2016 State of Black America Spotlight Essay


The Unspoken Variables of Success: Grace and Mercy

Darryl L. Chambers
Executive Director, Youth Empowered to Strive and Succeed Program

Tony Allen
Founding President, Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League
Senior Executive, Bank of America

There is an old adage adapted from the Bible that many Black families—indeed all of us—know well: “But for the grace of God, there go I.” In the case of African-American men throughout the country, the adage is as compelling for a Black executive fighting to keep his authentic self while still navigating the corporate ladder, as it is for a young Black male who is often burdened by the nagging feeling that while he is indeed filled with talent, power and undeniable potential, the inertia of a debilitating set of life circumstances constantly overshadows him.

These men, and countless others, see up close the realities of a system that feeds generational cycles of poverty. These men, and countless others, can make bad choices under equally bad circumstances, struggling to achieve or revive their dreams. Like so many young Black men before and after them, they are at a disproportionate risk for run-ins with the law. The difference in their potential trajectories emanates from what and to whom they are exposed, the stability of their home life, the quality of education they receive and the economic and employment opportunity they experience. But of all these variables, the greatest among them are grace and mercy—which carry no known statistics.

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