I thought I could somehow shield my child from the ugly truth of racism just a little longer. But as a very public incident at Fenway showed, I was wrong.
Up to now, I’ve almost completely avoided discussing racism — or even race at all — with Nile. I know it’s something that will affect his life, but I also strongly feel that it’s just not his problem, at least not yet. He’s 5 years old. Until a year ago, he described people as “blue” or “gray” or “purple,” depending on the color of the shirt they were wearing. Recently, he’s begun noticing differences in skin color, but his descriptions are childlike and precise, and have nothing to do with the over-simplified labels and complex histories that inform grown-up conversations about race. Nile says that he’s “tannish,” that my wife is “brownish,” and that I am “kind of pinkish.” He notices that his mother has braids, that my hair is straight, and that he and his sister both have curls. It hasn’t occurred to him — because why would it? — that anyone might use these distinctions as an excuse to treat some people differently from others.
It’s impossible right now to know what sort of impact race will have on Nile’s sense of identity, or how it will circumscribe his ability to move through the world as he pleases. It is my whitest, most naive hope that my son will never have to worry about racism at all. I hope that we’ll make progress quickly enough that racism won’t affect him, or that he’ll be light-skinned enough that it won’t affect him, or that he’ll always be well dressed and well spoken enough for it not to affect him. I make up all sorts of reasons — the diversity of our community, the liberal politics of our state — that racism won’t touch my son in the way it’s touched virtually every person of color who’s ever lived in America.
“Gender, through the lens of white supremacy, prescribes how we should be, instead of accepting us how we are. It tells boys they’re not supposed to cry (or even feel emotion), and it tells girls they’re supposed to be good at cooking and play with Barbies. Those are small examples of a much larger issue, and these gendered lessons exist at every turn, are all-consuming and ripple across our lives.There are people in bodies deemed masculine who have been told they are a boy time and time again, even though that’s not how they feel inside. They are told their feelings are unnatural and irrelevant. Boys are told over and over again that they must follow certain rules, their lives must be a certain way, their dreams must be a certain thing.Gender also tells us that we are not whole and are only one part of a whole; the whole being a man and a woman. This is incredibly anti-queer and an unhealthy way to view yourself and a relationship.
Viewing yourself as less than a whole being who possesses the capacity to be masculine and feminine, and perform a variety of roles or possess skills that are deemed feminine, is illogical.It is terrifying to think that so many of us internalize these messages on a deep, subconscious level, a message that exposes men to constant emotional isolation and violence if they exist outside of these preset parameters. It is alarming that many men move through life seeing themselves as incomplete because they will never be with a woman or because they have yet to marry their “soulmate.” It’s alarming that people will not teach their boys how to cook, robbing them of that that necessary survival skill. It is alarming how many people feel uncomfortable seeing men cry.”
Across the nation, Black males are routinely exposed to exclusionary practices that remove them from learning environments (Howard, 2008, 2013; Wood, 2017; Wood, Essien, & Blevins, 2017). These practices include over-placement in special education, in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, and even expulsion (Losen & Skiba, 2010). Among these forms of exclusionary discipline, suspensions have been a topic of continued interest in the past several years, with numerous reports and studies demonstrating that California is home to some of the most egregious suspension patterns in the country.
As detailed in a recent report, GET OUT! Black Male Suspensions in California Public Schools, Sacramento County is ground zero for some of the highest total suspensions in the State. In fact, Sacramento county has the second highest total suspensions in California, falling only behind Los Angeles County. This rate exceeds those in other urban counties, such as San Bernardino, Riverside, Contra Costa, Alameda, and San Joaquin (Wood, Harris III, & Howard, 2018).
Prior research has demonstrated that students who are regularly suspended are being tracked into the prison industrial complex, a pattern often referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline. Thus, while some students are being socialized by schools for college-going and entering into the workforce, others are being socialized for prison. Moreover, research has also shown that those subjected to suspensions are more likely to enter into the permanent underclass and to have a reliance upon social services (Darensbourg, Perez, & Blake, 2010; Fenning & Rose, 2007; Skiba, Arredondo, & Williams, 2014). Bearing this in mind, this brief sought to highlight key facts about suspensions in Sacramento County. These facts are meant to generate conversations around issues of racial injustice and educational inequities that permeate the region’s educational institutions that fortify the economic and social health of the region.
This brief details the exposure of Black males to exclusionary discipline in Sacramento County. In particular, this report highlights the high suspensions of Black boys and young men in Sacramento County public schools. Some of the key findings include:
- Black males are 5.4 times more likely to be suspended in Sacramento County than the statewide average.
- Nearly 18 Black males were suspended, per day, in the county.
- Sacramento County has four school districts in the top 20 suspension districts for Black males in the State of California.
- Sacramento City Unified is the most egregious suspension district for Black males in the State of California.
