The great folks at Colorlines are currently running an extensive, brilliant and insightful series on Black Men: Life Cycles of Inequity. While Monday’s re-post discussed the challenges faced by African American students in schools, today’s article focuses on the labor market. By Kai Wright, first published at Colorlines.com, June 25 2014.
The first thing you notice about Dorian Moody is how easily he laughs. He punctuates conversation on just about any topic with a shy smile and a disarming chuckle. It comes out as a self-mocking accent when he describes his initial boredom with high school. “My mother was like, you can’t fail,” he says with a smirk. “Alright, so I’m gonna give you Ds!” It takes the edge off of his raw pride when he describes his later academic revival, which began after his whole family sat him down and warned he’d be “a nobody” if he kept screwing around. And it softens his chiding response when I comment on the peaceful, spring vibe of his Irvington, N.J., neighborhood, on the western edge of Newark. “Well, go up to that corner and see what the Bloods think of that.”
Moody’s easy laughter emphasizes his already boyish looks, and together they make him seem even younger than his 21 years. But he’s facing decidedly grown-folks challenges today.
When Moody graduated high school, he didn’t yet know what he wanted to do with his life; he knew only that he wanted money urgently. “It’s not cool when you’re 18 and you can’t even buy yourself deodorant,” he says. “I don’t sit well with that. I wanna be able to provide for myself and my family.” He’s the youngest in a family of workers—a brother who’s in security, a sister who’s in daycare, a mom who’s starting a new career in drug counseling at age 69. Moody was eager to chip in, too. And yet, all his ambition notwithstanding, his work life has thus far been shaped by the coincidence of two banal facts: He graduated in the year 2010 and he is a black man.