The struggles that Africa-American men, in particular, face in our culture have been well-documented. But recent research offers some helpful signs.
Here to share some explanation and insights about these findings is husband, father and lawyer Timothy Allen. Timothy works in Focus’ public policy area analyzing state legislation and also serves as a member of Focus’ Employee Resource Inclusion Council, which I’ve previously shared about. He’s also a Fellow with Alliance Defending Freedom’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship.
I appreciated reading Timothy’s perspective. I think you will, too.
Like many young black men, I grew up believing the deck was stacked against me. Having been raised by a single mom, I had always counted myself extremely lucky to have beaten the odds.
It turns out, however, that it wasn’t luck I grew up gang-, drug-, and prison-free – and I’m not nearly as alone in my circumstances as I once thought I was.
Recently The Atlantic and National Review both shared research showing that, despite higher rates of poverty, unemployment and incarceration among black men as compared with white men, “most African American men are not poor, out of work, or destined to spend time in prison.”
Here are some of the numbers respected experts W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger reached during their research:
- Most black men ages 18-60 are employed
- Only about 17 percent of black men have ever spent time in jail or prison
- Government statistics show that 78 percent of black men between 18-60 have incomes that place them above the poverty line
- Most black men will get married by their 40s
While some of these statistics show definite room for improvement, it remains true that the numbers show the situation for African-American men isn’t as dire as many of us might have believed.
But what I want to share with you now is what truly gave me hope as a Christian.
Wilcox and Wolfinger’s findings show that one of the main differentiating factors between the black men who did well and those who didn’t was faith and active engagement in a religious community.
The General Social Survey shows that black men tend to attend church at higher rates, and those 6 million who do are “significantly more likely” to do well. They are “more likely to be working, avoid crime and incarceration, and get married.” The benefits are amplified the more involved the men are in their churches.
These findings only echo the truths that I have seen in my own life. My brother and I were raised by our mother who, like many single black parents, worked hard and struggled to put food on the table.
Through the many struggles and concerns I now know she must have faced while raising children alone, she always leaned on God and modeled a genuine, practical faith.
For example, “Momz” took us to church every Sunday morning where she did more than just warm the pews. Thanks to her and our pastor, God wasn’t just a Sunday morning experience; He was there morning, noon, and night, seven days a week. Through the church and regular activities there, I grew up knowing that God would always meet our basic needs.
Perhaps the greatest earthly benefit to my faith while growing up was knowing that, through God, I could accomplish anything I put mind to. My early life circumstances were no barrier to future success.
Those Christian convictions shaped my worldview and drove my decisions to study, work hard, get married and have kids. Along with many other black Americans throughout our nation’s history, it was faith in the person of Jesus Christ that made the difference.
The many African American men who are floundering in the “code of the street” characterized by violence and criminal activity need to hear this message. They need to know it’s God, not circumstances, who ultimately determines the life they’ll live.
And while it’s true that the young, fatherless men of the black community need training, mentorship and jobs, the bottom line is, they also need Jesus.