Davis: There’s an urgency of now for our young Black male population


Dr. Theodore J. Davis Jr. is a professor in the Department of Political Science & International Relations at the University of Delaware.

A recent PEW Research Center report showed a strong relationship between college completion, life earnings and wealth accumulation. Two findings were of significance in the report. First, “women” are outpacing “men” in higher education attainment. Second, while the share of Black Americans getting a bachelor’s degree has increased since 2000, the college graduation gap between Blacks and Whites has increased by 2.2%.

PEW’s findings were not an optimistic indicator for the future of Black males. Especially since, in recent years, Black males have been referred to as “embattled, embittered and endangered.” This reference results from centuries of discrimination, deprivation and economic and social emasculation.

It is no secret that Black women are outpacing Black men in almost every sector of higher education. Nearly two-thirds of Black college graduates are women. When considering the plight of Black males, this educational dilemma is resulting in a quality-of-life gap among Blacks along gender lines. Such a gender gap poses a severe problem for economic and social capacity building among Blacks as a community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death for young Black males under age 44, and homicide is the No. 1 cause. According to the National Institutes of Health, Black males, as a group, are most likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety. Black males were least likely to seek professional health care, resulting in the poorest health and shortest life expectancy. At the same time, they were grossly overrepresented in correctional facilities.

The plight of Black males in Delaware is no different from Black males in other parts of the nation. Individually, most Black males in the state are doing well in terms of their standards of living and overall well-being. However, when we talk about Black males as a class of individuals in Delaware and compare them to their White male counterparts, Delaware has a big problem. As a result, special attention needs to be given to the plight of the state’s young Black male population.

For example, using the 2020 census data and comparing Black males’ socioeconomic plight to White males in the state, we find the following based on ZIP codes: In the average ZIP code, the White male population is 6.6 years older than the Black male population. The poverty rate for Black males was, on average, 8.9% higher. The average White male, working full time, earned $11,348 more yearly than the average Black male.

In the average ZIP code in Delaware, the unemployment rate among Black males was five percentage points higher than it was for White males. The percentage of White male college graduates was roughly 9.3 points higher than it was for Black males. The percentage of married White males was, on average, 15.5% higher. The list of racial disparities between Black and White males in Delaware goes on.

As long as racial disparities in mental and physical health, wealth distribution, family structure and exposure to gun violence among males exist, the chances of addressing racial disparities between the well-being of the state’s Black and White populations are not good. If Delaware continues to fail to address the educational needs of its Black male students, its public education system will remain in the middle group among the 50 states. Further, addressing the educational needs of Black male students will improve the educational outcomes of everyone in the public school system.

Finally, if the state doesn’t work to address issues such as environmental racism, racial disparities in health care services, the unequal administration of justice, unfair law enforcement practices and the unequal distribution of wealth (i.e., in housing, employment, income distribution, etc.), the state’s young Black male population will become, well, “embattled, embittered and endangered.”

The state of Delaware must acknowledge that some of its policies and practices are killing us (meaning Black males). Delaware will never realize its fullest economic and social potential until it addresses the needs of its most underserved populations. The state must make a serious effort to utilize its resources to remove the structural and systemic racism that continues to burden people of color in the state. It can start with the reform of its educational and criminal justice systems.

The Black community (especially the Black male community) also has a major responsibility for stepping up to help address the problems facing Black male youths. Thus, 2024 should be the year that Black fraternities (i.e., Alphas, Iotas, Kappas, Sigmas and Omegas) and other Black male civic and social organizations (i.e., The Monday Club, 100 Black Men, Black Masons, etc.) utilize their resources and start “walking the talk.”

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at civiltalk@iniusa.org.

Members and subscribers make this story possible.
You can help support non-partisan, community journalism.