I was excited to see the movie Selma when it came out. Popcorn in hand, I sat down and anxiously waited for the endless previews to conclude. The movie was brilliant. I was moved by the meticulous attention to detail and the powerful narratives of suffering and triumph. As I continued to watch, however, I became disturbed. Many of the themes and challenges portrayed in the movie were identical to those we wrestle with today.
In the days since Dylan Roof’s terror attack on black parishioners at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, a renewed energy and focus of activism has arisen around the battle flag of the Confederacy; the origins of the current advocacy, I’m unclear of. Cries to remove the flag from the South Carolina state house have come from the most unlikely of allies, including Mitt Romney. Other states are seeing a similar movement, like Maryland, where even Larry Hogan came out against the use of the Confederate Flag on state license plates. Frankly, this is all quite sad and a clear statement of the powerlessness of black folks in America: nine lives in exchange for a flag?
A friend recently told me that she’s hesitant to buy a house now, even at 29. Her reasoning? She’s unmarried and sure that when she does marry no man would want to move into a home that was “hers” and not “his” or “theirs”. As a guy, I actually understand her point somewhat. As a thinking person, however, I’d beg her to reconsider.
By age 30, 81% of white women will marry. For Asians and Hispanics, the number is 77%. For African-American women, the number is only 52%. The truth of the matter is, marriage is down across all races. While in the 1960’s 80% of 25-34 year olds were married, today only 45% are. Typically the reasons given are economic. The fact is, people who lack a car or financial assets are far less likely to enter into a first marriage.
Every poor black kid gets the same speech about college around the age of eight, ten at the latest. It goes something like this: “If you’re gonna go to college you gotta get scholarships ‘cuz I/we can’t help you.” That speech. I got the speech thousands of times. It was simply understood that since keeping the lights on was a challenge month to month, coming out of pocket tens of thousands of dollars for tuition was but a fantasy.
I’m honestly torn. People always tell me how horrible the criminal justice system is and that we should make reforming it our first priority but I’m just not sure. The U.S imprisons more of its citizens than any other country. We have 2.4 million behind bars. China has four times more people than the U.S, but only 1.6 million prisoners. Of course, black men make up an ungodly amount of that population- around 35%. Blacks collectively comprise about 40%of total inmate population. This is especially troubling when put into a historical perspective.
To My Jewish Brothers and Sisters,
I say with love and extreme sincerity, shalom. I feel it appropriate at the outset of this journey, wherever it might take you on this blog, to address you and all others on some very serious topics and rules of engagement.