Not too long ago, I wrote a column for this amazing website illustrating how we as men, especially Black men, need to be more accountable to ourselves and to the women in our life. While writing that column, I spoke about how my own immaturity, at times, was to blame for the lack of accountability in my relationships, especially the romantic ones, and how in growing and maturing, I, and other men as well, can be the best man for ourselves and for the women in our lives. I feel like the main problem as men, especially being a Black man, is the pressure that we are subjected to daily. Before you can be the best for yourself and, later down the road for a partner, you must be balanced, fair, equitable, and able to handle pressure.
For starters, lets think about a submarine. It’s not the sexiest of ships or even the most interesting thing about the ocean, but they are extremely useful and is always under a ton of pressure. How is a submarine able to navigate its way near the bottom of the ocean and not implode inwardly? It is because the pressure of the ocean and the internal pressure of the submarine are the same. Those pressures cannot be off by even the smallest amount or the submarine would be crushed. This is the way as Black men we need to be. We need to be just like submarines. Whatever that is external happening in the world should match what is happening internally to us. Black men need to have that pressure, which I view as passion and an internal drive, that wakes us up in the morning and fuels our fire. The world has lots of things that cause pressure and we must be able to not let those things dim our light.
The problem still exists though, and is the one of facing so much pressure as a Black man. It is ridiculous the number of things that we face internally and externally as denizens of this world. Just waking up everyday with a fire in your belly and an internal drive is just not enough. For instance, racism is a disease, Coronavirus notwithstanding, that still plagues this world just as much, if not more, than it did in previous times. Not that long ago, I was watching an NBA game and one of the sideline microphones caught a fan telling one of the players, “Go back to Africa!!!” This past season, in the English Premier League, fans were barred from watching certain teams in person because of the racist vitriol spewed and practiced during games. This doesn’t even delve deeply into the subject of police brutality. It has been too many of our beautiful Black brothers and sisters who have been senselessly gunned down by callous and indifferent cops. Racism still permeates our landscape and inhibits so much that we as Black men can do. These attitudes stop certain people in charge from hiring you, which of course leads to you not being able to provide and we all know the pressure that comes from that. A problem such as police brutality, can lead to fatal consequences, which then can fracture an entire family.
While racism is a pressure that is more external to the rest of the world, there is plenty of internal pressure in our own community, because America is a capitalist society, that means we have free-market principles. These principles are wonderful in theory, but their execution has led to many Black men being disenfranchised and misrepresented. Black men make sixty-five cents to every dollar White men earn on average. This income discrepancy, coupled with the fact that taxes take anywhere from 15-20% of that sixty-five cents leads many Black men to earn only fifty cents out of every dollar of income. So that means, a yearly salary of $50,000 gross income that a White man could earn will net that same Black man $25,000.
Now, of course these numbers aren’t definite, but it paints a picture of how much money Black men are losing in a year for doing the same work. Where does this discrepancy rear its ugly head? In our own community. If you are only taking home $25,000 a year, you have no money left after paying for rent, utilities, car notes, etc. That doesn’t even consider having kids and/or a wife that must be cared for and have provisions. Since kids and/or a spouse come first, expenses must be shaved somewhere, and rent is the one expense that gets cuts first. I grew up in Section 8 Housing, so, I experienced this first and foremost. Once again, this leads to another problem.
What do you do, as a Black man, when you want to rise to a higher level, economically and socially? The easier solution would be higher education, but the price of college and trade schools have risen dramatically and leaves you with a mountain of debt once finished. A second solution would be to get a better job, but lots of jobs want someone with experience already. Unemployment, before the Coronavirus pandemic, was around 10% for all Black people, but, around 15% for Black men. The national average for unemployment before was around 8%, for Black men, which is almost double, though in a much smaller sample size.
So, how does a Black man provide? In some cases, it is illegal, as evidenced by the prison population being filled with almost 70% of Black men. A huge number of Black men are in prison for drug-related crimes, whether it was hard drugs, cocaine, heroin, prescription pills, etc. which in many instances were sold to provide for their families. There are a good number of Black men in prison for using those same drugs because the pressures of life have overwhelmed them, and they turned to drugs for an escape. It doesn’t help either that the opportunities for wealth in our community occur because other races and nationalities have businesses that help fund their community and deplete ours.
All these reasons are why there are extraordinary pressures on Black men, does not mean that Black men cannot overcome any of them. Pressure can either burst pipes or form a diamond. For most Black men, our lives have had many metaphorical pipes burst and it has dramatically and drastically hurt our lives and our ability to provide for our loved ones and ourselves. In order to create a life that “shines like a diamond,” we must hold each other accountable and make sure we are supporting each other. As friends and brothers, we must ensure that we are making the right decisions and utilizing the economic and financial resources we possess to the utmost. No situation is hopeless and Black men must make stronger bonds and unions to ensure a stable future for our race.
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