All Articles Tagged "african american boys"
(NNPA) — A Chicago mother recently filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Education alleging a Chicago Public School security guard handcuffed her young son while he was a student at George Washington Carver Primary School on the city’s far south side. In the lawsuit, filed Aug. 29, LaShanda Smith says the guard handcuffed her son March 17, 2010 which resulted in “sustained injuries of a permanent, personal and pecuniary nature.” According to media reports, Michael A. Carin, the attorney representing Smith says the youngster was among several six and seven year olds that were handcuffed by the guard for allegedly “talking in class”. The students were also allegedly told they would never see their parents again and were going to prison.
(Rolling Out) — African Americans have traditionally valued and reinforced the importance of education, but recent generations serve to show the opposite. Not to abrogate personal responsibility for the lack of many African Americans noting the significance of reading and math, or even having a semblance of comprehension of the economic crisis confronting the nation, the reality is that young African American males are disproportionately the target of systematic forms of exclusion. The state of Texas provides a prime example of this and is a general reflection of practices prevalent across the nation. The Council of States Government Justice Center just released a report on outcomes of disciplinary procedures in the school systems across the state of Texas.
(Buffalo News) — An education consultant who boasts expertise in educating African- American boys from impoverished backgrounds challenged Buffalo School Superintendent James A. Williams on Monday to convert some low-achieving schools into Afro-centric schools. Jawanza Kunjufu, who holds advanced degrees in business and economics and is the author of 33 books, including “Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys,” “Raising Black Boys” and his most recent book, “Understanding Black Male Learning Styles,” addressed about 300 people at the Buffalo Academy for the Visual & Performing Arts, 450 Masten Ave. Williams was among those attending the 90-minute lecture. He did not speak during the event. “You want to improve the test scores? You want to reduce the dropout rate? You want to free yourself of [persistently lowachieving] schools? Replace them with an African-centered school,” said Kunjufu, whose observations received thunderous applause.
(New York Times) — For children in blighted neighborhoods, going to college can seem an impossible goal, especially when just making it through grade school is a challenge. Rodzae James, 11, knows his neighborhood is rough, but he feels lucky to have a couple of good role models. “I look up to my brother because he was the first boy on my block to go to college,” he said. Rodzae also admires his mentor, Justen Boyd, a family advocate at Family Focus Lawndale, who specializes in education and restorative justice, an approach to discipline emphasizing collective ways of solving behavioral problems. Instead of bolting out of Goldblatt Elementary School in the North Lawndale neighborhood when the bell rings at 1:45 p.m. on Fridays, Rodzae and four other fifth-grade boys head to the library to see Mr. Boyd. For some of the boys, he is the primary male figure in their lives.
Two similar, and very telling, stories about Black students and how reverse integration would be beneficial to their academic achievement were published this week. Recently, the Oakland school district in California released data on the achievement of its black male students as part of its African-American male achievement initiative. The data showed a population which is missing more than 18 days of school on average and lagging gravely behind white males in English and Math. What was most interesting about this report, published in San Jose Mercury News for one, is the remarks left by a few of the commenters, which included:
Gee Yu: “The difference with the schools then and now is that we had black teachers in our schools. … We hired local teachers from the local colleges who had roots in the community…”
Football Watcher: “Put more African-American men in the classroom as teachers! In my 11 years, I almost never had any problem with African-American boys. I was an example of what they could be if they put their minds to it. We would have conversations at lunch and in between classes where I asked real questions like, “What do you want to do after you graduate (and not the song and dance about UC and A-G requirements)?”
On a different side of the country, Angela Tilghman, an instructional coach at McCaskey East High School in Pennsylvania, had similar ideas as the commenters and put her researched plans into action by creating a homeroom, segregated by race and gender, in order to better mentor black female students and black male students at her school. The move has proved to be controversial with CNN reporting on the topic with the headline “School separating kids by race.”
As Tilghma discussed, her idea came into being because of the research she had discovered, which highlighted how this type of segregated learning environment would be conducive to inspiring participants. It has long been recognized in many education circles that the integration of schools following Brown v. Board of Education in the 1950s had a negative impact on the education achievements of Black students. And plenty of research still show that students learn better in an environment of their peers, which is led by a role model of the same race.
Pedro Noguera, professor of teaching and learning at New York University, told CNN that he was weary about the experiment’s ultimate impact. “Sometimes when we separate students in this way, we inadvertently reinforce stereotypes and may in fact stigmatize children by suggesting that there’s something wrong with them and therefore they need extra help,” he said.
Disappointingly, the real solutions that arise to address Black learning are always challenged and ceased by the claim of racism. The reality is that the needs of Black students are far different from the needs of White students, who rarely deal with the issue of being a minority in a classroom. Far from complaining, the instructors and principal at McCaskey East took matters into their own hands but for that, they’ll continue to get a lot of flack despite any improvements.
