Black Male Graduation Rates and Our Freedom

From NPR:

A report from the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation paints a bleak picture of how young black men fare in school: fewer than half graduate from high school. And in some states, like New York, the graduation rate is as low as one in four. The foundation’s John Jackson and David Sciarra of the Education Law Center discuss what’s needed to improve educational attainment among African American children.

After listening to their discussion, ┬áit was refreshing to know that the problem isn’t something innate with our boys, and that white males in the same educational predicament produce the same low outcome. We know this – and it forces us to turn a keen eye onto the education system, especially in states where more money can and should be allocated towards the education of our kids – like California. Where do we begin to demand that a change is made to ensure that our young men don’t grow up destined for a life on the streets or in a jail cell?

It takes me back to my first few months living back in Leimert Park. Every day, I see a countless number of black men, between the ages of 21-40, walking the streets during work hours. They all are wearing the same uniform – baggy jeans, long t-shirts and printed hoodies -and they are just walking the street. Not working, not going to school, but standing on street corners looking dead in the eyes. Zombies is what I call them – and I wonder how many of them are the products of our failing educational system. What other reason would explain a strong, healthy man walking up and down the street all day with nothing to do?

What concerns me most is that these statistics have a direct relationship with literacy rates in the black community. How many of our children are making it to high school not reading on grade level? How does this happen? For all that our community had to suffer through in order to gain the freedom to learn how to read, our education system is reverting us right back to slavery. After all, how difficult can it be to enslave a group that isn’t literate? They have no choice but to depend upon the intellect of others.

All of this reminds of Frederick Douglass in his Narrative when he speaks of how the harshness of slavery, and the lack of intellectual stimulation can change a man into a beast – and I think about the zombies that walk around my neighborhood. I think of all the stories I hear from black women about the challenges of finding a suitable mate – and again I see those zombies. How many of these men came into this world with all the hope and potential they could ever imagine, and now find themselves with nothing to do and nowhere to go? How many of them are fathers? In time, what will happen to them?

People, what can we do to ensure our future generations retain the freedom our ancestors fought for?


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