Last night I watched Our America with Lisa Ling on OWN. On this particular episode she was exploring America's prison industrial complex and why so many black men are in prison. Black men only comprise 6% of the population in the U.S. but yet they are a third of the people that are incarcerated.
I made my 16 year old nephew watch the documentary and tell me what he thought. The first thing he said was, "Auntie it's hard out here."
Indeed it is, but I use that moment to explain to him why I am so hard on him when it comes to his grades and the things he does. For it is 'but by grace' goes he. My nephew is a wonderful child with a beautiful mind, but he has a bit of a lazy side to him. Instead of maximizing his potential he's chosen to settle for mediocrity. This is the same child that when he was seven asked for the autobiography of Malcom X and the biography of JFK for Christmas presents instead of toys or games. But something change within him once he got to high school.
Instead of making all A's like he use to do, he began to let his grades slip to the point that his GPA is a 3.1. Now I realize that to some people a 3.1 is good, but not for my nephew. If he was a 3.1 student that would be different, but he's not. People say I'm too hard on him, but I'm hard on him for a reason. I'm trying to prepare him for what he will face as a black man and I want him to possess every tool that is necessary for him to be successful.
My nephew is very fortunate to be born into a family that a majority of the people within the family are college educated. He is very fortunate to have examples of people who are doing the right things, but for a lot of our black men that is not enough. There are a lot of black men from good homes that find themselves in prison. Why is that?
We have to be willing to discuss these things with our young men and boys. We have to discuss with them the traps that are out there for them and how the cycle is continuing. I think the documentary last night was a wonderful catalyst to start that conversation.
I honestly don't know how we are going to break this cycle, but I do know we have to start somewhere and do it together. We can continue to blame the problem on single mothers or wayward fathers, but at the end of the day we are losing our black men.