Dr. Waldo Johnson, a social scientist at The University of Chicago, has put together a book that he hopes will gets us closer to understanding the plight of Black men, whose trials and tribulations are yet to be fully explored in academia. His book, Social Work with African American Males: Health, Mental Health and Social Policy, integrates the perspective of several Black scholars and, hence, integrates both a professional and personal insight into “what’s hurting and helping young Black men.” We spoke to Dr. Johnson to learn more about this important work.
What inspired you to write this book and collaborate with others on this project?
The book is the result of a research conference that I hosted at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago in May, 2005. Earlier drafts of several of the chapters contained in the book were presented as conference papers at the conference. At the encouragement of my dean, I decided to organize the research presentations and invited several other scholars to contribute research papers to form the edited volume.
Because the focus of the conference was social work responses to African American males across the life course, I invited social work and other social science scholars whose research examines the various social statuses and well-being indicators represented in the volume. As a fatherhood research scholar, I realized that my capability to address all of these issues and social statuses was limited. I also sought to identify new and emerging scholars, many of whom were junior research faculty, as contributors to the volume because my early research efforts were supported by mid-career and senior scholars.
I recognized that the younger scholars would either bring fresh perspectives to persistent issues and problems that plague African American males or would be addressing emerging issues and identifying human and social capital among African American males for solving problems.
Obviously you’re familiar with your subject matter but what would you say was the most most surprising finding, for you, that came from this book?
I am broadly familiar with the various issues and problems that are addressed in the edited volume. I have addressed a number of these issues in my own research. The most surprising findings are not simply the approach that individual contributors take in conducting this scholarship contained in the volume but also their personal motivation for doing so. For example, my earlier research which focused on unwed fatherhood among low income African American males emerged as a result of my prior social work practitioner career engaged in adolescent pregnancy prevention programming aimed at high school and young adult African American males.
As a social work practitioner and subsequently as a social work researcher, I came to recognize that the lack of strong paternal and son relationships contributed significantly to the escalation of intergenerational adolescent and young adult fatherhood among those in my studies. As an African American male growing up in Americus, Georgia located in the state’s southwestern region, I enjoyed a strong, positive relationship with my own father. My interest in examining the growing phenomenon of unwed and nonresident fatherhood among low-income African American males emerged as I began to consider how profoundly different my life course might have been under such circumstances.
However, like many of the contributors to this edited volume, I recognize the fragility of our respective social statuses and how as African American males, many of us have been touched personally or indirectly by many of the issues and problems examined in this volume. Recently, I participated in a social science research scholars network meeting focused on masculinity and the wellbeing of African American males in which one of the speakers asked those in the audience to stand if they knew someone personally who is or have been incarcerated. In a room of approximately fifty early and mid-career African American research scholars, all holding at least a doctoral degree and many on faculties at some of the nation’s top colleges and universities, less than ten persons remained seated. I dare say that incarceration does not impact the lives of our peer colleagues in this manner. The increasing pervasiveness of such issues and problems among African American males heightens the urgency that we as African American social science researchers share in seeking viable solutions.
There’s a section on how criminal activity amongst black men like gangbanging should be viewed as suicidal/homicidal. That’s not a view that has been discussed outside of academia.
Within the academic research realm, African Americans are viewed largely as a group that does not commit suicide. However, Professor Sean Joe, the author of this chapter, steps outside the traditional social science research paradigm, in which white Americans are typically the comparative reference group in examining homicidal and suicidal behaviors among African Americans. While it may be true that the behavioral modes and patterns of suicide and suicidal behavior such as self-inflicted gun shots and overdosing on drugs that characterize suicide among white Americans is far less frequently executed by African Americans, Professor Joe argues that the prevalence of drug-trafficking and gangbang behaviors that often result in deadly consequences reframes African Americans’, particularly African American males, likelihood to commit and participate in suicidal and homicidal behavior.
Professor Joe’s foray outside the traditional social science research paradigm offers a compelling look at the physical and mental health status of African Americans and how it is uniquely different and therefore imperative that further research is conducted to identify culturally-appropriate interventions.
Why do you think that society in general or policy makers should (or should not) take this perspective when speaking of black criminal activity?
The motivation for engaging in criminal activity is not always the result of bad people doing bad things. In the current economic environment, it is possible that in the loss of access to employment opportunities, some individuals may be led to engage in criminal activity as a means of providing material support for themselves or others when other means appear out of reach.
While I do believe that engaging in criminal activity is never justified, African American males have historically experienced marginal paid labor force opportunities in the US when compared to racial and ethnic peers. Policy makers and society alike often share a common perception of African American males: dangerous, uncaring, and other descriptors that depict them as unworthy of help and assistance.
The distinction lies in how policy makers may contribute to the enactment of public policies that reproduce skewed societal perceptions of African American males. The extent to which African American males see themselves as others see them increases the likelihood that they will engage in self-destructive behaviors, including suicidal or homicidal behaviors because they also see themselves as unworthy of help.
