The problem with big black boys in schools… Do we love and care about them?

Imam Hamzah Alameen, MHS Executive Director   by Hamzah Alameen

     Historically black boys have experienced difficulty learning in urban schools.  The fact is that black boys are having peculiar problems in school that can not be explained by poverty recent studies show.  But researchers are silent about the cause of this anomaly and seem to be confounded.  In a recent NY Times article, by Trip Gabriel, dated, Nov. 9, 2010, “Proficiency of Black Students Is Found to Be Far Lower Than Expected” cites the report, “A Call for Change,” by the Council of the Great City Schools, which found poverty did not explain why our black boys are lagging. Researchers reported:

“Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

Imported Photos 00021

Me at age 10

Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.”

The report shows that black boys on average fall behind from their earliest years. Black mothers have a higher infant mortality rate and black children are twice as likely as whites to live in a home where no parent has a job. In high school, African-American boys drop out at nearly twice the rate of white boys, and their SAT  critical reasoning scores are on average 104 points lower.

The analysis of results on the national tests found that math scores in 2009 for black boys were not much different than those for black girls in Grades 4 and 8, but black boys lagged behind Hispanics of both sexes, and they fell behind white boys by at least 30 points, a gap sometimes interpreted as three academic grades.”  Black boys face the scary reality that their black lives do not seem to matter on the streets nor in he schools,

     So where does this all lead?  Maybe it does have something to do with black life not mattering?  Who can argue that teachers care about our kids more the cops?  I certainly could not because I grew up in a world where being a black man-child in school was a precarious circumstance.  Teachers thought they could read my mind, but were seldom correct.  Black boys speak a different language that some find difficult to understand.  Police and teachers are often afraid of our children, who can sense negative tension from those charged to protect them.  But in cases were cops understand and teachers care about our kids many will attest that positive results prevail.   Lebron James recently wore a “I can’t breathe” t-shirt which brought serious attention to the struggle to stop the needless and racist social lynching of young black boys. But what about the mass educational lynching these boys experience in schools.

images (22)     Mentoring initiatives like President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program may prove successful in showing that black boys need positive role models that care. Culturally competent programs may prove that teachers and mentors are more effective when they care about the students they teach.  Educators like Geoffrey Canada has experienced great success with black children at the Harlem School Zone (HSZ).  The HSZ has a 100% graduation rate and almost all students go to college.  HSZ provides an environment of extraordinary support and high expectation for their students.

Stereotypes portrayed in hip-hop and social media is a persistent problem. If you are black and not a basketball player, comedian or hip-hop star, America has a dim view of who you are.  Most black men in the NBA have a good education.  What also must be said is that they probably had a great mentor in their life as well.  Our view of black males has to change and teachers and law enforcement need expanded cultural competency training. The truth is that black life matters and black males are at risk, but still manage to achieve against all the odds.

Jamal Hagler, in a Newsweek article titled, The Media Narrative of Black Men in America Is All Wrong, on 3/19/15, notes that, “More black men are going to college than ever before in our nation’s history. Black men make up the largest share of people of color in the U.S. Armed Forces. And black fathers living with their children are more likely to take on everyday child care duties than fathers in other demographic groups.  Yet many portrayals of black men in the media continue to focus on the negative.”  We have to inspire positive images of black men in the media.  We have the power to change perceptions if we all work together to do so.

The potential of super icons like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant to empower black boys is tremendous.  Many of our stars have given back a great deal, and continue to do so.  But we should challenge our black male stars to increase their commitments to helping our children.  Black boys are at risk in major urban areas because of their lack of inspiration and positive life experience.  I believe the solution is quite simple but over looked. We have to show them that we love and care about them if we expect them to listen. learn, and produce positive change.

Imam Hamzah Alameen, Mhs, is a pastoral counselor, author, educator, and director at Crisis Recovery Network, LLC., and he is also president of the National Association of Muslim Human Service Practitioners.

This entry was posted in CHAPLAINCY, COMMUNITY, CULTURE, Education, HUMAN SERVICE, MENTAL HEALTH, YOUTH and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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