There are days in a man’s life he never forgets: the births of his children; his first and last games in competitive sports; and the moment he’s informed that he’s out of a job. The latter, of course, is a tough pill to swallow; it’s followed by a dizzying confluence of dread and confusion—how could this happen? This precedes what could be a long, bumpy road to landing on one’s feet. Nothing prepares a person for it, and there’s no great advice for what the next steps should be.
For me, that moment came at perhaps the worst time: three months after my mother succumbed to a three-year battle with a hyperaggressive form of breast cancer. I stood paralyzed over my mother’s body after life had left it. It was the same night that a Florida jury acquitted the man who fatally shot Trayvon Martin. Two months earlier, my mother disclosed that she’d allowed her life insurance to lapse shortly before her diagnosis. I paid for her burial out of my own pocket. Three months later—just before Thanksgiving and days after what would’ve been my mother’s 60th birthday—I was laid off. Christmas was coming. My savings were depleted. I had custody of my two teenage sons and a sense of pride that wouldn’t even allow me to discuss my situation with my family, let alone ask for help.
What I experienced—the exasperation of losing a job, the desperation and depression in the months that followed, the long recovery afterward—is something that countless men have experienced in the wake of the Great Recession. Although the economy is far stronger than it was in the early part of this decade, the financial and emotional turmoil of a job loss is deep and lingering. Financial and psychological experts concur that those challenges are acute and very distinct for men, who often connect their identities with their career achievements and their status as breadwinners. And for Black men, especially those with families, rebuilding in the aftermath of a job loss can be as difficult as the layoff itself.
Read more in the October 2015 issue of EBONY Magazine.