In your personal opinion, what’s the biggest misconception about black men and black male youth?
Stereotype and bias collectively have contributed to the societal perception of African American males, from boys to adult men, as uncaring, fearless predators who have little or no regard for their children as fathers, community and societal norms of behavior as boys and adolescent males.
In doing so, the humanity of African American boys, adolescent and adult males is continuously chipped away and their vulnerability as sons, husbands, uncles, brothers, fathers and civic-engaged individuals within their families, neighborhoods and communities is heightened. In reality, the social construction of masculinity within families and communities in which so many young African American males come of age manifests itself in the “bleeding of boys into men” long before they are chronologically and emotionally prepared to assume adult roles. In addition, various forms of violence (interpersonal, family and community) affect them in uniquely gendered ways such that they are routinely engaged in violent struggles for unknown rewards, displaying fearless demeanors as means of deflecting personal assaults, and persistently worried that they will be the next victim of violence and ashamed that they can neither prevent nor shield themselves unless they too engage in violent behavior.
5. What would you suggest that the general public take into consideration when it comes to understanding the plight of imperiled black youth?
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6. Social welfare policy constitutes part of your expertise and you’ve studied family households as part of your research. Many people believe that the lack of two parent households is the most important crisis facing African-Americans. Would you agree with that?
The presence of two loving and supportive adults serving in parental roles is important but the loss of the village in which all children are the responsibility of all adults is equally critical. Given the increasing rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock parenting, it is unlikely that all youth can expect to live with two parents during their formative years. As Joseph Richardson points out in his chapter contained in this volume, uncles, both kin and fictive kin, provide important family-based social capital when fathers cannot do so. Another contributor, Kevin Roy, describes the important reciprocal relationships between paternal grandmothers and their sons as another important form of family based social capital. The ability to sustain in-tact two parent households may become increasing elusive for many families, irrespective of socioeconomic status for a variety of reasons.
Every four years, I suffer from a condition. I feel confused, disconnected from friends and co-workers, yet strangely compelled to engage foreign matters. These feelings are brought on by the arrival of the World Cup. Through conversations with a number of my black American friends I’ve learned that I am not alone in this sentiment. While the World Cup represents one of the most important events to take place around the globe, it remains far from sacred to Americans; even less so to many black Americans.
I recognize that the World Cup is very significant to many of my brothers and sisters throughout the African diaspora, but I wonder if it will ever hold deep meaning for most of us. While it may just seem like a sporting event, mending our disconnection from the World Cup holds great promise for African-Americans; learning to appreciate it could usher in a new period of global citizenship.
As I recently sat watching the United States v. England match someone asked, “Who are you rooting for?” “Neither! I don’t like colonizers or oppressors,” I responded. Off the cuff, I quickly realized that my comment spoke to a dilemma the sport presents to many black people in this country. My disengagement with the World Cup wasn’t just about politics, it was also about how I was socialized.
In the United States soccer is an overwhelmingly middle class, suburban and predominantly white activity. Images of plush green fields, orange slices and minivans rush to my mind when I hear the word soccer.
By contrast, around the world, children mired in poverty find football, as the majority of the world calls it, an ideal athletic outlet. Whether it is played on the plush fields of London or the dusty expanses of Dakar, soccer is a language for communication and competition. Sadly, it is an international language from which many black Americans have been barred.
Sports are not foreign to black Americans, but over the years there has been a continued narrowing of sporting options. Sports like hockey and golf attract few black youth because of their high costs. But soccer is economically accessible, so if it’s not about the money, then what’s the problem?
Sociologist Scott Brooks finds that black youth, particularly boys, are socialized heavily toward basketball. While many try to argue that black boys are naturally talented at hoops and view it as their only option out of poverty, neither could be further from the truth. We have the potential to excel at any sport, but outside factors have shaped our interests and abilities over time. Need proof? Look no further than the declining presence of African-Americans in baseball. The messages we pass and the opportunities we present dictate the paths that we take to recreation and beyond. While there are many barriers to linking black Americans to the globe, such as poverty, segregation and unequal access to technology, soccer could provide an alternative path to connection.
I began watching the World Cup when my friends from college began pestering me to check it out. I wasn’t completely unexposed, having been the lone black kid on a handful of soccer teams growing up. But I didn’t realize the global importance of the Cup, particularly to the African diaspora. As anthropologist Michael Ralph has pointed out, in places like Senegal soccer is often about more than simple sport — it represents historical and contemporary political battlegrounds. I am slowly coming into an appreciation for the World Cup, not just as a sport, but also as an opportunity to foster camaraderie throughout the diaspora. The work of uniting the diaspora doesn’t have to be limited to politics and protest. It can also be linked in play.
R. L’Heureux Lewis is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York – CUNY. His research concentrates on issues of educational inequality, the role of race in contemporary society, and mental health well-being.