I want to preface this article by telling you that I believe that every man’s life is significant regardless of his ethnic background. I am sharing my personal view as a Black male and do not claim to be a representative for all Black males. I provide this disclaimer up-front because I want this article to be read with a non-judgmental and empathic heart. I encourage individuals to seek to understand the Black male’s mind-set and plight before providing commentary or passing judgment.
In light of the recent George Zimmerman “Not Guilty” verdict, millions of Black males who look like Trayvon Martin are questioning their significance.
Throughout history Black males have lived with the disturbing assumption that our lives are insignificant and dispensable. Why? To help you better understand this mind-set, I would like you to join me as I take a historical review of the Black male’s plight in America.
Over the course of my educational journey, I have read countless stories about violence against Black males, but the seven stories that deeply shaped my mind-set about the meaning of my life as a Black male are listed below.
1. Nat Turner was lynched in Jerusalem, Virginia in 1831.
2. Lint Shaw was lynched in Royston, Georgia in 1936.
3. Emmitt Till was murdered on August 28, 1955 for whistling at a white woman.
4. Medgar Wiley Evers was murdered in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963.
5. James Meredith was shot in Mississippi in 1966.
6. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
7. Sean Bell was murdered in New York in 2006.
Learning about the suffering of other Black males helped me understand my pain and mind-set. The manner in which I currently view the importance of my life and that of other Black males has been passed down from generation to generation. Thoughts of being insignificant are so deeply-rooted in our minds that it invades the very fabric of our souls.
As I reflect on my personal experience of growing up in urban America, I am disheartened by the fact that violence has and continues to be a constant factor in how most Black males experience life.
Here are seven experiences that caused me to question the meaning of my life.
1. At age seven. I was shot in the arm by mother’s ex-boyfriend while riding in a car.
2. At age ten. I saw a local drug dealer gunned down.
3. At age nineteen. I was robbed at gun point in broad daylight after visiting the library in downtown.
4. At age twenty-one. I attended my seventeen-year-old nephew’s funeral after he was gunned down while walking home from the store. No arrest was made.
5. At age twenty-two. I received a phone call informing me that one of my close friends was murdered during an attempted robbery.
6. At age twenty-three. I attended my thirty-four-year-old cousin’s funeral.
7. At age twenty-four. I received a phone call informing me that another close friend was shot during an attempted robbery.
The violence that I experienced and witnessed as I entered into manhood was the by-product of the suffering endured by Black males throughout history. Unfortunately, experiencing violence is a tragedy that continues to plague Black males and causes many of us to question the significance of our existence.
When asked “How Does a Black Male Determine if His Life is Meaningful?” I remind people that all individuals have a basic need to feel safe and secure. Black males, like others feel that their lives are meaningful when they are protected from violence and receive justice when victimized.
As we all strive to cope with historical and current injustices, we must not forget to address the psychological challenges experienced by Black males. We must provide resources to help them define and give meaning to their lives. To live life without an identity is as harsh as living life without a soul. Knowledge of self and why we exist provides a road map for living our lives and helps shape our souls.
Like many others who have died due to violence and experienced injustice, Trayvon Martin has become the identity of Black males and touched the soul of the Black community. We identify with his plight, pray for his family and will take action to ensure that all Black males are protected from violence. The safety and security needs of our youth must not go unmet.
If you or someone you know is struggling to understand the meaning of a Black male’s significance, please secure a copy of my book “A Black Man’s Worth: Conqueror and Head of Household“.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.