“Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and start your own business. Marry and have children and let them marry. Don’t allow the naysayers and haters to talk you out of the hope your mother taught you. God’s plans are to help and not hurt you. Celebrate (Live Up!) because no weapon formed against you can ever prosper!”Jeremiah 29, VHV
(Vincent Hall Version)
Well, my Bonus Hailee turns 18 this week. It’s a momentous occasion for several reasons. First, it has legal ramifications that allow her to vote for the first time, and she already has her voter ID. Second, she is on her way to college and a completely new vista.
Finally, this birthday rockets her into a new frontier of responsibility, opportunity, and possibilities. We have been saying all her life, “You can be whatever you want to be,” but now she has to prove it. Talk is cheap and trust me, rich white folks keep it that way for a reason.
However, well-meaning and well-intentioned, it would be a farce for me to offer Hailee words of wisdom when thousands in this community are at the same crossroads. Therefore, I thought I would use a very familiar passage of scripture that reminds us all to go on without regard to unforeseen circumstances and challenges in plain view.
This passage is particularly poignant given the news that our boys, young brothers, Hailee’s age, have pierced a veil we never saw them or wanted them to achieve. Nationally, for the first time in history, white men 55-65 have been dethroned from their top status.
In these “Yet to be United States of America,” Black men and men of color from 19- 25 are statistically more prone to suicide than any other group. My jaw dropped too. It doesn’t make sense, but then it kinda does!
Comedian Michael Che packed Black America’s social woes in a single joke. “I don’t know if you’ve been watching the newscasts over the past 400 years, but it appears that Blacks and cops aren’t getting along!”
That’s an understatement, but it may be integral in citing the causes for the rise in suicide by our young men. And in many cases, these are the “middle-class kids” who take permanent action during a temporary crisis. Take it from some of the OGs. This, too, shall pass. That’s what the prophet Jeremiah was saying.
Between the televised and untelevised graphic killings of Black men by the police and the unfathomable odds that lie ahead of them, woe is an understandable emotion. When you couple that with the lack of mental health resources and options, it becomes downright lethal.
“Responding to Suicidality and Related Issues” by the North Texas Behavioral Authority almost took me out. Hailee’s godfather, Commissioner Price, and I were both dumbfounded as we read the report. They say statistics lie, and liars use statistics, so we did our own deep dive into the report. To use the vernacular of the 1960s Hee Haw sitcom, it was “gloom, despair and agony on me!”
The source data was based on the 2019 and 2020 death rates cited by the National Center for Health Statistics. Nationally, suicides went down year after year by 3 percent. (45,855 total for 2020) Females of all races saw an overall decline. Suicide for non-Hispanic whites and Asian males declined.
Suicide rates increased for Black males, Hispanic males, American Indian males, and non-Hispanic Alaska Native males. For Black males, there was a 6% increase in 2020 and an 8% increase for Hispanic males. Dallas County statistics ran toward congruence with the national averages.
So let me say this to all of the 18-year-olds in high school or going to college. Especially to my young brothers and hombres. Don’t let the hate you see keep you from the love you can’t see. You can overcome the odds just like everyone in your family did.
“Old Skool” had bomb drills that worried and scarred us as much as the active shooter drills that you live with today. Unfortunately, America has always suffered more potential harm from within than without.
Inflation has been here before. Political and social upheaval is nothing new to us. You are here today because your parents and grandparents stood on this wisdom whether they heard Jeremiah via the church or the street.
I know the plans God has for you, and you can prosper. Live it up!
P.S. (If you are feeling some kinda way, tell somebody!)
Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.