The events of this summer in Ferguson, Missouri, highlighted an ugly truth to mainstream Americans – that Black men in this country are viewed as so suspicious by law enforcement that they are shot first and questioned later. It is a reality that black men have been living with in the United States since the very beginning.
Today, Black American Men have the shortest life expectancy of any demographic in the US. In their interactions with law enforcement African Americans are three times more likely to have their person or vehicle be searched than Whites, more than three times more likely to be handcuffed, and almost three times more likely to be arrested. One in every 15 African American men is incarcerated compared to 1 in every 106 white men. Fully one third of all black men can expect to go to prison during their lifetime. In 2010, the national graduation rate for Black male students was only 52% compared to 78% for White males.
There are many more statistics, each as dismal as the other. So much so that President Obama recently launched a project called My Brother’s Keeper, aimed, “to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.” Why do we as a society refuse to embrace the humanity of black men? Why are black men constantly seen as “the other”? How does it affect their psyche, and by extension, all of us?
Today, as part of our on-going series Real People, Real Stories, we launch a new project called “I Am a Man,” exploring the lives, aspirations, and struggles of black men. The title of this project is based on the civil rights era declaration of humanity by striking sanitation workers in Memphis and at various other times in the US.
To explore the themes of this project Uprising host Sonali Kolhatkar reached out to men in her own circle of friends and colleagues, to explore the impact of their personal experiences.