In July 2013, I found myself uncharacteristically tongue-tied. Person after person asked for my reaction to the verdict in George Zimmerman’s trial. Over and over, I avoided answering. My challenge wasn’t a lack of thoughts; they just didn’t fit into the narrow space in which we are allowed to consider the stretched lives of black men in America. I suspect a great many of us feel this way. We think about Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis or Oscar Grant–or, if we’re black, likely someone in our family who died early and needlessly–and we are paralyzed by the immense odds those men faced in the first place. We know that their deaths cannot truly be understood without first examining the context of their lives. Throughout 2014, Colorlines is examining that context.
Each month, from May to November, we are publishing a package of content focused on a life stage or event that for black men in the United States is uniquely confined by broad, societal inequities. We certainly won’t cover the breadth of the black male experience; we won’t even exhaust the range of inequities that impact our lives. Rather, we’ve focused our efforts primarily on places where existing data shows a profound relationship between poor outcomes and being a black man. We hope simply to join a broader dialogue about these inequities, and help inform a public conversation about solutions.
You can find all of the content below, including each month’s short documentary, directed by award winning filmmaker André Robert Lee. If you find one compelling, please share it widely, and join the discussion about the series online with #LivesOfBlackMen.
–Kai Wright, series editor
CHAPTER 7: LIFE & DEATH
When measured by the blunt calculus of mortality, being black in the U.S. is a killer.
CHAPTER 6: FATHERHOOD
The constant refrain about a crisis of black fatherhood obscures out a far more complex reality in black families.
Intimate portraits of black dads and their kids refocus the distorting lens of mainstream media.
CHAPTER 5: ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
Let’s get specific about what the Obama administration can do in the next two years to fix generations worth of divestment in black men.
CHAPTER 4: CREATING CULTURE
A conversation with the pioneering artists who first sold mix tapes on the streets of New York City.
Pop culture has spent decades mining the house ballroom scene for inspiration–without recognition, or pay.
CHAPTER 3: CRIME & JUSTICE
Young, black men in Chicago are far more likely to be touched by violent crime than any other group. But they’re not innocent enough to get help.
Highlights from a Colorlines community dialogue on the linger impact of violence in black neighborhoods.
CHAPTER 2: FINDING WORK
It’s not just criminal records. The job market for recent high school graduates is shaped profoundly by race and gender.
Young men in Newark train for auto technician jobs–the kind of high-wage work that is often segregated by race.
Highlights from a Colorlines community dialogue on inequity in the labor market for high school graduates.
CHAPTER 1: HIGH SCHOOL
A nascent program in Oakland tries to disentangle the threads that pull black boys out of classrooms and into jail.
An illustration of the dangerous intersection at which too many black children are diverted from school to jail.