- Black males in early childhood education (kindergarten through third grade) are 9.9 times more likely to be suspended than their peers (statewide).
- One third of all Black male foster youth are suspended in Sacramento County.
OUR COMMON GROUND
Saturday, October 10, 2015
In Conversation with Dr. Tommy J. Curry
“A Quiet Danger Brothers Invisible: Classroom to Home”
“In short, although masculinity may be a part of being a man, it is not the foundation on which manhood rests.”
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about Dr. Tommy J. Curry
Dr. Curry is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M University. He is a Ray A. Rothrock Fellow 13′-16′ in the Department of Philosophy. He is an editor of PhilPapers, Choice Magazine and a regular contributor to RacismReview.com and OUR COMMON GROUND.
Over the last several years, Dr. Curry has published over three dozen articles in prestigious venues like: The Journal of Black Studies, The Radical Philosophy Review, The Pluralist and The Transactions of the Charles S. Pierce Society. He is the editor of a forthcoming re-publication of William H. Ferris’s The African Abroad, and is currently working on several manuscripts: the first full-length publication on Derrick Bell’s political philosophy that birthed the Critical Race Theory movement entitled Illuminated in Black; a philosophical exploration of Black male death and dying entitled “The Man-Not;” and a book on Josiah Royce’s racism.
His work in social justice, applied ethics, and bioethics concerns the present interpretation of the Belmont report, and the racial/class barriers to minority access to medical innovation in health care.
“So we have hypothesized since 1978, that Black manhood is different than the concept of masculinity, in 1992, several studies decided to test this notion. Guess what they found:
Historically, the images of Black manhood have been unidimensional, and research has tended to focus on the inadequacies of Afro-American males’ role performance. In this preliminary analysis, we explored the cultural constructions of manhood as defined by Afro-American men at various social locations (age, occupation, income, and marital and family status). Manhood was defined in terms of the self (self-determinism and accountability, pride), family (family), the human community, and existential ideology (spirituality and humanism). It is our view that issues of self-determinism and accountability (i.e., directedness, maturity, economic viability, free will, and perseverance) are at the core of the self and of manhood and form the foundation on which family role enactment, pride, and living through one’s existential philosophy (e.g., spiritual, Afrocentric, and humanistic) are based. Interestingly, discussions of masculinity were absent from men’s definitions of manhood. Perhaps this reflects an awareness of the differences between the physical sexual man and the social man that Hare and Hare (1985) suggest is critical in Black boys’ transition into manhood. When respondents were asked to rate attributes related to masculinity (e.g., physically strong, competitive,masculine, and aggressive), they saw it as somewhat important. In short, although masculinity may be a part of being a man, it is not the foundation on which manhood rests.” Andrea Hunter and James E. Davis-1992
On this broadcast, we begin with the recently released report by the Schotts Foundation for Public Education, “Black Lives Matter”
We recommend that you either review or read it prior to the broadcast.http://blackboysreport.org/
“It seems that America has tolerated and grown accustomed to the under-education of African American males largely because it has written this off as a “black problem.” Rather than being embraced as an American problem and challenge, our leaders in politics, business and education, have implored the Black community to do something, while washing their hands of responsibility for the failure of the public institutions that should serve them. . . .
The consequences have also been evident in the high rates of unemployment in economically depressed, socially marginalized neighborhoods, cities and towns where desperation festers and crime and violence are rampant.
The consequences have also been felt by families and communities where fatherless children fall prey to a vicious cycle of failure in part because they lack access to fathers because they are incarcerated, or don’t have the skills to obtain a job to support their family.” – Pedro A. Noguera, Professor of Education
Executive Director, Metropolitan Center
New York University – See more at: http://blackboysreport.org/national-summary/afterword-by-pedro-a-noguera/#sthash.GKiVJMsm.dpuf
You are invited to bring your thoughts about the pressing issues facing our community. SHARE please
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Saturday, September 10, 2015 10 pm ET
BROADCASTING BOLD BRAVE & BLACK
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“Speaking Truth to Power and OURselves”
OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham
Tribute to Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan In Conversation with Dr. Wilmer Leon
HOST, “Inside the Issues with Dr. Wilmer Leon
March 21, 2015 10 pm ET LIVE
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He was one of the most courageous and inspiring scholars of our time would live for nearly a century, paying personal witness to dramatic transformations in the lives of Black people across the globe. Now a Beloved Ancestor.
ABOUT Dr. WilmerLeon Dr. Leon’s Prescription
Wilmer Leon is the Nationally Broadcast Talk Show Host of “Inside The Issues with Wilmer Leon” Saturday’s from 11:00 am to 2:00pm on Sirius XM (126).
