AFRICANGLOBE -As tragic as the recent killings of Black males by police officers have been, I think that what takes my breath away is the constant bombardment of information highlighting the so-called weaknesses of Black people in general and the Black male in particular.
In other words, an individual Black male can be killed just once, while the “image” of the Black male is being murdered on a daily basis.
What’s more disheartening, is that the Black community, all over the United States, has become unwitting partners in this ongoing effort that destroys the image of the Black male in America.
This constant barrage of bad news, based on the perceived weaknesses of Black people, which is disseminated under the guise of so-called evidenced based strategies and best practices, I believe, is a direct contributor to the disproportionate arrests, high unemployment rates, housing discrimination and even the deaths of Black males across the country.
For example, some of the research data, based on the perceived weaknesses of Black people: Black males have a high school drop-out rate of 50 percent; over half of Black males will be arrested by age 23; and the 2002 report from the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) entitled, “Cell Blocks or Classrooms,” wherein they concluded that there were more Black males locked up than there were in colleges.
This so-called evidenced based research has been proven to be wrong. However, when the average citizen, including Black folks, come into contact with this research data based on the perceived weaknesses of Black people, they tend to believe it without verifying it. Especially, if it is reported by white folks who are perceived to be in positions of authority.
The JPI based its evidence on data collected from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) which had conducted a head count of how many African American males were attending colleges and universities at that time; as well as incarceration data collected from the Department of Justice.
According to the JPI in 2000, there were 791,600 African American men incarcerated in local, state and federal lockups. In that same year there were 603,032 African American males attending colleges and universities. This meant, according to the JPI, that there were 188,500 more African American males incarcerated than there were in institutions of higher learning.
Upon closer scrutiny of the numbers, it was discovered that the NCES did not receive a head count of Black male attendance from over 1,000 colleges including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Compounding the flawed data gathering, NCES also neglected to collect Black male enrollment for the entire year. It only counted Black males who had enrolled in the Fall semester of that year. According to the Department of Education, during the 2010-2011 academic year there were 1,444,979 Black males in colleges and universities. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2010 that there were 824,340 Black males incarcerated.
Obviously, there are too many African American males in prison, but the majority of these lockups were due to the drug war’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws which disproportionately affected Black males, as well as the disparities between powder cocaine vs crack cocaine sentencing guidelines.
Nevertheless, as of 2010 there were over 600,000 more Black males in colleges and universities than there were in prisons. Regrettably, not many are aware of this fact and even less celebrate this great news.
Incredibly, agencies, school districts, the criminal justice system and others, who are in the save-the-Black-people business, make it mandatory for their employees and the Black client to endure hours of presentations based on the perceived weaknesses of the Black male. However, the major problem with this strategy, as I see it, is that it increases the negative baggage that the Black male must carry while attempting to integrate or reintegrate into his community.
To be clear, we Black folks do have issues, which is true for every other ethnic group. However, you would be hard pressed to find another ethnic group who is comfortable with the idea of highlighting the negative behaviors of its members for the expressed purpose of obtaining state, local and federal funding for those groups who seek to solve the problem known as the Black male.
That said, let me say to you good white folks who are reading this, please excuse me if I skirt the boundaries of offense, but I must make the following observation. I think that there is an argument to be made, that since the days of slavery, African Americans have been relegated to the position of a “social problem” which white folks feel that they are obligated to solve.
That is not to say that we do not have sincere white folks who genuinely seek to help the Black community, as they are passing on to us their research data based on perceived Black weaknesses. I just want us (Black folks) to understand that people can be sincere in their attempts to rescue the Black community, and those same people can be sincerely wrong.
By: Abdul-Ra’oof Mustafa