Tag Archives: Black Males

african american college student

Might Mark Cuban’s Comments Move Forward the Conversation on Race in America?

In the aftermath of the Donald Sterling debacle that led to the Clippers’ owner being banned from NBA games for life, ailment Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made comments in an interview that have landed him at the center of racial controversy. If you didn’t happen to hear what Cuban had to say, click here to link to the video from the interview. But rather than indict Cuban for revealing his own prejudices, I want to thank him for his honesty and for helping to move the conversation on race in America forward.

The crux of Cuban’s comments was that he believes we all have prejudices. He then went on to talk about some of his own. Most notably, Cuban said that if it’s late at night and he comes up on a Black kid in a hoodie, he is going to the other side of the street. As you might imagine, that’s the comment that has caused the biggest stir. But Cuban was just being honest. He was brave enough to say publicly what lots of Whites and truthfully, some Blacks would say to their close friends and in the comfort of their homes. In fact, Cuban is more the norm than the exception in being fearful of a young Black man walking down the street wearing a hoodie. Cuban does go on in the interview to say that he would also move to the other side of the street if at night he walked up on a White guy with a shaved head and tatoos. But for the Black kid, all that was needed to strike fear in Cuban’s heart was the hoodie.

Cuban should not be publicly castigated for being honest. I applaud his honesty, for I believe it is Cuban’s brand of honesty that’s needed to move the conversation on race forward in America. And I make that statement as a Black man who wears a hoodie at night four to five days a week. And trust me, from the reactions I get from some people I come across when I am dressed this way, I knew a long time before Mark Cuban’s comments that I make people uncomfortable at night in my hoodie. A White man wearing a hoodie is usually assumed to be on his way to or leaving the gym. A Black man in a hoodie might be assumed to be working out, but it’s more likely that he is assumed to be prowling the streets looking for trouble.

Could I dress differently, maybe in a way that might make Mark Cuban feel more comfortable when he passes me on the street? Sure I could. But I don’t, and I likely won’t. Why? First, because I like my hoodie. Second, because I’m going to dress the way I want to dress when I go the gym. I have no desire to change my gym attire simply to make those whose path I cross feel more comfortable with me. I understand what comes with making the decision to dress that way. I understand that Mark is going to be fearful of me, and I’m okay with that. I understand that I’ll get extra attention when I stop at the grocery store or gas station on my way home; and while I don’t like that, it is what it is, at least for now. But most important for me, I understand that for my own protection, I shouldn’t go for a late night stroll in my hoodie, not even in my neighborhood. And no matter where I am, I need to make sure that I keep my drivers license and a business card showing my affiliation with the University of Kentucky in my pocket.

What I have described is my reality, nightly. Race relations in America isn’t just something I learned about in college and read about in my spare time. I have lived ‘race relations in America’ every day of my life, and regardless of your race and whether you want to admit it or not, you have lived it every day of your life too. But we can’t move forward as a nation with race relations as long as Americans pretend that we live in a post-racial society. The truth that all of us know but many of us are unwilling to acknowledge is that race still matters; in fact, race still matters a lot. Cuban simply acknowledged in the interview that race matters to him when he’s walking up on someone at night. White kid in a hoodie=I’m probably safe. Black kid in a hoodie=let me not take any chances. To his credit, Cuban acknowledged in the interview that such prejudices are not ideal, but that they are real nonetheless.

Until people feel comfortable with acknowledging their prejudices about race without fear of being labeled a racist for the rest of their life, we’ll never be able to get to the place we ought to be in America with race relations. I may be in the minority on this one, but I appreciate what Mark Cuban had to say. He was honest and respectful in his comments, and I hope others will be as brave as he has been and dare to have tough but meaningful conversations on race with their families, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Those kinds of conversations are necessarily uncomfortable, but there’s no other way to get to the other side of racial prejudice and bigotry.

BMI-S 11.16.10

Educational Attainment for Black & Latino Males Remains Alarmingly Low

The Schott Foundation’s 2012 report, case The Urgency of Now, shows that high school graduation rates for Black male students remain significantly lower than for any other group of students. Since 2004 the foundation’s reports have shown that Black male students are significantly less likely than any other group of students to earn a high school diploma. This year’s report shows that only 52% of Black males and 58% of Latino males graduate from high school in four years, compared to 78% of White, non-Latino males who graduate high school in four years.

These numbers show clearly that now is not the time to pull back our efforts. These numbers further illustrate the continued need to reject proposals for policy and/or practice that fail to take racial inequity into account. Differences in the socioeconomic circumstances of families surely impact educational outcomes, but socioeconomic differences fall far short of explaining persistent differences in the educational outcomes of Black and Latino male students. Race and gender do still matter.

You can access the Schott Foundation’s full report, The Urgency of Now, here.

african american college student

Black Male Academy Induction-The Importance of Expectations

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the induction ceremony for young men who will be the first students at Carter G. Woodson Academy, here  a new program in Lexington, Kentucky which comes as a result of the collaborative efforts of the Black Males Working (BMW) Program at First Baptist Church Bracktown and the Fayette County Public Schools. With the explicit mission of helping young Black men to achieve at high levels, store the program has enrolled students in grades six through nine and promises to offer educational experiences designed to have them realize their full academic potential.

The induction ceremony was a special one. Each young man was individually recognized and called to the front of the standing room-only sanctuary of First Baptist Church Bracktown where his parent(s) or grandparent(s) presented him with his official academy blazer. Additionally, as a token of the expectation that each student would graduate from high school, each young man was presented with a symbolic high school diploma.

There are lots of things that I think are special about what this program, the church, and school district leaders are planning and doing with Carter G. Woodson Academy, and I expect to have conversations here about its approach and accomplishments for years to come. For the moment, however, I’ll touch on just one thing that I believe to be crucial; that is the importance of having and articulating high expectations for the achievement of young Black men. Unfortunately, too many young Black men have heard neither their teachers nor their parents articulate and hold them to the expectation that they will achieve academically at high levels. If we are to change the educational and life outcomes for young Black men in our homes, schools, and communities, this must change. Parents, family members, church family members, and community members must first begin to believe for themselves that young Black men can compete academically with anyone. Personally, I think having high expectations for a child ought to be a prerequisite for having any dealings with him/her. The sad truth of the matter, however, is that if that prerequisite were enforced, there would be lots of adults that would not be able to work with Black children anymore.

I applaud the leaders of the Woodson Academy for making the expectation of academic achievement clear from the outset, and making that expectation known not only to the young men and their families, but to the larger community as well.