While exploring my net news links, I spotted this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article titled “Invisible Men: Many young black males are in crisis,” and it included some disturbing statistics gathered from the National Urban League’s “The State of Black America: Portrait of the Black Male”:

African-American men are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white males, and black males who work in comparable jobs earn only 75 percent of what white men earn.

Half of black men in their 20s were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.

Black men are nearly seven times more likely to be incarcerated, with average jail sentences about 10 months longer than those of white men.

In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20s who did not go to college were in jail; a decade later, it’s grown to 21 percent.

Black males between 15 and 34 are nearly eight times as likely to suffer from AIDS as their white counterparts.

Black males ages 15-19 die from homicide at 46 times the rate of white males their age.

Black male achievement begins to decline as early as the fourth grade and by high school. Studies show, black male achievement begins to decline as early as the fourth grade and by high school, black males are more likely to drop out; in 2001, only 42.8 percent graduated from high school, compared to 70.8 percent for their white counterparts.

The article then brings up some root causes for the reasons African-American males fare worse than males in other ethnic groups, citing fatherlessness, a pervasive negative entertainment culture, racism, and multi-generational poverty in their family structures. Many of the AfroSpear initiatives and ideas involve rectifying and challenging the entertainment culture through direct petitioning to the media industry and through promotion of alternative forms of empowering entertainment, with efforts similar to the ones launched by these young women from Spelman leading the awareness and mobilization front. There are also ideas about bolstering the black community’s investment power, after disheartening reports about the systematic alternative redlining of African-Americans and Hispanics by the subprime loan industry and the economic pressures undermining and marginalizing the black-owned banking industry. Field Negro has already written an excellent piece about the impact of non-sexy racism — the kind without gaunt white faces and cone-shaped hoods — and how we need to focus our efforts on these institutional forms of racist disenfranchisement and impoverishment that kill our brothers and sisters. In the midst of these problems that directly affect the African-American community, the nationwide impact of a widening income gap between the rich and the poor and the health care crisis looms over our heads. (See Francis Holland’s initiatives for a health care position statement and his remarks in favor of prioritizing it highly among the entire African Diaspora.)

One key notion that I’ve noticed on the blogosphere and in other media is the idea of empowerment. We have to empower African-American males, endow them with the knowledge that not only are they capable of being powerful and productive human beings in whatever ways they can imagine, but also that we as a community care about them and are invested in their well-being and growth. On Eddie Griffin’s blog, he shares an article by Junichi Lockett, Jr. about this idea of empowerment that promises to be one part of many efforts to help young black males construct positive self-images and directions. The most poignant point Lockett makes in my opinion is the need for the community to turn inward and to consider our own inhibitions and limitations before reaching outward to our young brothers:

As fathers, mothers, teachers and mentors for these black boys we should have the confidence in our own ability to reach our highest potential. It is just as important for us to express to our young men our goals and aspirations and allow them to experience and be exposed to our journey to reach greatness or our “pursuit of happiness.” The first stage of life for our young black males is extremely educational, through what is seen and heard.

Think about it, if you are a dominant figure in a young brother’s life and what he receives from you is mainly complaints about your life, job, relationships and your should have, could have, and would haves, then the chances that he will connect his self-image to the possibility of success is lowered.

I highly encourage you all to subscribe to The Empowerment Vessel E-newsletter (e-mail junichi[at]successmovement[dot]org ) and to track this series as it develops. As I mentioned above, however, the journey does not stop with empowerment; we must continue to fight the system of oppression that creates these detrimental outlooks in African-American people and people of African descent worldwide. Malik at The Struggle Within is writing a spectacular series examining these external forces working to invalidate any independent empowerment efforts that we may channel with its regimented and highly contrived barriers. It’s titled “War” and there are currently four parts: one, two, three, and four. The goal is to work on all fronts and to figure out a way to implement a multi-tiered plan that restores and displays our individual and collective value.

So I guess I’m opening the floor to discussion. What specific or general actions can we all do to counter this effect on our people, particularly on our black American males? How do we separate the truth from the hype?