HOT Topic Friday: A Way Up for African-American Boys


WGL110498Today is the first in a Friday Hot Topic Series concerning the issues that are affecting our African-American boys.  I call it a hot topic series because there has been some chatter about the increasing concerns.  As we will observe in this post, however, it is one thing to look at or talk about an issue, but it is another thing to determine the proper way to respond.  The current reality is that in so many ways African-American boys in this country are simply being tossed aside and ignored.

For Part I of this series, I will simply highlight some (though not all) of the critical issues plaguing these young men.  In the September 2010 issue of Ebony magazine, President Obama is interviewed concerning the education of our nation.  Ebony opens the article with these staggering facts:

“Nationwide, three out of every 10 students dropout of out high school.  For Blacks, that number is near half – and growingFurther, it is estimated that every school day, a Black male student drops out of high school.  That’s enough students to fill two classrooms every hour and an entire high school each week.”

The article goes on to highlight how this problem has an adverse effect on our economy, violence, and other American values.

According to the “Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2010, only 47 percent of black males graduated from high school in the 2007-2008 school year.”  Additionally according to the report, the best scores for black males in the eighth grade who read at or above the proficiency level was 15 percent.

Why should this issue concern you and why talk about it here?

Picture the end of the road for a black male who cannot read – He will either become a criminal or he will require significant government assistance (i.e. your hard earned tax payer dollars).  And finally, if he does not end up dead or on drugs, he is going to jail frequently.  “According to a report by the Justice Policy Institute in 2002, the number of black men in prison has grown from five times the rate it was twenty years ago.  In 2002 there were 791,600 black men in prison and 603, 032 enrolled in college.”  Your tax dollars pays for the housing, clothing, and feeding of jail inmates too.  These are only the self-centered reasons to pay attention to this series.

From the bleeding heart of one Christian, this issue demands an answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”  The Good Samaritan story in Luke 10: 25-37 gives us a clear response.  In these scriptures we first observe two “Godly” men knowingly pass by a man who was wounded and in need. The Samaritan “unchurched person” stops to carefully access the man’s situation.  He emphasizes with the wounded man’s situation, and then he immediately takes action to restore this man to his proper position.  No only that, the Samaritan was consistent in the service that he provided to the wounded man.  Jesus’ response is that we are to go and do like this Samaritan did.

The issues affecting African-American boys is not only the African-American community’s problem; this is America’s problem.  While completing freshmen training at the Naval Academy, we were required to learn the twenty seven “Laws of the Navy.”  The fifth law states: “On the strength of one link in the cable, Dependeth the might of the chain, Who knows when thou mayest be tested?  So live that thou bearest the strain!”  We are only as strong in a community as our weakest link.  I Corinthians Chapter 12 states that we should treat the weakest among us with special honor.

In no way am I implying that all African-American boys are weak and uneducated criminals.  On the contrary – There are many African-American boys that have grown into strong, Godly, educated men of good character.  I will feature several of them in this series, and they will identify some solutions and ways that we can offer a way up for African American boys.

After all, what do I know about being an African-American male in this country?  This is enough to think about until we meet here again for Part Two: Make an Impact – Share Jesus on next Friday.  Blessings, Natasha

Published by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

Servant of Jesus. Truth-teller. Leader. Mentor. Author of Books.

13 thoughts on “HOT Topic Friday: A Way Up for African-American Boys

  1. Every time I hear this issue raised or these statistics quoted i’m left wondering why the reporter hasn’t gone the small extra step and asked what’s going on in the failing student’s, black, white, whatever, home. After all, these underachievers are attending the same schools, the same classes, living in the same neighborhoods, as those who will succeed and perform at or above the national average.

    Why have they chosen as role models, performer (I use the term loosely), or athlete who themselves can barely speak a sentence of English or likely end up cross-eyed if faced with a simple math equation?

    Until their parents make an effort to reign in these kids instead of letting them run wild there’s little hope to improving statistics regardless of how much more is thrown at the problem. With each successive generation of the road to recovery is increasingly littered with potholes and signs leading to realized potential faded or in disrepair.

    I can only hope that some of these kids who make up these frightening statistics wake up in time so that when it’s their turn to be the first role models their children should have it will be a good one. Children look to their parents first so it’s commonly known that if the parents are messed it’s quite likely the kids will be too.

    So everyone should go make sure their house is in order.

    I look forward to seeing how this topic plays out on your inspiring website.

  2. According to the “Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2010, only 47 percent of black males graduated from high school in the 2007-2008 school year.

    Why should this concern me?

