Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Vanishing Black Male: Saving Our Sons; Videoconference Panel Decries Negative Images, Program Cuts

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The Vanishing Black Male: Saving Our Sons; Videoconference Panel Decries Negative Images, Program Cuts

Article excerpt

The Vanishing Black Male: Saving Our Sons; Videoconference Panel. Decries Negative Images, Program Cuts

by Joan Morgan

WASHINGTON, DC -- Our psyches are bombarded daily with negative images of the Black male as criminal, drug dealer, pimp, thief and murderer. Yet many Black men are strong, productive members of society. It is, however, the negative images that are most prevalent and most destructive -- coming at a time when the Black male is faced with intense political challenges, said Kojo Nnamdi, moderator for Black Issues In Higher Education's seventh annual Black History Month kickoff celebration videoconference, "The Vanishing Black Male: Saving Our Sons."

Black male unemployment is at an all-time high. The leading cause of death for Black males is homicide, and Black men make up higher percentages of those in state, local and federal prisons than on America's college campuses. And what makes all these statistics that more astounding, Namdi said, is the fact that the Black male is only 6 percent of the population.

These observations and some solutions to them were discussed by a teleconference panel of the Rev. Al Sharpton, political activist and orator; Jacqueline Brown, of the Human Relations Department of Howard County, MD, public schools; Thomas Dortch, president of 100 Black Men of America; Julianne Malveaux, columnist and radio show host; Haki Madhubuti, poet, writer and publisher of Third World Press; and Eric Thomas, youth motivational speaker.

Statistics show that problems start early for Black male children. They start to drop out psychologically or lose interest in school by third or fourth grade. The problem in school, Jacqueline Brown said, is that the Black male child is constantly harassed from kindergarten to 12th grade. The learning style of Black males is affective -- that is, they learn from those who they perceive to love or care for them. And they stop learning because they feel hated or harassed, she said.

This harassment may be focused on the way the Black male walks, wears a cap or on his energetic behavior. Also, the show brought out the observation that many teachers, especially white females, actually fear their Black male students. Once interest in school is lost, it is often replaced by interest in street life and the lure of making lots of money through drugs and other illegal activity. The lack of formal education increases the likelihood of regular unemployment, said author Nathan McCall, and often a life of crime naturally follows. The eventuality is death or time spent in the nation's prisons, which now house more than 1 million men.

Eric Thomas said the solution for Black males is to look within and not always be blaming outside forces for all our problems. "We need to think about what we're doing wrong and get a plan in place. Like Malcolm said, we need to think and see for ourselves, and when you do that no force can stop you."

Other panelists disagreed. Malveaux pointed out that no matter how strong you are, there are always the outside forces and the "license check," she said, alluding to police harassment of Black males on the road.

"There is a war not just on Black males but on Black people," Malveaux said. As a Black woman, she said, "to the extent that the system demonizes Black men it does it to my father, brother, son and cousins. We have go to look at this problem in tandem. Brothers act out a lot of the frustration and the sisters internalize it. …

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