Suicide is the third most common cause of death among Black men between the ages of 15-25 years of age, so the importance of men feeling comfortable sharing their stress with a trusted confidant is critical to their emotional well-being.
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The study from which this data is drawn was conducted by University of North Carolina professor Wizdom Powell Hammond and published in the American Journal of Public Health. She and her team of researchers tested nearly 700 men ages 18 and up throughout the United States. Participants were found mostly at barbershops and given $25 gift certificates towards their next trip in the bbarber’s chair.
Here is a part of the interview Ebony contributing writer Akiba Solomon conducted with the Hammonds:
Here, Hammond, who is also a White House Fellow, explains why her study deals with everyday racism, how fantasies of the strong silent type can be soul-killing for Black men, and what Black women can do to help our brothers and lovers fend off depression.
In the study you zero in on racial microaggressions—the constant slights men of color face such as being followed in stores because they’re Walking While Black. Why?
Modern discrimination is less often reported but so many of us experience it through the lens of “Is it me or is it them?” rather than the kinds of [overt] racism our grandparents talked about. We’re not looking for discrimination; discrimination finds us, but it has to rise to a certain level for us to report it. We rarely have a public forum.
How do ideas of masculinity complicate how Black men experience this everyday racism?
Well, the world doesn’t react positively to Black folks talking about the discrimination they’ve experienced. [Accusations of pulling] the race card function as a cloak over our collective experience. It’s the elephant in the room and some of us want to [ignore discrimination] as much as others do because we’re tying to negotiate complex interracial experiences. I think this dynamic is more pronounced with Black men than Black women. They’re taught that steel sharpens steel, that they’re supposed to shut down, “man up” and “keep it moving.” They [often] believe that restricted emotionality is essential to being male.
For more on Ebony’s insightful piece on Black male depression, please go to Ebony.com.