Protecting America's black community

Black men in America should be assessed for pre-traumatic stress disorder.

There have been so many shootings of black men by white police officers that it is easy to lose count and to forget the names of the fallen victims. Corey Jones, the 31-year-old church drummer and housing inspector gunned down in South Florida last month after his car broke down is just the latest. Each fatal shooting is followed-up with the same bogus police reports detailing the necessary use of deadly force to defend, protect and uphold the law. (Jones had a licensed gun in his vehicle, though there's no evidence he pointed it at the rookie white officer who killed him.)

Much of the national talk about ending the bloodshed focuses on the changes the white community, and police in particular, must make so their actions aren't ruled by paranoid prejudice. That's a good start, but while the privileged are undergoing self reflection, the black community needs to come together and to be given support to deal with the mental trauma of being black in America.

It is clear that there is a real need to address the depression, anxiety and desolation experienced not just by grieving mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and the children of the fallen victims, but also the black community as a whole. There should be a clarion call for black men in America to engage in ongoing mental health activity to reduce their everyday stress levels and to enhance their states of psychological well-being. Every young black male should be screened to assess levels of "pre-traumatic stress disorders" — that is the anxiety he feels waiting for something bad to happen, as it so often does to men of color. We must find innovative and effective methods to enhance and develop a unique set of coping skills and adaptive devices for black men to survive and thrive in a very peculiar and hostile environment.

The gifted, exceptional writer and journalist, Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a superb and powerful book, "Between the World and Me," which has become for me and countless other black men and women in America countervailing therapy to mitigate the unrelenting blows to black bodies in the U.S. His book is a must read for those individuals who are seeking to understand the insidious effects of police shootings and white aggression in America. Mr. Coates' book comes at a time when some police departments are using mug shots of black men for target practice and when celebrations are being held to collect donations for policemen who have been charged with murdering black men. How does white America really think we should feel about this? What is the end result of this violent bigotry, and what are the psychological consequences of white aggression?

Mr. Coates explores these issues in his message to black people — especially young parents male and female — and to America in general. Unfortunately, Americans have developed a high skill in the art of ignoring black messengers, even when they are as eloquently persuasive as Mr. Coates, James Baldwin and Michael Eric Dyson; or brilliantly compelling as Malcolm X, Randall Robinson, Haki Madhubuti and Michelle Alexander; or as saintly convincing as W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King Jr., Cornell West and Toni Morrison.

The majority of black men and women in America support and are in lock step with the goals of the "Black Lives Matter" movement, and understand that we must remain vigilant and unapologetic in the emphasizing of black lives' worth. Yes, we acknowledge that all lives matter, but it's not all lives that are being shot by white officers at an alarming rate. Those are black lives being taken. To quote Mr. Coates, "each time a police officer engages us, death, injury and maiming is possible."

We have serious work to do in the black community across this nation, to arrest the misdirected and senseless killings that plague our neighborhoods; no other group of men and women in America are subject to the same level of unjust profiling and fatal actions by the police. We cannot allow it to continue, and we can not ignore the suffering of our community.

Richard A. Rowe is president of the African American Male Leadership Institute in Baltimore. His email is rrowe84@aol.com.

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