Breaking the Silence on Black Suicides

In his stage days, comedian turned political activist Dick Gregory liked to crack that whites kill themselves by leaping from a tall building, and blacks kill themselves by jumping from a basement. This bit of gallows humor always got an uproarious laugh from black audiences. For decades blacks took perverse pride and comfort in the notion that suicide was a “white folks thing.” Despite the long, tortured experience of slavery, segregation, racia lly motivated violence and poverty, it was their article of faith that blacks didn’t kill themselves. They were always able to laugh or pray their way out of the worst adversity. But suicide among blacks is no longer the stuff of jokes.

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