To some, it might be hard to tie together Black male millionaires and celebrities with the plight of those struggling in the worst of Chicago’s neighborhoods, yet one clear tie is increasingly relevant.
You never want to hear about it happening to any of the brothers out there. We all know how it goes.
Nice car. Nice look. Nice drive on a nice day. Suddenly, red and blue lights appearing not-so-nicely in the rear-view mirror. At this point of time, it doesn’t seem to matter what the status or money of the driver is: if he’s Black, it’s a real-life possibility that you can still be pulled over for Driving While Black.
And while it does not make me any angrier than normal that a public friend of mine was the latest Black male celebrity to be pulled over in another apparent DWB incident, it does prompt my awareness that the trends in America for Black men – all Black men – are not good, collectively speaking.
On one end, there are well-known successes such as director Tyler Perry and BET late night host TJ Holmes getting pulled over in metro Atlanta (where both have made their homes for years). On another end, there are Black men going through stop-and-frisk measures on New York City streets. From another perspective, there are Black men seamlessly being more incorporated into the New Jim Crow system, complete with exorbitant incarceration, school dropout, and homicide rates.
From all viewpoints, the message is clear in 2012: the value of life expectations, civil rights, and societal contributions – even societal involvement – of Black men is on the decline in America. It is something that all Black men – and all Americans that value balance and stability in this nation – must take notice of and take action to address.
Holmes’ incident is just one of the latest that creates more of the mistrust that Black men (and the Black community overall) have towards police forces throughout America’s cities, even as increased police efforts are sorely needed to clean up trouble areas. However, if it were merely about the “driving while Black” syndrome (a bad enough occurrence impacting civil rights), that would be plenty enough to address. DWB brings into question some very basic questions concerning the stereotypes about Black men and their abilities to obtain success (despite generations of changes via the Civil Rights Movement), making us wonder what we need to do to advance ourselves as a people.
When DWB is seen along with the other downward trends in Black America concerning Black males – from education to employment to household dynamics – it is merely a symptom of a disconcerting trend about the plight of all Black men in America, regardless of socioeconomic background.
In the collective mindset of America – and, sadly, even within the Black community – the value of the Black male continues to ratchet down. The evidence is clearly all around. On the political front, an unfair amount of the criticism geared towards President Obama over the past 4 years has focused too much on his African-American heritage, not on his records as a senator and as president. On the other side of the political aisle, opposition to Black Republicans including Michael Steele and Allen West have included Oreo-throwing and privacy breaches including social security numbers. From a perspective involving the rich-and-famous, DWB incidents over the past 15 years have impacted the aforementioned Perry and Holmes while leading to incidents of police harassment including that of Jonny Gammage, the cousin of Super Bowl Pittsburgh Steeler Ray Seals that was killed during a DWB traffic stop just one month after the infamous OJ Simpson verdict while driving Seals’ Jaguar. From an everyday perspective, Black men are increasingly becoming more likely to fill jail cells, fall short in educational pursuits, and lag behind the nation and the global economy as victims of the last-hired, first-hired practices that help keep overall Black unemployment high. Legal inconsistencies seem problematic as well. Until recently, Black males with crack cocaine were more likely to serve time than others possessing the same amount of powder cocaine. Black men are still more likely to be pulled over for possession of marijuana, even as some fight to decriminalize the drug.
“Driving While Black” has stopped being just about the infringement of civil rights of Black male drivers as if they were reliving a scene out of a John Singleton flick. As this trend continues on in an era with the first Black president, more Black millionaires and celebrities now than in the history of the United States prior, and more diversity (concerning multiple cultures and inter-racial families) than ever before, it merely stands as a symbol that the value of Black male involvement as viable contributors to their families and their nation is dwindling in America to a point where the constant disrespect in the media, in public, and in society overall is a sign of where the nation thinks we are headed. Perhaps “Driving While Black” is only a Black male thing that sometimes impacts more affluent men in a more public way. Yet, be assured, it is a trend that is part of a larger problem that Black men – all Black men – must be driven in addressing and reversing.
LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic 365 featured on outlets including CNN Newsroom, CNN’s “Early Start”, Current TV “The Young Turks”, and XM Radio. His new book, “Spoken Thoughts of an Amalgamated Advocate in Today’s America” is now available electronically on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com . Catch Lenny’s “The McAllister Minute” on The American Urban Radio Network this week and other latest via the new LennyMcAllister.com website.