To start off, I am a white male, who for three years has been co-leading a national initiative to improve the life outcomes for black men and boys, The Institute for Black Male Achievement.
I believe that America needs to decide; and it needs to decide quickly what it is going to do about the fact that tens of millions of black men and boys are being excluded from opportunity in this country and are sometimes being targeted in a way that ends in the death of an American citizen, as we saw with the Michael Brown shooting on Saturday, August 9th! It is not the first time this has happened and the number of occurrences is growing. Just read “Black and Unarmed: Men Without Weapons Killed by Law Enforcement”. A time bomb is ticking and America must decide today whether it is brave enough to take the necessary steps to defuse it.
As a country, we could argue that we have a moral obligation to do something about the fact that so many Americans from a single race and gender are significantly lagging behind in every major indicator of opportunity. Just take a look at the Institute for Black Male Achievement’s Life Outcomes Dashboard and you will see for yourself the stark disparities black men and boys face in positive life outcomes across education, work, health, safety, and family.
As a country, we could also argue that there is a strong economic argument that we would be much better off having black boys and men not be costs to our society, but be treated like the assets they are and could be great contributors to our economic future as entrepreneurs, skilled workers, and professionals as so many already are.
Finally, as a country in the evolving aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, we cannot ignore a third emerging argument - security, i.e., the ability to be free from danger or threat. Frankly, I was surprised that after the Trayvon Martin shooting and its consequent verdict, there were not any protests that resulted in the type of violence we are seeing in Ferguson, Missouri. For the first time that I can recall, we are seeing some similarities to protests during the early days of the Civil Rights movement with police using tear gas, protestors and journalists being arrested, curfews being instated, and police and protestors sustaining injuries. Take a look at this article from Salon.Com, “In defense of black rage: Michael Brown, police, and the American Dream” and you will get a better understanding of the rightful outrage that is emerging.
Whether the reason is – moral, economic, or security-based – the challenge our country faces is not going to go away nor is it going to be solved overnight. Right now, more than ever, we need leadership from all sectors to stand up and speak loudly about the urgency to begin taking sustained action. This cannot just be about an investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown. We’ve been there. This has to be about leaders dedicated to upholding the constitution, others working to make sure everyone in this is country is afforded opportunity, and most importantly, about those who are on the frontlines all working together (such as BMe, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Cities United, The Executive’s Alliance, Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, and My Brother’s Keeper), to speak with one voice and work towards one singular goal: spread the public policies and practices that will reverse the outcomes in every indicator in the Black Make Achievement Life Outcomes Dashboard – if we don’t, I am afraid security alone will be the reason action is taken, but only after many more lives are lost and I am not confident it will produce the magnitude of change we so badly need as a nation.
Andrew Wolk is a white male and founder and CEO of Root Cause, a nonprofit consulting and research firm that is co-leading the Institute on Black Male Achievement (IBMA) with PolicyLink. IBMA is a national membership network of more than 1,800 organizations working to improve the life outcomes for black men and boys.