Marvin Gaye released an album and a single by this name in 1971. It was a combination of concern about the Vietnam war and the ongoing racial tensions at home. Now more than forty years later we’re facing conditions in the African American community that don’t seem that different from those Marvin Gaye was singing about.
Almost half the nation’s murder victims are African American, even though they only represent 13% of the population. The majority of those victims were between 17-29. Almost 93% of those victims were killed by other black people.
Less than half of the African American high school population graduates. The national average for all students is over 70%. 22% of all African American students were suspended at least once from high school. Compare that to 5% of white students.
22% of blacks live below the poverty line and 72% of all African American children are born to unwed mothers.
The national unemployment rate for African Americans is 13%. The unemployment rate for young black men is over 40%.
There are now more African American men in prison than were enslaved in 1851.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that since Barak Obama’s election, radical right wing militia groups have grown ten fold after a long period of decline.
A group of Mississippi teenagers beat and killed an African American auto factory worker in the parking lot of a local motel just because of the color of his skin. The 19 year old driver of the truck that ran over and killed the African American man was recently sentenced to two life sentences for his crime.
White Plains police officers broke down the door of an ill 68-year old African American man who had inadvertently pressed his medic alert button. It took them an hour to gain access to his apartment. After attempting to subdue the man several times with a taser the police shot him twice in the chest. The police claimed that the elderly man picked up a butcher knife and charged them after being tasered.
And we have the case of Trayvon Martin which seems to finally have received sufficient national attention to call all of these issues into question.
Like Marvin, I don’t have answers, only questions.
Why is our educational system failing young African American men?
Why is it so difficult for African American men to find a job?
Why are so many African Americans in prison?
Why are so many African American kids killing each other?
This is a national tragedy that is exacerbated by poverty, politics, and racial bigotry.
This is what we reap when we decided to unravel the social safety net for the most vulnerable in our country.
This is what we reap when we consider gun ownership a basic human right.
This is what we reap when we accept the dismantling of our manufacturing base and assume that all must be well because the rich are getting richer.
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today