Wilmer J. Leon III, Ph.D. is a Political Scientist whose primary areas of expertise are Black Politics and Public Policy. Wilmer has a BS degree in Political Science from Hampton Institute, a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from Howard University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Howard University.Dr. Leon is also the host of XM Satellite Radio’s, “Inside The Issues”, a three-hour, call-in, talk radio program airing live nationally on XM Satellite Radio channel 126.”
Dr. Leon was a featured commentator on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight and is also a regular contributor to The Grio.com, The Root.com, TruthOut.org, The Maynard Institute.com and PoliticsInColor.com. He is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice for more than 5 years.
We will discuss with Dr. Leon about today’s urgent and pressing issues and events before African-Americans.
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“Speaking Truth to Power and OURselves”
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The Lies We Tell Black Boys and the Truth They Deserve to Hear
MAY 15, 2014 BY
We need to stop teaching our black boys how to survive in a world not designed for them, and instead show them how to design a world that will allow them to thrive as individuals.
I never realized how hard it was to get people to view black men and boys as assets until I asked them to actually do it. In countless conversation I’ve had with peers about black male achievement—from philanthropy to politics, to the environment and education—the question has always been: “how do we help black boys achieve?” and not: “how do we leverage the value and agency of black men and boys who are already achieving to inspire others and transform the spaces they live, work and play?”
In my opinion, the reason the latter doesn’t gets asked as often as it should is because most people believe that black men and boys are problems that need to be solved; a disease that needs to be cured. Decision and media makers pretend the answer is as easy as getting the “thugs” to pull up their pants and not tattoo their faces.
Well-intentioned teachers and mentors often express that if black boys wear suits, ties, and carry books instead of bullets, that the probability of being accepted by, and achieving in, the “real world” will increase dramatically. Parents of black boys—just wanting them to come home in one piece—indoctrinate them religiously with the “do’s and don’ts of being black in public.”
And all the while, during of all these lectures, the black boys who we want to grow into proud black men are slowly but surely feeling humanity slip right out of their finger tips. With a skewed perception of their self-worth, chances are those black boys grow into insecure black men who feel the need to measure their accomplishments and assets to their white-counterparts, ultimately seeking validation outside their race before accepting what makes them unique.
What we should be telling black boys, and more importantly, what they deserve to hear is that the “real-world” is f*cked up and is filled with sick people who will hate them regardless of whether or not they are wearing a hoodie or a Brooks Brothers suit. They need to hear that the problem is the world and not them; that they exist to improve the world, not succumb to its bullsh*t. Black boys deserve to know that their elders will fight for their right to walk or run down a street of their choosing—regardless of their clothing—without the fear of being intimidated by a police officer who doesn’t view them as a human being.
We need to stop teaching our black boys how to survive in a world not designed for them, and instead show them how to design a world that will allow them to thrive as individuals. We need stop preaching respectability politics and tell our black boys what they deserve to hear, which is the sky is not the limit, it’s the starting point.
CLICK HERE to pledge to see the good in black men and share their stories so that others may do the same.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™ DOWNLOAD NOW: The Black His-Story Book: A Collection of Narratives from Black Male Mentors, presented in part by GoodMenProject.com. – See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-lies-we-tell-black-boys-and-the-truth-they-deserve-to-hear-cnorris/#sthash.XZqFn3xn.1C2M93Pi.dpuf
‘Boys Have Deep Emotional Lives’
Before Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 book Queen Bees and Wannabes was published, her agent asked if she would talk to a woman named Tina Fey. Wiseman, a new mother, “had no idea who she was,” but after a short conversation agreed to sell Fey the film rights to her book, which dissected the complex social world of teenage girls. Two years later, Mean Girls hit theaters, an entertaining and spot-on illustration of the capacity of high school girls to inflict emotional pain on each other. With the success of the film, Wiseman became known as an expert on children, giving lectures to parents and educators on bullying, parenting, and ethical leadership around the world.
Her latest book, Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World tackles Boy World. With two sons of her own, Wiseman began to notice ways that adults would ignore or reinforce stereotypes about teenage boys’ social world. Her new book was written with the help of more than 200 teenage boys who vetted her information and contributed their own experiences. (The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want is her companion manual, written specifically for the boys). I spoke with Wiseman about the best way for parents and teachers to communicate with boys, what the biggest myths are about popular boys, and why all boys are so often misunderstood.
After the popularity of Mean Girls, a lot of attention has gone toward the dynamics of Girl World. Why is Boy World less understood?
We have a very hard time seeing the signs of how and when boys want to talk to us. We also have a hard time–even though we think we don’t–acknowledging that boys have deep emotional lives. We believe that because we can’t see it, it’s not there.
How do parents and teachers perpetuate the negative aspects of Boy World?