    On a personal level, I have the privilege and humbling responsibility of raising an African American boy. He is my only child and will be entering a world that accepts and expects mediocrity from him. Inarguably, the 53 percent high school dropout rate for African American males is a societal catastrophe.

    We can blame the teachers and the government.

    However, the foundation for the way we ought to live is clearly scripted in God’s handbook – the Bible. If we believe this to be the case, we should start with what God says about sex, parenting, and marriage. Clearly, God intended sexual relations only to occur within the confines of marriage.

    “Yes, it is good to live a celibate life. But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife…But God gives to some the gift of marriage, and others the gift of singleness.” 1 Corinthians 7: 2-4, 7

    It is easy to argue that God’s way is too hard and that it is not realistic for anyone to only have sex within the confines of marriage. But imagine if we as a society, were obedient to this and took it literally. The norm would transform and the vast majority of African American boys would be born to parents who are married.

    Young African American boys would emulate their fathers and not strive to get the latest Mohawk, wear their pants hanging halfway off their butts, or believe that platinum fronts are a great dental plan. The African American youth would be encouraged by their fathers to achieve greatness, to love one woman (their wife) passionately, and to fear God.

    I have not always followed God’s principles, but it is clear, that when we deviate, the fruit of womb pays the price. African American boys need Godly male mentors, fathers, and discipline. Absent of these, ungodly influences like gangs, criminal activity, and sexual immorality take root and flourish and we as a society find ourselves questioning where is God?

    Keep up the good thought provoking work!


  3. I believe education is the #1 key solving our problems as a nation. From violence, to jails, to poverty, to our national debt. As the article dictates, if we can educate our children adequately, then they won’t have to resort to violence and living in poverty. If you can take one child from poverty and raise him up to become a successful women or man. They not only serve as an example for others living in poverty and despair, but they are more likely to give back to their community, thus uplifting these poverty stricken neighborhoods. Now if these thoughts and views could be transcended upon the black community or any community in poverty, education would become an epidemic that would cure our nation instead of bringing it down.

  4. Natasha, this was so thought-provoking. My immediate response, particularly to the stats re. jail and college, was wondering how (and if) the government or culture can intervene, or how (and if) the local church can intervene. Can’t wait to read more.

  5. DING! DING! DING!….RING THE BELL!…SOUND THE ALARM!…Ladies and gents you all have great ideas but I doubt one of them alone can solve the problem.

    Lets start with education: What exactly does that mean? If a student goes to a top notch school they will be more intelligent? I doubt they will if their parents don’t even have a GED. I doubt education will be valued in that household.

    Lets move to parenting and mentoring: If a young black man has a loving and caring mother in the hood then he will succeed. His chances may be greater, but the negative environment will definitely take its toll if she enables and coddles him too much. The absence of a father can take a toll as well.

    I have an idea…how about we spend some time and money on educating the parents how to manage and lead their household? Is this possible or worth the cost? Where do we start? How do we start? What should they learn? How long should the curriculum be? Is a person ever too old to receive free parental EDUCATION?

  6. The numbers here floor me and make me so very sad. I want so badly to do something that would encourage not just African-American boys – but all children.

    Natasha, you might be interested in the Guilford County updating of the Accelerated Learner program this year. I can discuss that with you sometime. . . At one minority elementary school, NOT A SINGLE child in the school qualified via testing for the AL program. Something is not right with this, and I do not accept that there are no qualifying children in that school. Because of situations like that, Guilford County is beginning a “nurturing” program in schools like that. Good on one hand, BUT rather unfortunate in other ways. Accelerated Learners are a whole ‘nother faction of our society who are being overlooked. . . so much of our country’s potential is being lost in so many ways.

    What I see from where I am. . .
    – After obtaining a degree in architecture, I returned to school to work on a Masters in Elem. Ed. What I saw? The teaching profession is not respected, and too many UNPROFESSIONAL teachers are being degreed and hired. This is going to sound harsh, but believe me – there are so many unprofessional teachers, it would make your head spin. My sister, who has taught kindergarten and now teaches 4th grade, recently told me that she had an education professional tell her that he no longer considers one of our top education/teacher universities to be producing quality teachers. . . He is careful about hiring.

    We don’t compensate the brightest and best to do teaching, so why would they choose teaching? We don’t demand the best from them. . . many parents are complacent themselves and are leaving it up to someone else to take care of educating their children – from cradle to grave. I realize that many mothers and fathers have reasons for both working, but what’s bad is when parents don’t make it their business to care about their child’s education. Too many parents have no clue what’s going on. . .

