Just about everybody pursuing opportunity in the United States agrees on at least one thing: Our own, individual ability to succeed, whatever the odds. This simple truth is often drowned out by the partisan divide between those who believe in so-called personal responsibility and those who recognize profound institutional barriers to success. But race, gender and political identity all set to the side, nobody wants to believe their dreams are held captive by insurmountable, institutional forces. And that’s the overwhelming sentiment filmmaker André Robert Lee encountered when he went asking young, black men in Philadelphia about their efforts to find work and build careers. I can do it, they said, The System be damned.
Throughout 2014, Colorlines is examining the ways in which inequity shapes the lives of black men. Each month, we’re exploring a new life stage or event in which the evidence shows unique inequities in black male lives. And each month, André is asking men to share their own experiences. In May, we began the series by exploring implicit bias inside schools. This month, we turn our attention to early adulthood and the effort to enter the workforce.