Expert Blog Compelling advice, stories, and thought-provoking perspectives straight from YourTango's lineup of Experts to you

Why I'm Not OK With 1.5 Million Black Men Missing From Society

Photo: WeHeartIt
black man

The statistics speak the truth ...

“You know the family is the solution to the world’s problems today,” or so says the lyric from an old O’Jays song Family Reunion.

This is ironic because in the African-American community, a core part of "the family" is currently missing ... and it’s having catastrophic effects on black women and children, making the concept of a "traditional family" almost extinct in many black communities.

What I'm talking aboutwhat's missingis the African-American male. And as a black man, a husband, and a father, I have a problem with that!

A recent New York Times article stated that, in the United States, there are over 1.5 million African-American men are "missing" because they're either locked-up or dead.

One in 12 black men between the ages 25 and 54 are in prison, which is five times greater the rate than for non-black men (one in 60).

If we assume these men could be a part of a family and calculate that the average American family consists of 2.54 people, according to the U.S. Census that equals approximately 2.31 million people lost to society and no longer there to help build up our communities, schools and neighborhoods.

And the here's the thing: If we don’t collectively make swift changes, the African-American Family as we know it will soon be extinct.

So, as the O'Jays sing, "Let’s take a look at the role of the family."

As a father, the man is the head, the leader and the director showing love and guidance for everyone else in the family.

Because these components are missing, black women aren’t receiving the love they so richly deserve. These women (with no better options) feel compelled to put up with behavior from men that would never be allowed if the playing field was a little more even. These women also need help with their children and seek the companionship of other men who they think might stand in as father figures. If by chance they're able to receive some measure of love, they trade guidance and direction as a consequence.

Then we have the mothers who are the right arm of the father. They're supposed to do the cooking, raise the children, do the sewing and help the father guide and direct.

With so many black men missing, there is no longer another partner in the household to help women guide and direct.

The mothers must make all of the decisions when it comes to the family.

Some women thrive in that environment, but most struggle (or even fail) at keeping their family together and on a solid path. There is no support for her if she dreams of pursuing her passion. Her first priority is making sure her children get everything she can provide.

Mothers, like the Marines, are always on the front lines and do anything necessary to make sure their family is safe.

Case in point: Toya Graham, the Baltimore mother captured on video striking her son for participating in the riots, trying to get him to understand that being out in the Baltimore streets ‘thuggin out' is totally unacceptable.

If the father were in that circumstance, dad would've just given his son the look and the young man would’ve removed himself from the environment immediately. Or better yet, he wouldn't have been there at all.

Sons are imitators of their fathers. 

If the father is guiding in the right way, the son is definitely going to be all right.

But with over 1.5 million black men missing, our sons are the ones suffering the most (from a very early age) because that positive example to imitate is gone. These young boys quickly become part of statistic after statistic. Young black men have twice the high school dropout rate as young white men. Only 12 percent of fourth grade black boys are proficient in reading, compared to 38 percent of white boys. And only 12 percent of black boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys, according to the Educational Testing Service.

Then there’s the African-American daughter watching her mother as an example because sooner or later she’s going to be a mother and have her own kids.

What’s empowering and sad at the same time is that young African-American women are operating from extremes. Some are seeking love from young men to fill the void of their missing father. They yearn for companionship to the point where they're willing to sacrifice far more than just their dignity. Others are opting to forgo the traditional family all together by adopting or undergoing In Vitro Fertilization because there are no viable partners for that dream.

You may think Family Reunion is old fashioned, but I'll take it if that means our families become stronger and our kids feel better about themselves.

We must work harder as couples to keep our relationships intact for the sake of our children and their legacies. We can ill-afford to destroy anymore of our African-American families due to lack of communication or just plain lack of concern for one another.

If you feel how hard you have tried to work on your relationship you still can't d grow and thrive as a team, feel free to contact Keith Dent at


Explore YourTango