December 11, 2007

America Has Lost a Generation of Black Boys

Drumbeats from Phillip Jackson (The Black Star Project) brought us the essay below. Villagers, as you read it ... ask yourself what you can do in your space ... in your home ... in your neighborhood ... to ensure that we turn this situation around in 2008.

"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 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 economics 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 inexpensive, but they are not easy 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.

What say u?


Woozie said...

I think it's a fantastic essay that can be applied to all youth, not just black youth. Education really is the key to fixing quite a few problems in any situation.

I do however disagree that kids need a spiritual basis to be prosperous. I think the rold that many black preachers can play-that of a community leader-is needed, but not necessarily the religious aspect. Atheists are people too :)

Woozie said...


Unknown said...

Woozie - Thanks for sharing your village voice with us.

It is a good thing for young people, especially Black boys, to take at least one day a week (Sunday) to get dressed and have to sit still. No iPod. No Xbox. No television. Just sit quietly for an hour or two in the church. If the young man gets the message from the preacher or the Good book ... that is a bonus.

Too many of our young men don't know how to get dressed up for church ... which is a prelude to getting dressed up to go to work.

Anyhow, I thought that the essay was powerful and I appreciated that there were proposed solutions offered.

Benin said...


You are right it is very very serious.

Most of us privaledged enough with the resources that would allow us to participate in these types of discussions, like me, probably are th eprivaledged ones. I was privaledged in that both my MOm and Dad had already received post secondary degrees before I was even born. My mother is a literary whiz, she is a dreamer just like me and from her I took my inclination and interest in business endeavors. As a child, my mother would get on to me when she heard me using incorrct english. When I asked her what does this word or that word mean she would say here is the dictionary, go find out. My late father instilled a rigorous discipline, it is the one that allowed him to get a Ph.D in Physics and to be the first black person to do this at GA Tech-he also at a very early age taught me to love my background as a person of African descent.

But many of our young men today don't have this in their homes. The even sadder part though is that many of these young boys have grand parents who are similar to my parents, but for what ever reason the next generation didn't pick up the torch. On top of that their is a commercialization of a certain American sub-culture that makes yound kids think it's cool to be ignorant and to loathe conventional education.

If it is to be, it is certainly up to us. Oh, how I wish that I had a son, so that I could teach him how to be a man like my Dad taught me. But whether or not the Lord ever blesses me with a biological one, I will see the young men out there as my sons and try my best to play a part in their social development. This is something my father did to so many young men, who are now doing great things.

Villager, you're a hero-thanks for holding that torch!

Unknown said...

Villager, you forgot one really really important thing. We need to adopt. Growing up in a system that is already against you is setting you up to be a failure. For those who can do it I would say please don't be selfish and do it. It won't be easy, but nothing ever is.

Anonymous said...


Adoption is an excellent option for us to look into. You make a good point, one of my friends has adopted a young man-it was a very tough process. But today they both look really happy.

Unknown said...

Boo & Benin - I have three children (2 girls, 1 boy) so I'm not likely to adopt anyone. However, my first cousin is a single Black woman who successfully adopted a beautiful 2-year old Black girl last year. The young one is now 3 and she is a joy. Her adoption doesn't do anything for the situation with Black males ... but, it does show that adoption is a viable vehicle to help save some of our children that would otherwise be stuck in the system.

Anonymous said...

I support these short term and long term goals. I also believe that we (Black/African) adults need to secure an environment in which our young boys can thrive as men. Our OWN institutions, processes and networks need to be established for young people to help them survive in this society. You can develop as many literacy programs, rites of passage
programs as you like but if the community in which these young people live has not put anything in place for them after the programs, then they have just participated in another "program"- not a movement towards adulthood. It is very complex work to do in a society that is intent on destroying the black family, black people and black communities. I had my own son in a rites process for over a year and it was a great day when he graduated with his rites brothers and sisters, yet I observed that some parents looked at it as just a "program" - afterwards their children returned to the same environment and eventually the same
problematic behaviors. Young people are not stupid, they see our contradictions, they see the world's contradictions. I think they desire
a future were they can live in alignment with their true nature and when they don't see that as a possibility then they are resentful, apathetic
and angry - prime targets for oppressive systems. Our young people need to feel, see and know that we have prioritized and invested our hearts
in their future.
Sistah C

Anonymous said...

[aka Hawa]

As a single (but engaged) mother of two boys, I go to sleep and wake each day thinking of my role in launching two productive black men into the world.

I spend just as much time building character as I do grades, because one doesn't ensure the other.

So far, my solution remains at home because I don't have the resources, time, (or really the clue) how to expand my influence.

Then again, perhaps my role is to send two out into the world who will have great influence because of what I gave them at home...

Unknown said...

Keita - Congratulations on your engagement. There is a piece of me that thinks that it takes a Blackman to raise Black boys ... so I'm glad that you are bring a powerful and right-thinking Blackman into their lives on a daily basis. They need to have a male role model to assist them with homework and such.

You are raising powerful, succesful children ... that is our first priority (in my view).

Anonymous said...

Blacks are naturally criminals. It is in them and it will come out. Blacks commit 80% of all violent crimes in this country.

Don't give excuses...he lived in poverty....etc.

There is no excuse. Blacks are born criminals. Blacks know this, whites know this, Asians know this....everyone knows this.

View the information below. Blacks make up less than 15% of the population, whites over 50%. Blacks have a higher rate of murder and murder of persons other than their own race.

Unknown said...

Truthful - An innocent child born into the world is not "naturally criminal". I'm saddened that you think so...