The Failure of Education: The Social Reproduction of Racism and Black Males

What? Wait, I thought I just saw something. Yes, someone was there! There it goes again…another one just disappeared. Where? No it is not an aberration? Are you kidding me…right there? Did you see it that time? Am I going crazy? No. On the contrary, I am quite sane. Even though my mother continues to follow this conclusion, only after witnessing my attempt as a child to place my tongue into an electrical socket as a child, my faculties have yet to escape into the void of emptiness and paranoia. They truly are disappearing, you know? The problem is not with me, but with your eyes. Or rather what you chose to avoid. At times, many of you do not care to venture into what I see. Many of you find their disappearance irrelevant. You say, “How do I know?” Well, even though whispers are present within small circles, in general I see the absence of it presence within your so-called intellectually constructed confines you call “the academy.” I notice your care for the topic within your incomplete descriptive statistical reports relating to educational attainment. I do not see the subject in print within presentation and roundtable discussions which take place inside your large educational and sociological conferences that cater to the intellectual highbrow. In fact, I do not see largely publicized proactive stances within the confines of the government and or public and post-secondary education. Where is the alarm? Sound the alarm . . . . sound the alarm!

Many Americans, particularly people of color, have joined in the celebration of this momentous occasion and expressed an opinion that Obama’s election ushered in a colorblind era. To them, this occasion symbolized for all that the historic caste system which hindered the progress of Blacks since the beginning of our nation has come to an end. On the day of Mr. Obama’s inauguration, I had the pleasure of walking down the hallways of a few public elementary schools and bore witness to the cheers, smiles, hugs, and celebration of many educators who could have not imagined a couple of years earlier they would have the honor to watch on school televisions and news websites the swearing in of our first Black U.S. president. “If Barrack can do it, you have no excuse not to,” was avowed to little Black faces in creepy harmony across the spectrum of a particular ED classroom that was populated with all Black males, except for one White male. In truth, that celebration across the country and sentiments of a colorblind era are nothing but distractions that serve as a curtain to hide underlying racial realities affecting Blacks, particularly those within the lower SES brackets. Through a critical analysis, gains witnessed by many are in fact gains and breakthroughs that primarily benefit middle and upper class Blacks. The racial caste system rooted in society since the founding of America is still in full operation. As a consequence, those at the bottom of the tiered system have continuously been prone to sophisticated measures of extreme supremacy and chastisement within the U.S. The consequential effects of targeting and all around affront toward Black males can be decisively identified through a multifaceted examination of the current state of Black males within this country.

Why? The 21st century condition of Black males is not comparable to any other group within the United States. Nowhere is this more strongly seen than in their educational experiences.

The state of Black males in education is dismal. The Chronicle of Higher Education stated within their Almanac of Higher Education 2012 issue, out of Bachelor’s (164,844), Master’s (76,458), and doctoral degrees (10,417) awarded to Blacks, Black males respectively earned 34.1%, 28.9%, and 34.8 respectively. Black females respectively earned 65.9%, 71.1%, and 65.2%. Today in terms of population, Black females outnumber their male counterparts as well. This does not improve within the domains of public education.

Public schools throughout Florida, New York, and Georgia, that Black males were twice as likely not to graduate with their 2005 and 2006 class cohorts than their other classmates (pdf here). Did you know that Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Georgia graduate fewer Black males than any other states? Distinctively my home state of Illinois can take credit, along with Wisconsin, for having close to a 40% gap between White and Black male graduation rates. Likewise, the bleak states of Nevada, Wyoming, Ohio, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Indiana graduate less than 50% of their Black male students from public schools. Sadly, the rare states that graduate Black males at a 70% rate are only Arizona, North Dakota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Maine.

The Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) in 2007 stated that Black males suffered from the largest achievement gap in comparison to any other racial/ethnic group in the U.S. The National Center for Education Statistics in 2007 reported that the rate of Black females receiving a college and university degrees was approximately two times that of Black males. Some reports have gone so far as to note the current academic gap between students of color (Black and Hispanic/Latino) and White students is primarily due to “socioeconomic factors.” Simply put, they dispute racial disparities between Blacks and non-Blacks. Neutralizing the discussion of race has seemingly emerged as one approach to address the achievement gap between Black and White students. Nonetheless, studies and findings in the area of mathematics have proven to dispute this claim and yield no better result. As a case in point, in 2009, Black males in large urban settings who were classified eligible for free and reduced lunch due to low SES, academically performed 20 points lower than comparable White males. White males not receiving free and reduced lunches averaged 11 points higher than Black male classmates who were ineligible. The data indicate that regardless of socioeconomics, racial disparity exists within a vast number of academic areas. Further, Blacks from affluent suburban areas have been shown to suffer from the same concerns as poor urban students.

Why? Overall I feel that a large percentage of governmental and institutional policies and programs enacted today are essentially continuing a legacy of control. This in fact is a legacy many deny even when confronted with surmounting evidence that affirms otherwise. But then again, why admit transgressions when the effort to continue the heritage of oppression endured by people of color subsequently benefits them—the elite proprietors of money, power, and resources within this country. Within this setting they continue to hold the reins of supremacy over the marginalized and less fortunate. Their influence and direction set the rhythm for those on the outside of their inner circle to dance to. They determine who is worthy of their attention and admiration and those who are to be ignored and detested. They determine those who should be considered safe and those who should be seen as dangerous. They have the power to influence the minds of those here and abroad. This is simply a dangerous game of thrones people of color have never seemed to master. Within every game there exists a potential wild card that has the capability to alter the dynamics of a game. A wild card is to be watched by the leaders of the game. All their efforts must be focused to discourage this improbable player from moving from behind to overcome and leader and as a result win. Within this country, Black and Latino males are the impeding wild card.

Within this malevolence operation, Black males are particularly at risk of being exposed to noteworthy doses of oppressive measures that are in general experienced by women or other ethnic groups. Oppressive systems and people who operate on the grounds of the systemic social reproduction of racism as Albert Memmi stated, “want distinctions and advantages to be given by birth to those who simply declare themselves by self-decree to be best.” Today as witnessed within the past, the systems within the U.S. were simply created by our country’s forefathers to give advantage to some, but not all. The effects of the seeds and thus vines of oppression that have encased the internal and external surfaces of the U.S. continue to render the minds, hearts, and actions of the world. The world has blindly come to be served the toxic proverbial “Kool-Aid,” and consequently continue the undertaking of condemning, demonizing, and psychologically and physically antagonizing Black males.

The character Captain, in the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, famously said, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. But I feel that the message that is being sent is quite clear and present. The conversation pertaining to the social and academic well-being of Black males is not only missing, but also insignificant.