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Black Men Under Pressure

By on August 25, 2014

I had been working on a piece on stress and coping for a while and was just about set to put the finishing touches on it and submit it to HBM. Then Michael Brown was gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson[1] a northern suburb of St. Louis.

After a series of autopsies, Brown is now able to be laid to rest, while details are still unfolding.

At first glance, this seems to be yet another unjust killing of a black man. While blatantly obvious, the first step in maintaining health is being alive. There have been so many incidences of black men’s (and women’s) very humanity being disregarded recently.

A growing list of black men have been killed by police officers, from Malice Green to Amadou Diallo to Oscar Grant to Ezell Ford. Who knows who else? It’s a good thing technology has evolved so fellow citizens can document what is actually happening in cases in which details would otherwise be extremely murky or just swept under a rug.

I’ve lived in St. Louis for just over three years now and I can tell you that there is an undercurrent of racism in the metro St. Louis area that I have never felt before. And let me qualify that statement by saying I have traveled broadly, was born and raised in Detroit and have lived in the south, and on both coasts before moving here. The social, economic and health disparities here are deep and long-standing.

Many people are trying to make sense of the shooting in Ferguson and the aftermath. In one word, I would say pressure. The shooting death of the unarmed Michael Brown has ignited a tinderbox here that has been decades in the making. The pressure that has been building up has exploded.



In the wake of all the commotion that has arisen from Michael Brown’s death, I hope that his humanity (and that of other black men) is valued. And like so many others here and around the country, I fear that justice will not be served, like so many stories before this one. And I fear that the opportunities that the black community needs to be healthy, safe and thriving will remain to be elusive.

The whole world peaking in on what’s going on here in St. Louis and I’m hoping that we can move beyond rallies and rhetoric to bring about real change. A recognition of humanity (yes, this is obviously still an issue in “post-racial” 2014), justice for all, and the opportunity to actually pursue happiness.


[1]The north side of St. Louis City is predominantly black. Blacks have migrated north into the suburbs, “North County” where Ferguson is located.



Dr. Darrell Hudson is an assistant professor with the Brown School of Social Work and a faculty scholar with the Institute of Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Hudson completed his doctorate in Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan, where he also received his Master of Public Health. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Morehouse College.

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