Black ‘Men’ Lives Matter
Ways to Effect An Everlasting Positive Change in Your Life
I remember September 11, 2001 like it was yesterday. I was at my dormitory at Rutgers University- Livingston Campus, Quad 3 (for those who may be able to connect to the reference). I was in a basement room, on the top bunk. That is right – I was in a basement room with two other roommates. My day started off like usual. I awoke to prepare for class – that is, trying to find a clean pair of pajamas to walk to class in, turned on the television and BOOM!, the second plane had just hit the South Tower at the World Trade Center. My heart dropped and, immediately, a plethora of thoughts and questions fluttered into my mind. Is my family okay? What’s going on? Is this an accident? Why is this happening and who would do such a thing? Is my family ok? The way that we, America, came together as one was truly admirable. I vividly remember feeling proud of being an American and, outside of President Obama’s Presidential inauguration, had never felt so patriotic. There was a clear enemy, the Islamic terrorists in the Middle East, and we Americans stood in solidarity. The way WE came together, well, was nothing short of impressive. Though short-lived, I was proud to be an American. Having the juxtaposed, proud 9/11 experience of unity and living in America as a Black man is a difficult existence. As a Black man, do I truly have access to the American dream? The American utopian dream is all but a dystopian nightmare for many African American males. To live in a third world country is possibly safer and more lawful than living in many communities in America. We live with White terrorists among us and, unfortunately, live under the same Constitution that says, “…all men are created equal.” But, are we really? The undesirable and frightening future that we are faced with as a culture causes a lot of trepidations that are indescribable, to say the least. I engage in gripe sessions with other men of color that leads to the question, “Now what?”. The gaping hole of despondence forces us to sit and wallow in our sorrows. We are left with feelings of weakness and helplessness because we cannot protect our family members from this perceived fate.
I am tired of being in spaces where the next steps are inconclusive. Inconclusiveness does not mean there are no solutions, but rather problems are too vast that no one solution is going to eradicate the issue at hand – being killed due to living Black. Immunity- for the sake of survival- is out of the question. The disregard for the Black man’s life overrides education, socio-economic status, and age. This is my conclusion because I am a Black man with two advanced degrees, one of them being Ivy League, and I can’t seem to shake the fear of being gunned down. The fear is overwhelming when I reflect on my two Black sons becoming men and the possibility of them becoming a victim of police brutality for simply living as a Black man. I almost feel guilty for bringing them into this crazy, uncertain world because of what seems like an ensuing fate. The verdict is certain, if born male and Black, you are more likely to die at the hands of police brutality than you are from sickle cell- a disease that only affects Black people.
The latest example of this sad reality is now unfolding in the state of Georgia, where a Black jogger was chased and gunned down because of a suspicion of theft in the community. It is so easy to get behind a cause when it is not in your backyard, but it is happening almost daily in the tri-state area as well. Regionally, in New York, there are videos circulating of police officers enforcing CDC’s social distance mandate. These videos usually end with Black and Brown people either receiving citations and/or being detained in jail. In fact, I read that most people jailed during the Covid 19 were Black and Brown. Locally, on Tuesday in Jersey City, New Jersey – my hometown – there was brawl involving some youth, adults and police officers. In general, in all three scenarios, the Black man’s life is deemed worthless. We mask the assaults on Black males with: wrong place at the wrong time, person not following rules, disrespect for authority, and so on. But, at the end of the day, Black men (and boys) are being hunted and executed at an alarming rate and no one seems to care.
Every time there is a senseless murder by a white person, albeit a cop or another civilian, there is a huge feeling of loss amongst other Black and Brown men. The prevailing sentiment is ‘if it happened to another Black man, then it has the potential to happen to me’. Officials in Glen County Law Enforcement sat on Ahmaud Arbery’s files for 2 months without considering how his death affected his loved ones. Now he is in the liking of Trayvon Martin and countless others other Black men whose basic rights were violated because of the color of their skin. Let us be clear, Mr. Arbery was not shot because he was jogging; he was not shot because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time; he was shot because he was BLACK. Those gentlemen felt entitled to take the life of another man and even thought it to be a sport-hence the video- because hatred of the Black man is woven in the fabric of America. This is not a ‘woe is me’ outcry; this is an all too true reality for us brilliant Black men. Author Ta-Nehisi Coates states, “Race is the child of racism, not the father.” So, if that’s true and if race had a child, it could enforce dominion over the inferior race because the life of the inferior is meaningless. Having a superiority complex makes one feel they are better than the next person. It makes a person feel special. It sets them apart. However, what if – and I believe this to be true – we were truly “created equal,” Since this is true, we should know that our skin do not provide a ranking order but it’s our hearts that sets us apart. I say yes emphatically because your feelings and opinions of me does not cause me to devalue myself. Novelist James Baldwin states, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” I imagine some of the pains Mr. Baldwin speaks of: the pain that you are not innately born special because of your skin color, the pain that we are truly equal, the pain that we could share the same values, the pain that we can love one another intimately, the pain that we could truly want for our brothers and sisters what we want for ourselves, the pain of truly sharing an authentic human experience where diversity enhances the best of us, not diminishes. These ideas do not sound painful at all.
My intention is not to come off as an idealist because we live in a real world dealing with real hopelessness. When was the last time someone gave away his or her first-place trophy to the runner up? It never happens. But what does happen is the person who came in second places learns from their mistakes and works even harder to come into first place the next time. We must learn from the mistakes of our forefathers and not settle for less. We must speak out every time an injustice occurs. We must hold our elected officials accountable: make sure their political agenda has the existence (not the extermination) of Black men on it. Own your own businesses, houses, gold, land, etc. Train up our young people to become police officers and change the narrative of the neophytes on the streets. Lastly, occupy spaces that help to make decisions on the behalf of Black men.