Arts + Sciences
Think about us
When some African-American men asked, this researcher answered.
By Joni Moths Mueller
African-American men noticed Dr. Angelique Harris studying the health needs of African-American women in Milwaukee’s Lindsay Heights neighborhood. They expressed a surprising sentiment: What about us?
The question was a good one.
Harris, an associate professor of social and cultural sciences, began research the way she always does — by asking questions. “As a sociologist, my approach is to look at the social and cultural factors that influence health and well-being,” she says.
She invited groups of men between the ages of 18–72 into focus groups where they chatted freely, and she conducted one-on-one surveys with 20 men. The survey questions spanned personal health, family connections, lifestyle, religious practices, challenges related to employment, support systems and demographics. Where do you live? What do you think about Milwaukee? What does being a man mean to you?
The men opened up and talked broadly about their struggles with homelessness, with finding food. They revealed high rates of incarceration, drug addiction and poverty, trouble finding jobs and getting the insurance to drive a car to a job — if they find employment.
They talked about generational differences and about issues specific to Milwaukee and Wisconsin. For example, Harris noticed several of the men “got antsy” when sessions ran later in the afternoon. The men told her they don’t feel comfortable standing at city bus stops after sundown, and they don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods.
“I saw so many things I wasn’t aware of,” Harris admits. “You see that men are treated differently and need different kinds of help [than women].”
Now she is thinking about how to use the information to address the health and wellness of African-American men in the community and hopes to get funding for further study.