Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Black Men Missing

By: Phillip Jackson

There is no longer a need for dire predictions, hand-wringing, or apprehension about losing a generation of Black boys. It is too late. In education, employment, economics, incarceration, health, housing, and parenting, we have lost a generation of young Black men. The question that remains is will we lose the next two or three generations, or possibly every generation of Black boys hereafter to the streets, negative media, gangs, drugs, poor education, unemployment, father absence, crime, violence and death.

Most young Black men in the United States don't graduate from high school. Only 35% of Black male students graduated from high school in Chicago and only 26% in New York City, according to a 2006 report by The Schott Foundation for Public Education. Only a few Black boys who finish high school actually attend college, and of those few Black boys who enter college, nationally, only 22% of them finish college.

Young Black male students have the worst grades, the lowest test scores, and the highest dropout rates of all students in the country. When these young Black men don't succeed in school, they are much more likely to succeed in the nation's criminal justice and penitentiary system. And it was discovered recently that even when a young Black man graduates from a U.S. college, there is a good chance that he is from Africa, the Caribbean or Europe, and not the United States.

Black men in prison in America have become as American as apple pie. There are more Black men in prisons and jails in the United States (about 1.1 million) than there are Black men incarcerated in the rest of the world combined. This criminalization process now starts in elementary schools with Black male children as young as six and seven years old being arrested in staggering numbers according to a 2005 report, Education on Lockdown by the Advancement Project.

The rest of the world is watching and following the lead of America. Other countries including England, Canada, Jamaica, Brazil and South Africa are adopting American social policies that encourage the incarceration and destruction of young Black men. This is leading to a world-wide catastrophe. But still, there is no adequate response from the American or global Black community.

Worst of all is the passivity, neglect and disengagement of the Black community concerning the future of our Black boys. We do little while the future lives of Black boys are being destroyed in record numbers. The schools that Black boys attend prepare them with skills that will make them obsolete before, and if, they graduate. In a strange and perverse way, the Black community, itself, has started to wage a kind of war against young Black men and has become part of this destructive process.

Who are young Black women going to marry? Who is going to build and maintain the economies of Black communities? Who is going to anchor strong families in the Black community? Who will young Black boys emulate as they grow into men? Where is the outrage of the Black community at the destruction of its Black boys? Where are the plans and the supportive actions to change this? Is this the beginning of the end of the Black people in America?

The list of those who have failed young Black men includes our government, our foundations, our schools, our media, our Black churches, our Black leaders, and even our parents. Ironically, experts say that the solutions to the problems of young Black men are simple and relatively inexpensive, but they may not be easy, practical or popular. It is not that we lack solutions as much as it is that we lack the will to implement these solutions to save Black boys. It seems that government is willing to pay billions of dollars to lock up young Black men, rather than the millions it would take to prepare them to become viable contributors and valued members of our society.

Please consider these simple goals that can lead to solutions for fixing the problems of young Black men:

Short term

1) Teach all Black boys to read at grade level by the third grade and to embrace education
2) Provide positive role models for Black boys
3) Create a stable home environment for Black boys that includes contact with their fathers
4) Ensure that Black boys have a strong spiritual base
5) Control the negative media influences on Black boys
6) Teach Black boys to respect all girls and women

Long term

1) Invest as much money in educating Black boys as in locking up Black men
2) Help connect Black boys to a positive vision of themselves in the future
3) Create high expectations and help Black boys live into those high expectations
4) Build a positive peer culture for Black boys
5) Teach Black boys self-discipline, culture and history
6) Teach Black boys and the communities in which they live to embrace education and life-long learning

More Facts
37.7% of Black men in the United States are not working (2006 Joint Economic Committee Study chaired by Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY))
58% of Black boys in the United States do not graduate from high school (2006 Report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education)
Almost 70% of Black children are born into female, single parent households (2000 Census Report)
About 1 million Black men in the United States are in prison (U.S. Justice Department)


Joe said...

If I recollect properly I think this was written by Phillip JAckson leader of the Black Star project (Educate or Die). But nevertheless its a very hardhitting piece with statistics and clearly logical solutions. Sadly articles such as this are overshadowed by other more important issues in the black community; Obama vs Hillary, sports and entertainment. Our young black men are being conceived, raised and ultimately disenfranchised why we are silent.

SIR said...

Being that I live in the area where I see all these young and old men first hand, it is mostly drugs that influence's everyone. All the teens and children see are peope, on drugs and not doing anything with themselves, so who are they supposed to look up to. If someone where to try and change what is going, even take baby steps, where would they begin?

DMur said...

As a 21 year old young black man I leave this response which is also a excerpt from my upcoming motivational book for young black men "My Brothers Keeper: Messages of Hope for Young Black Men"...I had to leave this b/c I am sick and tired of the exaggerations of the shortcomings of black youth without also shedding light to the advancements which have been made.

Today I googled the term young black men and the first item to come up had the headline “Grim Forecast For Young Black Men”, the third had the headline
“Why Young Black Men Are Endangered”, and the fifth headline touched on “life getting worse” for young black men. Towards the end of the page was a link that had the headline “empowering young black males”. The results in that google search engine are very similar to the approach many are taking today to the problems facing young black men.

I can’t tell you how many times growing up I was reminded how grim our forecast was or how we were endangered. But when looking back its not necessarily those speeches that motivated me to reach higher for success. Most of the time when I heard those speeches I felt like I was being told something I already knew. However, what did and still today does inspire me are the words, examples, and stories of other young black men who have managed to overcome the odds.

How many times have we heard someone make the statement it’s a shame to see more young black men in prision then in college. That’s actually a false statement. According to 2005 Census Bureau statistics 10 percent of the male African-American population of the United States aged between 18 and 24 numbered 1,896,000. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 106,000 African-Americans in this age group were in federal or state prisons at the end of 2005. If you add the numbers in local jail (measured in mid-2006), you arrive at a grand total of 193,000 incarcerated young Black males, or slightly over 10 percent.
According to the same census data, 530,000 of these African-American males, or twenty eight percent, were enrolled in colleges or universities (including two-year-colleges) in 2005. That is five times the number of young black men in federal and state prisons and two and a half times the total number incarcerated.


Anonymous said...

Being a black male I have but one question to ask: what part do African American women play in these numbers, because when I was in high school the girls were more likely to go with the "THUG" than the would a brother that was cool, fun, and was an all around good guy.

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