THE BLOG
09/29/2015 11:39 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2016

The Effect of Mass Incarceration Rates and Police Brutality on Relationships in the Black Community

It took me a long time to figure out that my love wasn't potent enough to be an antidote to that disease. In fact, even if the cure for that disease could have been detected within my love, the years spent responding to misdiagnosed symptoms proved to be fatal. Years of improperly responding to the byproducts of that disease only amplified the rate in which it destroyed his vital internal systems. Consequently, by the time a proper diagnosis was determined the disease was full blown. At that point a quarantine was required as a means for self-preservation. While I was able to depart without becoming completely afflicted by the by the brokenness that consumed him, my awareness of the depth in which constant police brutality and incarceration impacted him psychologically has not escaped me. I will never forget such a level of brokenness that was so unresponsive to my love.

No matter how hard I tried I could not love that man back to health. I tried with everything that was in me. And when I ran out of strength I borrowed some from praying friends and tried some more. When that reserve ran low I operated on fumes. My love was tenacious. My love ran deep. His disease ran deeper.

This disease came with no shortage of symptoms. I just didn't fully understand them. I perceived his lack of motivation for seeking "meaningful employment" as laziness. I responded with what I assumed was adequate treatment; I provided physical assistance. I searched job sites, completed his resume and even emailed recruiters on his behalf. I responded to the superficial needs as best as I could. Yet I didn't realize that it wasn't a job he was avoiding. It was the notion that he would receive one more rejection that stifled him. One more blow that he no longer had the ability to withstand.

Anger, the most frequently occurring symptom, was more complex. The anger would manifest in the form of verbal slander about women. Given my proximity to him I was the easiest target. This symptom was particularly confusing to me. I suspect it confused him too. He seemed to never know if he regarded the Black woman as a Queen, or with the same level of contempt he held for the "white people that were trying to break him". He was gracious with the word Queen during conversations with Black women. Yet, almost any conversation about his inability to contribute financially ended with some version of "Black women turn against their men, don't know how to support a King, and they let the white men at work cause them to forget their place. It's because of all the women in my life I keep failing". That was one symptom I refused to treat.

The emotional strain of trying to figure out the perfect concoction in response to the symptoms almost broke me. I was frail and fearful of contamination. A quarantine was in order so I did what was necessary and left. I was severely bruised and he was completely broken. It took time, personal healing and distance to gain a better understanding of some of the internal factors that were hurting him.

I didn't immediately recognize it for what it was. That mental brokenness that plagued him was so severe I can only label it a disease. It was inside of him. It attacked his immune system. What else was a man left to fight with once his self-esteem has been destroyed, his pride shattered and self-worth severely fractured? Somewhere between the consistent police brutality that eventually became labeled as just "dumb cop shit", and the repetitive cycle of criminal recidivism he contracted the disease. It spread faster whenever he would apply for a job and was turned down. It became more pervasive as his dreams of being a provider began to diminish.

An internal system that was so vital to him had been destroyed. One of the weapons of mass destruction was the criminal justice system. The alarming rates in which men of color are incarnated in the U.S. can be attributed to multiple variables. Personal accountability is certainly a factor. It is arguably the most explored factor. While I will never diminish personal accountability, I just implore us as a society to further consider how the increase in police brutality and mass incarceration are mentally impacted some men of color. The symptoms, although frequently misdiagnosed, are not only present, but are poisonings many interpersonal relationships in Black communities.