Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hard out here

I think that a person can read and see metaphors in all around them. I will try to take this to the next step. There is a song that many folks either like or dislike. Its main lyrics go “It’s hard out hear for a pimp.” Taking this a step further, let us for argument sake equate the word pimp to folk, man, brother or homey and see what we get.

A recent story in the
March 26, 2006 issue of the New York Times started with this paragraph:

“Black men in the United States face a far more dire situation than is portrayed by common employment and education statistics, a flurry of new scholarly studies warn, and it has worsened in recent years even as an economic boom and a welfare overhaul have brought gains to black women and other groups.”

The truth is that we do not finish high school as frequently as others, we die of cardiovascular disease and other chronic ailments than others and we traditionally make way less than others, with the exception of the local neighborhood pharmaceutical representative, hip-hop musicians, or the assorted professional athlete.

Why is this case? It is difficult to believe but these occurrences have been consistent over the years since the days of slavery. We have always had health related problems as well as have always been the target of social darwinism that would – in many instances- suggest that our intellect was less than other races. Even to the extent that laws were made to assist in maintaining intellectual and political hegemony over black men.

In 1646 for example, the colony of Virginia passed “The House of Burgess’ Statue (Law)”. This law defined men of African descent as an object of personal property. This was used by the so-called father of” of American psychiatry 1797, Dr. Benjamin Rush to suggest that “the color of blacks was cause by a rare disease called “Negritude”. This basically suggested that disease/skin color could be used as a reason for segregation
Today, this has manifested into a new for of legal segregation and tyranny that specifically targets Black men. We can see this in differences in police arrest practices and differentials in extreme poverty largely cause the race inequalities in incarceration rates. Of the 265,100 state prison inmates serving time for drug offenses in 2002, 126,000 (47.53%) were black, and 64,500 (24.33%) were white. Such a disparity equal that which we see in health and shows how devastating politically inspired incarceration policies (3 strike laws for example) are harmful to African Americans – especially us men. Then it is estimated that of the 2.1 million offenders incarcerated as of June 30, 2004, approximately 576,600 were Africa American between ages 20 and 39 compared about 1.7% of white males.

In theory, there is supposed to be justice and equal protection of the law to all. But we see that race unfortunately is still employed to criminalize that which main stream America fears and sees as a danger. Couple this with the joblessness, poverty, and high drop out rates; we will continue to see America’s true level of appreciation for men of African descent, which is none. So ladies, the next time you take that “waiting to exhale” perspective on life and say that there are no good men around, just remember the facts note that no one, other than the men, and maybe you, perceive that reality because we don’t believe it ourselves and propagate the continued political hegemony that reduces black men as objects that need to be dealt with as opposed to being accepted for who they are. For it is truly hard out here for a brother, homey and/or black man, “trying to get this money for the rent.”


Poetic Blue said...

Interesting, even though the topic is a bit of a dead horse around here.

eva_jawn said...

I'll make my feelings known about this - cops are crooked. No doubt that is part of the problem. But do you suppose it just may be that there are many more blacks incarcerated because many more blacks COMMIT CRIMES than whites?

:her soledad: said...

I think people taking responsibility for their actions is primary; this is my opinion as a prisoners daughter.

I also think that because we [black folks] have been failed so miserably in the past by social constructs and the educational system we are going to have a more difficult time fitting into the framework that is considered appropriate and mainstream; this is my opinion as the wife and mother of a black men/boys.

But if we encourage more and diminish less, it can all be done.

somemeofbeauty said...

I definitely see and acknowledge the position and plight of the black man in this society. I work with inner city youth ages 16-24 and its shocking how many of the men have to miss school to answer a criminal summons for loitering, riding scooters, being in the park after dark..random "offenses" that will easily turn into a warrant if ignored for more than 30 days. So I see how our men are being tracked into the criminal justice system and that they are infact targeted and harassed by law enforcement. I do not for a minute believe that blacks commit more crimes than whites.

However as I contemplate tattooing "Waiting to Exhale" on my forehead this realization is of no comfort. My problem with black men and men in general is the misogyny, the carelessness, the sense of entitlement expressed towards black women. When I think of the realities of being a black man in america it makes me want to embrace, nurture, and comfort them. It makes me want to offer everything I have so that I can be that soft safe space for him to turn. But I know through my own realties and that of those around me that that attitude towards the black man will leave me drained and exploited. It seems that there was a time when black men knew and valued black women as their most trusted supporter. They saw us as their partner rather than their opponent or some sort of recreational activity. I feel that time is almost gone.

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