Boys of Color in Harm's Way

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"Negative health outcomes for African-American and Latino boys and young men are a result of growing up in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage, places that are more likely to put boys and young men directly in harm’s way and reinforce harmful behavior." That's the key finding from the report entitled: "Healthy Communities Matter: The Importance of Place to the Health of Boys of Color."

The report, which is filled with facts and figures and underwritten by The California Endowment, finds:

  • When it comes to health and other outcomes, the odds for boys and men of color are more than two times worse than they are for white boys and men in California.
  • African-American and Latino children are 3.5 times more likely to grow up in poverty than their white counterparts. In fact, nearly half of the nation’s African-American and Latino fourth graders attend schools that are characterized by extreme poverty.
  • Nationally, the risk of contracting HIV or AIDS is 6.9 times higher for African-American male adults and adolescents than for whites. Latinos are 3.1 times more likely.
  • Young African-American men (15-24) have a homicide death rate at least 16 times greater than that of young white men, and young Latino men have homicide death rate 5 times greater than that of young white men.

The report's conclusion holds:

As a society, we place great emphasis on the personal responsibility of the individual, and our families and institutions should do everything they can to instill in all of our boys and young men a strong sense of self-worth, hope and accountability. But if we expect our children to climb over poverty’s great barriers without help from the rest of us, then we are the ones who are being irresponsible. Because the problems facing African-American and Latino boys and young men are so complex and interwoven, we must put a premium on solutions that establish and strengthen a web of support for them.

Improving the places where our boys and young men of color live, learn, work and play is no easy undertaking. But it is doable. And that makes it the right thing to do.

Published by

Leonard Witt

Leonard Witt is the former executive director of the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University, where he is Emeritus Professor of Communication and was named an Eminent Scholar by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia in 2008. He was a journalist for more than 25 years, including being editor of Sunday Magazine at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, editor of Minnesota Monthly and executive director of the Minnesota Public Radio Civic Journalism Initiative.