Although many are avoiding the school-to-prison pipeline, unfortunately, on a national level, African American male students in grades k-12 are 2 ½ times as likely to be suspended as their white peers. The process of steering kids toward juvenile and criminal justice systems through disparities in suspensions, expulsions and arrests is disproportionate and interrupts equitable educational opportunities.
So once again, this becomes personal when I think of my black son. When I think of someone demeaning him, threatening him or harming him physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually I leave my space of being polite and professional. I forget that I am refined, reserved and dignified.
I go there!
It is like an out-of-body experience when I go in to my “Momma Bear” mode. The pain of having to explain the word “nigger” and why he got reprimanded for doing the same thing done by his white classmate whom received no consequence. It angers me to have to constantly push him to be better than good to get the same opportunities as others that are less than good. Let me be clear, I am not happy and a bit disgruntled. How long can anger be bottled before the lid blows off? How much pain is bearable before you self-medicate?
Now I ponder a few questions. How will we ever know the possibilities of our youth if they are killed or locked up before they mature into their full potential? How much proof is needed to prove worthiness of equal rights and equal opportunity? So what do we tell our young men? Do they need to be constantly aware of perceptions and biases? Do they need to try and dress, talk, and behave in a manner that will diminish suspicions about their character and their worth? Do they need to be conditioned to make others less afraid of them? More importantly than any of those questions is what is that we need to do as a community to support, encourage, protect, strengthen, and restore our young men? In the words of Billie Holiday, there is a strange and bitter crop.
Three points to consider:
1. Racial profiling, stereotypes and misjudgments block the country from truly knowing the value, potential and greatness of our young men of color
2. While we are busy telling our young men what they need to do, we need to take time and listen to them. Successful young men can share wisdom to guide the success of their peers. Our young men need us to believe in them regardless, support them regardless and love them regardless.
3. While we are looking to change the negative impressions on young men of color and trying to teach them to be positive, productive, and powerful, we can’t forget to celebrate the many of them that are already on the right track and doing the right things. We can’t leave those that are achieving and beating the statistics to remain in the shadows of our conversations