Black Boys Matter: Developmental Equality
The American Dream is one of equality and opportunity; the ability to succeed and be whoever and whatever one wants to be, limited only by one’s own drive and talent. But for Black boys, this is not the reality. As Ta-Nehisi Coates so eloquently explains in Between the World and Me, his letter to his then seventeen-year-old son, the overriding reality is danger to the body, literally the threat to one’s life, filling him with fear for his son. Grounded in his own experience growing up in inner-city Baltimore, it is a no less justified fear for his son raised amidst relative wealth and privilege. Coates writes about being stopped in his car by the Prince Edward County police while he was in college. He had done nothing but was acutely aware that meant nothing in this dangerous moment when anything could happen to him, and be justified. Quite literally, you hold your breath as you read this passage; you know his fear is warranted. Nor is his fear for his son misplaced. Indeed, his letter to his son was triggered by his son’s reaction to the refusal to indict the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown. But, Michael Brown was neither the first nor the last young Black man or boy to lose his life to private or state violence. Every new death reinforces that this is unexceptional. The fear for the body, for life itself, is real for every Black boy and man.