Whenever someone thinks they have few bullet points of supreme wisdom that can save the world, sane people instantly roll their eyes. The insanely curious will, of course, be unable to stop themselves from reading on. You decide which you are.
Here are three ways to save America’s Black boys:
- Change their language
- Invest in their creativity
- Mentor them into the mainstream
Well, no. But let’s be honest. Most people don’t care enough to read three suggestions, much less 30. So, let’s start with three and see how you feel about them.
For those who are unaware of the crisis of Black boys in America, you may wish to read about the terrible epidemic in Black America of catastrophic proportions that has widespread ramifications for the entire nation. Let’s talk about solutions.
We Must Change the Language of America’s Black Boys
On the surface, the notion of changing a child’s language and changing their future sounds puzzling. Conventional wisdom tells us Black American boys learn English from birth and typically speak one language all their lives. Well, that’s not true of Black boys or of most boys of any race in America.
Colloquialisms dominate the landscape of communications across Black America. Before most Black boys learn to speak the English language in its academically accepted form, they learn distorted variations of it. Since most Black American boys grow up in environments wherein they seldom practice any other form of the language than the accepted colloquialisms germane to their geographic and cultural identities, the synthetic ever-evolving academic version of English is often a back pocket piece of knowledge that turns into dust for lack of use, if it’s not outright rejected.
The lack of mastery of the English language is a key problem that narrows the opportunities and interests of many of America’s Black boys.
Consider that various professions in America require their own independent forms of coded language(s). Lawyers sprinkle their legal landscape with Latin. Doctors couldn’t communicate well at all if they didn’t keep up with the latest innovations in technology, discoveries, diseases, treatments, drugs, etc … all with new terms to memorize and put into practice. Scientists, engineers, teachers and even clergy are all building upon a foundation of common communications, adding their professions’ unique terminologies to a base of presumed common knowledge.
If America’s Black boys cannot read the country’s major newspapers with full comprehension, that’s a core problem. If their parents’ can’t, that compounds the problem.
America’s Disparate Dispensation of Knowledge
A few generations ago, it was against the law to teach Blacks to read. That morphed into Whites tolerating the subpar education of Blacks in separate facilities. That evolved into forced integration resulting in the dispensation of the quality of education along economic boundaries, which limited the numbers of Black children exposed to the same quality level of education as the majority of their White counterparts.
Today, education data continues to show a consistent disparity in academic achievement between high-poverty and low-poverty public schools. Within the same schools, some students are channeled into “Advanced” while the vast majority appear to be ushered into a cattle drive to nowhere land.
We’re not adequately investing in equipping economically poor students of any race to effectively participate in America’s 21st century economy. And the high-poverty schools are primarily populated with Black and Hispanic students.
The American Dream: Entrepreneurship
When some Americans think of the American Dream, they think of a good job and owning a home. When citizens of other nations think of America, many think of the freedom of opportunity to build businesses that create jobs and wealth. What do America’s Black boys dreams of?
Consider that America is fundamentally a capitalist society. Education is part of the toolbox that equips citizens to participate and compete in a capitalist society. As the economic giant on the planet, America attracts immigrants from all over the world, some seeking jobs while many also seek the American Dream: Entrepreneurship.
Yet, despite the fact that people all over the world learn this language of money and power, and immigrants come to America with the dream of entrepreneurship, we fail to teach such knowledge to most of America’s Black boys. Most Black boys grow up seeking low-paying jobs and a 30-year mortgage liability. Too many aspire to reach such low-level goals. One possible reason is most of America’s Black adults, both males and females, lack understanding of the language of American entrepreneurship and risk capital investing well enough to ensure their children can speak it.
We don’t talk about these matters, possibly because it doesn’t exist in our history … which we did not control. It’s embarrassing for Black America. It’s guilt-ridden for White America. You will never overhear anyone, Black or White, chatting away about the fact that all of America’s Black-owned businesses produced revenues totaling less than 1 percent GDP … in 2007 … at the height of Black entrepreneurship. That’s the sum total of the progress we like to speak of in anecdotal terms while pointing to a Black president as prime example. The sheer lack of investment in the economic empowerment of America’s Black boys is embarrassing for everyone. We don’t like to talk about it. But the data speak on our behalf.
A total contribution of less than 1 percent of GDP to America’s economy is quite a telling statistic. 1.9 million entrepreneurs struggling to reach such a paltry plateau is indicative of Black Americans making a monumental effort against the tide of a nation’s historical apathy and general ignorance followed by insults.
America’s Innovation Economy
Entrepreneurs are risk-taking job creators who deserve support, wraparound resources, access to capital and incentives. We see such elements in entrepreneurial ecosystems around the country. But we don’t see those ecosystems and infrastructure shoring up the holes in economically disconnected sectors of urban America … where Black boys live.
Black Americans are part of America’s economic talent pool, and if the nation is to compete globally, it will need to invest in cultivating all of its talent.
How are we ensuring America’s Black boys can participate in the 21st century Innovation Economy?
What are we expecting from our Black boys when we fail to teach them the language of American innovation?
I argue we must change the language taught to America’s Black boys.
Today, America’s Innovation Economy rolls along with investments in Small Business Innovation Research, Technology Transfer, Commercialization of R&D, Venture Capital, Angel investing, business incubators and accelerators, Internet hardware and software, biotechnology, energy, telecommunications, advanced manufacturing and the list goes on … while Black America’s boys remain oblivious to the fact they aren’t being prepared to understand the processes of job growth and wealth creation in today’s Innovation Economy, much less participate, contribute and compete in it.
It seems unconscionable that we would deliberately ignore generations of American children growing up in a society in which they will not be prepared to survive, much less pursue their dreams. Then we stigmatize them. These Black boys are America’s children. And we are failing them.
Some of us will point a finger at the social conditions and community environment in which these boys live. And certainly that’s a problem that has historical context as well. But the larger problem is the finger should be pointing in a direction leading toward investing in a solution.
I say the first step is change the language. Let’s teach Black boys the language of innovation. Let’s offer them a Big Picture perspective and unlock their passions and creativity. That process must be initiated from the outside because the language of innovation isn’t known in the homes of too many Black boys, regardless of household income. It’s time for a helpful intervention.
By: Mike Green