African American families usually don’t talk about the deaths of their sons and husbands for there exists a long and painful history and African American mothers and wives, while deeply concerned, try not to focus on the truth of their sons and husbands short lives.
My family has not seen my brother in almost 10 years. I certainly haven’t. I don’t think about it much and my mother simply says that perhaps he will contact us when he is ready. There appears to be an older Caucasian woman who knows how to reach him, and we simply accept that fact, though my mother hasn’t spoken to him.
My brother, a former ADA in Brooklyn, New York, has simply disappeared off the face of the earth and we say nothing. What are we afraid of? Could he be in prison or dead?
I’ve asked my mother many times to hire a private investigator to find out where my brother is, what he is doing, etc … she retreats to her faith in Jesus Christ and leaves it up to him. I think this is insane, but I’m not looking for him either. I did years ago, but presently, I’m simply left to speculation.
The short lives of Black males are a reality for many families. I’m not sure how we deal with it; but we seem to exist in a state of denial.
We often trace this reality back to slavery and the enormous stress that most Black males lived under and still do live under. Many Black males have even accepted the fact that they may not see old age, some that they may not even see the age of 20.
Why are we not hearing more of an outcry surrounding these blatant truths? Why are we not focused on addressing this human tragedy?
June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson died at the age of 50. All we seem focused on is his troubled past, the bizarre nature of his death and his music legacy. This is the perfect opportunity to look at the causes surrounding the short life span of Black males, and how those short lives impact our neighborhoods, our families, our young people [especially young Black males] and the way we conduct our lives. This is the perfect time to have that discussion that we as a family and Nation have been avoiding.
Yesterday Ex-NFL QB Steve McNair was slain in his downtown condominium. Another Black male struck down in his prime. Where is the anguish? Where is the discussion we yearn for [concerning the short lives of Black males]? Have we just acquiesced and surrendered to the fact that Black males will not live out a full and meaningful life?
We know many Black males drop out of school, end up unemployed, end up in poverty, end up in prison, end up in gangs, end up in poor health, are gunned down by police, … and the list goes on and on.
Do we simply chalk these things up to/ and the Black males' short life span up to risky and irresponsible behavior or racism, etc. without any discussion and quickly move on? If this is true, then I am deeply troubled for our families, for this Nation, … and yes, for our beautiful Black males.
It is my belief that, because of discrimination, Black males react to stress differently than White males; thereby causing the Black male to act out in a destructive way, rather than deal with their stress in a more rational, positive way. I can't even imagine the kind of stress that Michael Jackson had to deal with; and I’m sure McNair lived a very stressful life and was subject to the kinds of discrimination that my brother was subjected to.
According to Susan Brink [Black men’s shorter life span may be attributable in part to the stresses of their position in society]
“For a black man, a stress response to discrimination can be triggered by something as subjective as feeling suspicious eyes on him in a department store. “That can be annoying,” says Michael Johnson, 38, of Inglewood. “You know you’ve got money in your pocket to pay, and somebody is following you around. We’ve all felt that. But you get so used to it, you’re numb to it.”
In one of the first studies to examine the effect of discrimination on lifestyle behaviors, researchers looked at 3,300 adults, black and white, from a range of income groups, ages 18 to 30, and followed them for 15 years. The study, published in the Aug. 13 American Journal of Epidemiology Advanced Access, found that 38% of whites reported feeling discriminated against in housing, education or work, while 89% of blacks reported such feelings of discrimination.
Regardless of income or race, all who felt discrimination were more likely to have unhealthy behaviors, including smoking, drinking and use of marijuana. “When people feel they’re treated unfairly,” says Dr. Luisa Borrell, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and author of the study, “they’re going to find a way to cope with that unfair treatment.”
Stress of racism, people feel and respond to discrimination in similar ways, though the experience of discrimination is more common to blacks. Among blacks, it’s more commonly felt among men, the researchers found.”
Susan Brink goes on to say:
“The shorter life expectancy of black men has been an inflexible truth since slavery. The gap has slowly narrowed throughout the last century, and the most recent improvement is attributed to lower accident and homicide rates, along with life-sustaining treatments for AIDS, all of which afflict a greater proportion of black men.
Still, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and most cancers strike black men sooner, and cut them down more often, than white men. And the higher incidence of disease among black men is set against a backdrop of an increased incidence of poverty, which carries with it a multitude of health problems.
Violence, including accidents and homicide, lays its claim on black men early. Homicide is the leading cause of death for black men ages 15 to 34, followed by unintentional injuries. (For white men those ages, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death, followed by suicide.) In every decade that follows, for every leading cause of death, the rates of disease for black men are disproportionately high. Once they become sick, they are more likely to suffer worse consequences and die sooner of the disease.
It adds up to an average life span for black men that is 6.2 years less than for white men, and 8.3 less than the national average, 77.8 years, for all races and both genders.”