    – I have a problem with unionization and education. It protects teachers who are doing a bad job. And then there’s the political aspects of it as well as a bad manager of taxpayer money.

    – The biggest problem I have experienced upclose and personal. . . and I think this is where African-American boys are hurt the most. . . LOW EXPECTATIONS. I see the potential and capability of not just African-American boys – but boys of all races in general. There is a tremendous dumbing down of our children, and their time is being wasted. I could on and on. With the current political climate, I think too many people have bought into the line that they are victims, and they are waiting for their salvation instead of believing in their own capabilities and walking in confidence with the Lord. . . there’s actually a growing demand for this expected salvation, I think. Instead of telling a cultural group that they are capable and can achieve with hard work and diligence, there almost seems to have been an encouragement to drag one’s feet and become dependent so that eventually the misery would overtake the entire nation. Some seem to believe there is going to be an “equalizing” of material wealth and opportunity and that it’s going to be utopic, etc. Unfortunately, I do not believe it will be what they believe it’s going to be.

    I am white, and I have been told repeatedly by others of my own race and of other races that I CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND. I can’t understand completely. But I can speak as a descendant of sharecroppers in the South and poverty in my own family just within the generation before my own.

    With all the political correctness, there seems to be a fear – even in our education system – of saying and doing what African-American boys may need most. . . that’s believing that THEY CAN DO IT and they are so very valuable to our country. And most especially to our Lord. They need someone to care about them.

    I have so many thoughts, and it’s late. . . ALL of our nation’s children are at risk. I watched my own child’s educational needs go unmet last year, and as hard as I tried, the teacher refused to partner with me. Frustrating.

  7. Again, thank all of you for your passion and concern for this topic. Let’s make a difference together.

    I posted a linked for a movie entitled, “Waiting for Superman” which addresses the issue of the public school system. I reviewed the website briefly on last evening and it looks like we have a movement that is ready to seriously address the problem of our public school system and how the system is negatively impacting a large part of the students in America (particularly those in lower income neighborhoods).


    I share your sentiments. And yes, I would love to talk to you about this some more. I will be starting a non-profit very soon and education will be one of the core values of the ministry. I’m interested in talking to and partnering with people who seriously want to see change in our country and this world.

    On another note concerning the teaching profession: I believe that the profession and importance of teachers are critical. I agree with several of the issues that you have raised here. Additionally, teachers simply are not paid enough money. I just don’t think they get paid enough to support themselves (particularly if they have a family), and especially considering the long hours that they put in after “work” to develop lesson plans, grade assignments and papers, and if they are really “special” people (and many of them are) – volunteer to coach or tutor in after school sports and activities.

    I would love to see more qualified, passionate, professional, innovative “think outside of the box and understanding that not everyone learns the same way” and caring teachers hired into the field, but let’s face it, income is a huge deterrent. If we know young people who are considering the profession, Teach for America is an excellent program. Here’s the link:

    Parenting: There is clearly an issue with the lack of proper parenting in this country. Marlon addressed this issue in his comment. There is a lot to consider when discussing parents (way too much to discuss right now), but the important thing to acknowledge is that the parents who are educated value education and those who are not don’t. It is as simple as that. I’m confident if we looked at the statistics that we would see a direct correlation between the failing students and their parents’ situations (number of parents in the home, house-hold income, number of hours the parents work, education of the parents, etc).

    The Student: On the other hand (having raised a teenager in my home for 2 ½ years), some of the caring parents don’t know what’s going on simply because the children/students either lie or don’t share the information (even when asked). Which leads to the importance of responsibility and character building (which will we discuss later in the series).

    I think the issues of addressing the parents and/or the students can best be addressed by establishing a relationship with people so that you can come along side them and positively influence their situation.

    Finally, LOW EXPECTATIONS! Now you are preaching! In the same Ebony magazine issue that I reference in this blog post, there is another article entitled, “The Modern Morehouse Man.” Morehouse is an all male Historically Black College and University (HBCU) located in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of their notable graduates. Morehouse prides itself on delivering a particular product – well educated, intelligent, disciplined, ethical, and informed male leaders. They have received push-back to their recently established Attire Policy, which includes: No caps; do-rags in the classroom; no shades to be worn in class; no decorative orthodontic appliances (or grills); no closes with derogatory, offensive or lewd messages; no sagging of pants; no pajamas in public; and no wearing of clothing associated with women’s garb (dresses, purses, pumps, etc) just to name a few rules on the list. I read the article trying to figure out why people are complaining about this policy. Morehouse is correct to set a standard for their institution and quality of man they expect to enter into it. We must certainly hold our young men to higher standards.


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