. She blogs at MetroParentsMagazine.com; connect with her on Twitter at @RainaWrites and on Facebook.
Photo credit: Vox Fx for Flickr Creative Commons