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Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Black male epidemic — a call to action

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Matthew 2:16 “Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.”

An epidemic is “a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.” Epidemics strike at a magnitude which requires immediate attention and immediate action from those most affected by its devastation. Modern-day epidemics include the 1918 influenza pandemic, the 2003 SARS-CoV outbreak, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are experiencing a modern-day epidemic in the Black community and it requires our immediate attention and immediate action. The “Black male epidemic” is evident by the devastation heaped upon the Black community through the continued loss of our young Black males to violence, murder, incarceration and systemic oppression.

In 2021, we are worse off than we were in 2018, 2019 and 2020 as it relates to the devastation destroying our Black males, particularly our young Black males. The morning news greets us almost daily with reports like this:

“INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is investigating a series of seven shootings, including three deadly ones, from Monday night into Tuesday morning …”

According to data cited in a 2020 City-County Council Proposal 199, “In the last four years, there have been 616 criminal homicides in the Circle City. 387 of the victims were Black males, which is greatly higher compared to other races. In 2019, out of the 436 male nonfatal shootings, Black male victims made up 80% of the victims. 132 were between the ages of 20 and 29.” In 2020 there were 245 homicides, 215 non-justified. The violence tearing apart the Black community continued into 2021. As of this column the homicide count tops 40, the majority of those homicides were Black males.

Systemic oppression of a particular population isn’t a modern-day phenomenon. Matthew’s account in the Gospels depicts the story known as “The Slaughter of the Innocents.” Herod, upon hearing of Jesus’ birth and the prophecies concerning his messiahship, felt threatened and sought to eradicate the threat. After an unsuccessful ruse, Herod ordered the murder of every child under the age of two in his domain. In essence, Herod launched an all-out assault, an epidemic of sorts, against innocent males of color.

Here’s the correlation between the biblical narrative and our modern-day Black male epidemic: Herod is racism. Herod is systemic oppression. Herod is the school to prison pipeline. Herod is gentrification. Herod is the so-called War on Drugs. Herod is over-policing in Black communities. Herod is at the root of the Black Male Epidemic!

The Black Male Epidemic must be addressed. It must be addressed through prayer. It must be addressed through principled development of our young Black males beginning at birth. It must be addressed through leveling the playing field in education, health care, employment, economic development and housing. And it must be addressed through lobbying for comprehensive legislative change.

Criminalization of Black males simply because we are Black males must end. No one is asking for a hand out. We are, however, asking for a hand up. As my dear friend and partner in uplifting the Black community, Pastor Denell Howard would remind us, “Black men are the problem and the solution.” Working together works. Let’s work together!

Dr. Preston T. Adams III is senior pastor at Amazing Grace Christian Church in Indianapolis. Contact Pastor Adams via email at seniorpastor@agccindy.org or via Twitter @DrPrestonTAdams. For more information, visit agccindy.org.

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