8 Reasons Why I Still Can’t Breathe As A Black Man In America

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8 Reasons Why I Still Can’t Breathe As A Black Man In America
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"I can’t breathe!" has been uttered by thousands — maybe millions — of people over the past several weeks as witnesses endured the pain of watching George Floyd get handcuffed and choked to death by the police.

Unfortunately, such systemic racism against Black people in America isn't uncommon.

Officer Derek Chauvin put his full weight on a man's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, while two other officers knelt on George Floyd's back and a fourth officer threatened and shoved onlookers who begged and pleaded with them to stop.

We always seem to rally around and protest when an African-American man is killed by the police because it happens so frequently. But as a Black man in America, I want you to know that there are other racial issues that put every Black American at risk.

And these problems are every bit as important to address as police brutality and murder.

RELATED: 7 Tangible Examples Of Real Change Inspired By Black Lives Matter Protests & Activists In The Wake Of George Floyd's Murder

According to data that was collected by the Washington Post on police use of lethal force, since 2015, officers have shot and killed more than 5,400 people.

Relative to the proportion of the population, Black people are over-represented among all those killed by police.

According to the U.S. Census estimates, Black people make up 12 percent of the population. However, from 2015 to 2019, they accounted for 26.4 percent of those that were killed by police under all circumstances.

In other words, Black people were the victims of the lethal use of force by police at nearly twice their rate in the general population. All other races were either directly proportioned to the population or lower.

Just reading this takes my breath away, because as an African-American man, this signifies the fact that my physical presence and soul mean so little.

But in reality, there are 7 other problems that keep me and other Black people in this country breathless.

1. The color of my skin means I'm more likely to go to prison than a white person.

If I don’t die by excess violence by the police — even in instances of no wrongdoing — as a Black person, I’m more likely to go to prison.

In 2017, Black people represented 12 percent of the U.S. adult population, but 33 percent of the sentenced prison population. Whites accounted for 64 percent of adults but 30 percent of prisoners.

Going to prison in this country means you lose not only your right to be free, but also your right to vote and find stable employment after you get out. That leaves a lot of disparity against a group of people who already represents such a small portion of the population.

This means that not only are Black people are more likely than a white person to be thrown in jail, they are also almost 20 percent more likely to have extended prison sentences than a white person — even for committing the exact same crime under similar circumstances.

2. Black kids don't have the educational diversity they need.

I can’t breathe because my kids will more than likely not see a male teacher guide them when they need it most. Black children won't have a strong role model to help them stay in school and out of trouble when I can’t be there.

Studies show that having Black educators actually improves a Black child's chances of graduating from high school and performing well in their school career since they have someone to look up to. But while people of color make up 20 percent of teachers, only 2 percent of these are Black men.

3. Black people are more likely to die when seeking medical care.

If, as a Black man in America, I don’t get killed by the police, then my white doctor will slowly kill me.

Roughly 6 percent of physicians and surgeons are Black, but Black people continue to face overwhelming discrepancies in the care they receive, including higher mortality rates for the same surgical procedures as white people.

RELATED: Separate And Unequal: Why We Need To Defund The Police And Invest In Black Communities

This means I’m also less likely to receive beneficial advice on invasive and preventative services to improve my health that would raise my life-expectancy rate.

It also means Black women giving birth face severe complications. Black mothers are about three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, even while in a hospital under care.

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4. I'm less likely to be able to own a home — even if I can afford it.

Even though I'm married with a good job and decent credit, I still can’t qualify for a home.

In a 2017 study, Urban Institute’s Jung Hyun Choi found that 17 percent of the homeownership gap between Black and white people can’t be explained by identifiable factors.

This means that despite meeting all the requirements, Black people are still denied mortgage rates at higher levels than white people for no other reason than the color of their skin in a process known as "redlining."

Banks and loan officers determine that overwhelmingly Black-populated areas are deemed "financial risks," and deny home loans to people buying in these areas on a regular basis.

5. Black people are suffering economic loss at significantly higher rates due to COVID-19.

My community will be one of the hardest hit economically due to COVID-19. We have the highest unemployment rate, and even as the economy bounces back, ours is still falling. In fact, in May, the Black unemployment rate rose slightly, to 16.8 percent, up 0.1 percent than in April.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this means 3.3 million Black Americans were unemployed in May, compared to 3.2 million in April, and 1.2 million in January.

6. Painful racial stereotypes are real and negatively impact Black people.

I’m always fearful that people are suspicious of me, or they assume I’m not smart, that I’ll be passed over for the next promotion, and so many other things.

I’m also just plain afraid for my personal safety in a day and age when white people attempt to weaponize the police against Black people, which can often end with the Black victim getting arrested.

7. The net worth of Black people is 10 times lower than their white counterparts.

I can’t breathe because my net worth is $17,150 — which is 10 times less than my white counterparts' net worth of $171,000.

Because of this, I can’t take career risks to move up. I won’t have a buffer when success is not immediately achieved.

I can’t afford access to housing in a safer neighborhood with good schools, thereby enhancing my child’s education. I just can’t start my entrepreneurial venture or submit my invention.

7. Black people are less likely to get mental health care.

I can’t breathe because I’m less likely to receive treatment for my mental health. Only one-third of all Americans with a mental disorder get care. The percent of African Americans receiving care is half that of non-Hispanic whites.

And when I do seek mental-health treatment, it won’t be from a Black mental-health professional.

I won’t receive the newest medication, or I'll be misdiagnosed with an incorrect condition. I’ll more than likely receive higher dosages of older medication, which will have more side-effects, thus making my condition worse. Or, I'll receive medication for a condition I don't have, which could kill me.

These protests must be about more than just bodily injury and murder at the hands of police in this country.

These other issues are also silent killers of Black people, and they also deserve our full attention if the African-American community — or me, as an individual — ever want to be able to breathe.

RELATED: 8 Statements People Say That Are A Sign Of White Privilege

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Keith Dent is a relationship coach and the host of Black Men Speak, a Facebook Live show that talks about subjects and issues that affect the African-American Male Community.

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