Much literature exists to demonstrate the challenges of being Black and male in America. Yet literature discussing how to be supportive of Black men is comparatively non-existent. This essay will attempt to briefly address this topic and in so doing, fill that void. I think this is a relevant topic based on countless conversations I’ve had with brothers over the years. I must confess that I write this from a vantage point colored by my own experiences and viewpoints. This is important to note, as Black men are diverse with respect to class, sexual identity, education level, religious/political perspective, and any number of other distinctions. I cannot presume to speak for all Black men ( though my views on this matter are shared by many I’ve spoken to), so allow me to define my parameters: For the purpose of this essay when I refer to Black men I mean sociopolitically conscious, heterosexual, Black men born in America. This essay does not argue that life is easy or easier for Black women. Nor do I want to spark any heated and wasteful competitive “Olympics of oppression ” between us. I am simply dealing with the pressures we face, and some suggestions for how our sisters can be supportive of us. What unique problems do Black men face in America? There is simply not enough time or space to paint this gigantic complex mural, so permit me to draw a basic sketch: 1. Homicide is the #1 cause of death for black men between 15 and 29 years of age and has been for decades. 2. Of the 16,000 homicides in this country each year, more than half are committed by black men. A black man is 7 times more likely to commit a murder than a white man and 6 times more likely to be murdered. 3. 94% of all black men who are murdered are murdered by other black men. 4. The life expectancy at birth of black men is 69 years compared to 75 years for white men. 5. In the past several decades, the suicide rate among young black men has increased more than 100%. 6. Black males have national high school dropout rates of more than 50%. 7. Young black men are twice as likely to be unemployed as white men, hispanic men, and asian men. 8. As many as 1 in 4 young black men are, have been or will be in the criminal justice system. 9. About 1/3 of the homeless are black men. 10. As much as 20% of Black men suffer from major depression and other mental health issues, and nearly 54% of these go untreated. In addition, there is a consensus among many Black men that they feel pressured to be the major breadwinner, are expected to be strong for others but deal with their own pain silently, and that no one takes their opinion or viewpoints seriously, even on issues where they have expertise or are highly accomplished! Court-sanctioned child support orders, often unfairly calculated, leave many Black men broke, underemployed, and isolated from their children. In short, many of our brothers are highly STRESSED, PRESSURED, ISOLATED, BROKE, NOT LISTENED TO, AND MISUNDERSTOOD by those they love. These conditions lead to disproportionate instances of hypertension, stroke, heart attacks, incarceration, mental disorders, drug abuse, and homicide/suicide. I would not be dumb enough to blame these conditions on Black women, who for the most part, continue to be our largest and most reliable source of support. However, precisely for this reason, I want to share a few suggestions with our sisters so that they can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem when dealing with their men. If you already employ these things, great. But I humbly suggest that you read on to incorporate those things you find useful.This is not about finger-pointing or blame games. This is about having the tools and strategies to be there for the Black men in your life so that they are empowered to be there for you. 1. Admit when you are wrong without justifying your behavior or playing the tit for tat game. 2. Encourage the brother to share his feelings with you BEFORE a crisis occurs.
April Yvette Thompson is a Tony-winning producer, actor, writer, thinker, dreamer in search of beauty, truth, love & flights of serendipitous grace.