Addressing the issue of how African Americans react to their condition, Malcolm X once said, “It’s like when you go to the dentist and the man is going to take your tooth. You’re going to fight him when he starts pulling. So they squirt some stuff in your jaw called Novocain to make you think they’re not doing anything to you. So you sit there and because you got all that Novocain in your jaw. You suffer peacefully.”
Almost 50 years later, we are still suffering peacefully, especially when it concerns the education of our youth.
During the 2009-2010 school year, the graduation rate for black males in Charleston County was 50.4 percent. This is a serious problem in our community, but we act as if it is otherwise.
Where do these young men go? After they have finished with school, they re-enter our community uneducated, unskilled, and dejected. They become a burden and not a benefit.
Every negative issue affecting the black community here in Charleston can be traced to our failure to educate these young men. They are not equipped to build a family or a community, and they lack the necessary skills to succeed in this fast-paced technological society.
But what can be done? Finger pointing will do these men little good, nor will it help the community that sorely needs them. The solution must come from everyone.
First, the parents in the African-American community must wake up from their sleep and realize the nightmare that is around them. Then the community must take responsibility for our children’s future and demand the best from them. We must make them put down the video games and pick up a book and have them turn off Disney, Nickelodeon, and the Cartoon Network. We must help them learn about current events and discuss the news with them. And we must make our presence felt in our children’s classrooms.
The school system must work to be a part of this solution. The school district can recruit and hire more African-American male teachers that can relate, reach, and engage these students in the classroom. The schools can place more emphasis on academics and less on athletics. (I love football and basketball, but students should put more time into studying than they do sports.) Students must be held to a higher standard, and the teachers that hold them to this standard must believe in them. They must see the potential that sits before them.
Our community-based organizations must also be a part of the solution. The church is the most powerful one. It must be involved in the development of after-school programs and educational centers that work with these young men. The fraternities and sororities filled with the talented 10th that W.E.B. Du Bois talked about can put their college-educated minds to work by teaming up with the church. Joining them must be the lodges full of working-class African Americans. Together they can build the necessary institutions to reverse the trend in our schools for African-American men.
Even before integration, African-American girls graduated at a higher rate than boys, but back then it was because the men were working to support their families. What’s the reason now? These young men are not out working; we are losing them to the jails and the graves.
Ultimately, this is an issue that is important to us all — black, white, Hispanic, rich, or poor. This is a serious problem, and we need to stop acting as though we are not losing our sons. We must work together to make education a priority in the lives of these young men.
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