Where are the Black men?

Soooo. . .where dey at doe?

Where are the Black men? Some point to interracial dating, while others may say, "As long as you love yourself and have enough self-respect, you will eventually find your husband."

First, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are nearly 3 million more Black women than Black men in the United States. Let's do the math - if every Black man in America married a Black woman today, 1 out of 12 Black women still wouldn't make it down the aisle. So what exactly is happening here? Although this appears to be one of our generation's most persistent questions, we simultaneously know and do not know the answer to this question. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander hopes to shed light on the topic.

There has been much research focused on society's will to turn a blind eye towards racial oppression taking place both now and in the past. In noted criminologist Stanley Cohen's book States of Denial, the researcher examines how one can concurrently understand yet oppression - even when it is occurring right in front of us. Mass incarceration, functioning as a caste system within our country's legal framework, is largely ignored as a cause of the disappearance of Black men. It is odd that while we both know and do not know the effect mass incarceration has had on our communities, we still tend to ignore it. 

If facts aren't enough, then here's a little bit of real word perspective: the real issue is race. Seventy-five percent of all people imprisoned for drug offenses have been Black or Latino; In some states, up to ninety percent. Yet we still still hear cries of a post-racial society. The War on Drugs has single-handedly contributed to drugs arrests tripling in number since 1980, and the majority of these individuals arrested have no history of violent crime. The number of people arrested for drug offenses as you read this today is more than the number of people jailed for any reason in 1980. 

The War on Drugs is not necessarily focused on lethal drugs either; the majority of drug arrests in 1980 were on account of marijuana possession (even though science has proven marijuana to be less harmful than alcohol). Knowing these facts, one must understand how the sharp increase in drug-related arrests coincides with the disappearance of Black men. The legal system disproportionately targets Black men and sentences Black men for minor offenses at a much higher rate than it does white men. We have witnessed a prisoner boom that has resulted in more than 7 million Americans behind bars or on probation - with a large number of the 7 million being people of color.

Black Americans have been implicated as the main targets of the War on Drugs through literature, media, stereotypes and suspicions, even though Black men are not significantly more likely to sell or use drugs than white men. We both know this and don't know this. So where have all the Black men gone? Look no further than America's prisons and jails. 

Contributed by Phil Lewis

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