Black Sons to Mothers: Compliments, Critiques, and Challenges for Cultural Workers in Education

Black Sons to Mothers: Compliments, Critiques, and Challenges for Cultural Workers in Education

Black Sons to Mothers: Compliments, Critiques, and Challenges for Cultural Workers in Education

Black Sons to Mothers: Compliments, Critiques, and Challenges for Cultural Workers in Education

Synopsis

Black Sons to Mothers is the critical site where African American male scholars explore the meanings and connections of the lives of black boys/men. This book offers literary, scholarly, and personal space to interrogate the seemingly elusive intersection of race and gender. Each chapter in the book is offered in one of two voices - one that speaks to teachers as cultural workers and one that represents individual transformation into the cultural space of mothering. This book's intent is to both question black men's constructions as sons (cultural offspring) and to engage in the project of representing mothering as cultural work and, specifically, the role of black men in this work.
Because the discourse on the role performance of black boys/men is steeped in the hegemonic rhetoric of traditional constructions of masculinity, that discourse fails to sensibly represent and elaborate on the diversity and complexity of their lives and relations, particularly in the academic enterprise. As such, Black Sons to Mothers attempts to recontextualize the discourse surrounding the cultural places where the identities of black boys/men are shaped and explores how the politics and constructions of manhood are informed and enforced in school settings.
In Black Sons to Mothers, the research subject of extrapolation is the oppressed and/or marginalized group. In opposition to deficit model inquiry, the research on white males is not being applied to black boys/men, but the research on black boys/men is being applied to all students. The black male student is at the center of a discourse that is not about a pathology, dysfunction, "at-riskness," or "special education." This book's discourse is epigenetic in that it advances a more complex understanding of schooling and cultural work. This understanding is not solely about black boys/men, but about the cornerstone of cultural work - (un)learning.

Excerpt

M. Christopher Brown ii and Earl James Davis

At my old school there is at least one teacher who loves me. She is the teacher who "knew me before I was born" and bought my first baby clothes. It is she who makes life bearable.

--Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens

Our Conversation

It was in the Fall Semester of 1998 that we met to put together this volume. We were both somewhat disoriented as a result of recent relocations. James had just begun a sabbatical at the University of Michigan in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. Similarly, Christopher was in the initial weeks of a professorship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As has been the case in our other research initiatives and / or work sessions, we spent the first several hours exploring the social events and professional dynamics occurring in our lives. Although we had seen each other just a few weeks earlier, there was a chatty excitement about our conversation.

As conversation shifted from our individual "soap operas," we began to focus on why we had commissioned the participation of our colleagues and friends for this book, Black Sons to Mothers:
Compliments, Critiques, and Challenges for Cultural Workers in Education
. We spent the next hour attempting to position their and our voices within the larger academic debate on black education, the culture wars, and social change. Since Chris is a social reconstructionist and James is a progressive, we agreed that the text must focus on the voices, discourses, and narratives that reveal and/or illuminate the educational relationship between students (particularly black males) and their teachers.

The conversation explored Robin Kelley's Yo' Mama's Disfunktional! (1997), which we had both recently completed reading. We dialogued about the simplicity of Kelley's thesis: social control has a low correlation with the development of black . . .

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