Black men are an endangered species. There is nothing novel about that proposition. In fact, it echoes on the lips of African-Americans daily. However, it seems that many Americans, figuratively or literally, roll their eyes when confronted by the endangered species claim. One can almost hear their reaction: “There they go again” or ” Those paranoid Black people lose all credibility when they make hyperbolic statements like that.” But the statement is truth.

The recent tragic death of Trayvon Martin in Florida has garnered nationwide attention and outrage. It is the latest instance of an unarmed Black male, in this instance a minor, being shot to death by law enforcement officials or, in this case, a pseudo-cop, law enforcement wannabe. The roll of Black innocents is long, the names familiar: Michael Stewart, Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Ousmane Zongo and, most recently, Ramarley Graham and countless others.

The threat to Black men does not only come from the police, pseudo-cops or from other Black men. Successful Black men–some of whom have the highest degree of education and professional attainment–are dying prematurely of prostate and other cancers, from heart attacks, strokes, aneurisms, diabetes and other health-related causes at alarming rates. An article last year called attention to the premature deaths of Black male Yale graduates, lawyers, doctors, and businessmen, in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

Last week, John Payton, the head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, died after a brief illness. His death is a blow to the civil and human rights communities across the United States and beyond. It reminds us that the threat to Black men comes from both ends of life’s spectrum.

We are forced to tell our children, especially our sons, that there is a code of behavior they must abide by if they interact with police or when they are in public more generally. Moreover, honesty compels us to acknowledge that Black young men are killing each other at a rate that far outpaces death at the hands of the police.

To be clear, police shootings of unarmed members of the Black community present an issue that has special significance, and outrage about the betrayal of trust by those sworn to protect us is understandable. However, the forces that take Black men away from our families and our communities are both internal and external to our communities.

Whether our sons are being shot down by the police, vigilantes or their peers, whether our men are dying early from stress and disease, whether Black boys and men are being locked away in jails and prisons or suffering intellectual “death at an early age” in inferior and failing schools, Black men are endangered.

Our nation must recognize that there is a compelling governmental interest in addressing this crisis, and that if we fail to address it, it is at our national peril.