Motives of the Million Man Marchers
Some march as role models, others to end the cycle of violence
MORE than 30 years after Martin Luther King Jr. marched on Washington in the name of civil rights, the state of black males in America remains arguably the nation's most pressing social problem.Skip to next paragraph
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The numbers tell a grim story: In the US, a black man is eight times more likely to be murdered than a white man. He is more than twice as likely to be unemployed.
One out of every 3 young black males is in prison, on parole, or otherwise under the jurisdiction of the US law-enforcement system. Today an American black male is as likely to be in jail as attending college.
Figures like these are a driving force behind attendance at today's Million Man March in the nation's capital, according to experts and the accounts of marchers themselves. For many attendees, the feeling that black males are in crisis, and the desire to make some positive gesture, overshadow concerns about the motives of march founders.
"This march has struck a very resonant chord within the African-American community as a whole," said Earl Shinhoster, acting head of the NAACP, last week.
Undoubtedly the event will mean different things to different participants. To some, it will be a way to emphasize that the majority of black men remain productive members of society.
Motives Aplenty of the Million Man Marchers
To others, it may be a day of reflection on ways to help end the circle of crime and poverty that afflicts a substantial minority of black males from birth.
If nothing else, marchers may be expressing a frustration with their lot that cuts across economic lines. It may be difficult for whites to understand that even successful black males at times experience a feeling of exclusion from mainstream US society.
Sam Walker is a prosperous African-American real estate investor from the Chicago area who plans to attend today's Washington gathering. He says he's been pulled over by police "countless" times when driving his black Mercedes through the affluent suburb of Oak Park.
"I can't get a cab in downtown Chicago," he asserts. "They just drive by me and pull up for the white guy."
Black males whose job requires them to wear a hard hat instead of a suit express a similar anger. Clarence Brown, a Chicago railroad car inspector, says he is frequently pulled over by Chicago police when driving his new car. "They think any black man driving a new car is a drug dealer," he says. "People say the United States is the land of the free. It's not true."
Fighting GOP tide
The rise of Republican power in Congress has only increased the perception among many black males that the US political structure is becoming less interested in their concerns. March organizers say they hope to register thousands of new voters today, in an effort to counteract GOP gains with a liberal black voting bloc.
Traditionally, fewer than half of eligible black male voters have taken part in US elections, points out David Bositis, an analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
"If somebody would listen to them and mobilize them, just like the GOP did with Perot voters, it could be very significant," he claims.