In so many different ways, we box boys in. We’re not aware of it. Boys say it’s good to have a female friend–if something bad happens with a girl, or if you break up with your girlfriend, it’s much easier to talk to a girl about it than even your closest male friends. I just talked to a high school boy about how important it is to have girls that are friends. He broke up with his girlfriend, was overwhelmed, and realized it was a terrible mistake. His heart was broken and he didn’t know what to do. He was a football player and wanted to talk to his closest friends, but he said that they just wanted to talk about hooking up. They didn’t talk about their relationship problems. So he made evening plans to go to dinner with a very close female friend. As he walked out the door, his mother barraged him with questions about it. She assumed he wanted to hook up with this other girl. She thought he didn’t care about his girlfriend, that he wants a hookup.
So his mom reinforced the stereotype about guys just going after sex.
Right. Even his own mother doesn’t realize that her son needs a strong relationship with a girl–and that he’s going out with this girl to bare his soul, to get relationship advice. We are allowing these stereotypes to shape the way we look at boys and their relationships with other people.
Fathers can also contribute to a macho culture.
The thing that really disturbs me is that there are so many wonderful dads, who want the best for their sons, who aren’t having conversations with their sons about healthy relationships or acknowledging that they will fall in love. Falling in love in high school is a huge adrenaline rush–it’s got intense highs and lows. Your heart can break, you can be betrayed. It’s horrible, and you don’t know what to do, or you wonder if you’ll ever have a girlfriend. These are things that all boys struggle with, but even really good dads don’t have conversations that acknowledge that experience.
And then there are a lot of other fathers whose relationship advice is limited to this type of scenario (told to me by the boys themselves): A very attractive 18-year-old woman walks by and the dad nudges his son and says, “Go get that.”
Great young men want to have rich emotional lives, but everywhere they turn, people are forcing them to live the stereotype of being a sexist, not-caring, emotionally disengaged, superficial guy. It’s amazing because we turn around and get angry with them when they go over the line, without acknowledging what we do as adults that stifles and silences and shuts boys up from being emotionally engaged people.
What about schools? What role do they play in all this?
It’s such an enormous question. But enough to say that much of how our educational system is structured–from the way boys are taught academics, to the lack of training we give teachers to be ethical competent authority figures who not only know their subject matter but are engaging educators, to the way the minority of boys who do abuse power so often regularly get away or are disciplined in a way that only shows how powerless the adults are to truly hold them accountable, all too often schools are the place boys learn that the overall culture they will grow up in restricts their creativity and makes it as difficult as possible to come into their masculinity in healthy ways.
What are the rules that govern Boy World and how are they different from Girl World?
The similarity is that verbal power is held high in both groups. If you can put someone down really fast or defend yourself verbally, that’s a commodity, a real value. What boys do is they’re much ruder about it. They do it more directly.
You talk about how boys are often at a loss when they’re faced with highly verbal girls.
They pretend they don’t mind it. They learn from an early age that whatever is going on around them isn’t a problem. After years of convincing themselves that everything’s fine, it’s really difficult for them to recognize when things are not fine, when things are over the line. It goes right from young boys unable to say, “What’s happening is not fine” to boys at a party seeing a girl who’s drunk with four guys around her, and the boys conditioned to not acknowledge the potential danger that’s in front of them. They don’t see what they need to do to stop it until it’s too late. If we’re constantly dismissing or ridiculing their right to have emotional lives, why would they want to do it? At a certain point they shut down.
I interviewed Donna Freitas for The Atlantic earlier this year, and she says that in campus hookup culture “our most at-risk population seems to be young men”–specifically because they aren’t encouraged to communicate their feelings about relationships.
I completely agree.
But while it’s important to have conversations with boys about their relationships, you think it’s a bit misguided for adults to sit boys down to talk about their feelings. So what’s the best way to get them to open up?
This is where people jump down my back, saying, “Oh, you want boys to sit in a circle and talk about their feelings?” Anybody who works with boys knows that’s a stupid way to spend your time. Crickets chirp, it’s horrible. Instead, it’s about role modeling healthy relationships with whoever you’re in intimate relationships with. We are so hypocritical in the way we live versus what we say to boys. We lack credibility. The most important thing is to have arguments well. To treat people with dignity when you’re angry with them. And not trying to control people when you’re angry. Boys are extremely sensitive to that. They know which people in their lives use power and dominance to control people when they’re angry. The best that you can hope for is that the boy experiences that and thinks, “I’m not going to be like that.” It’s like the anti-mentor.
You write about a hypothetical scenario where a mother is chauffeuring a group of boys who begin to tease each other. One of them refers to another guy as “retarded.” What’s your advice for parents in this situation?
Boys tease and use put-downs as an important part of their social glue. It’s not always negative–if you take it away, they have very few ways to interact with each other. So it’s about differentiating. It’s totally fine for boys to tease, to give each other crap, but it’s not okay for them to use particular words to get someone to shut up. “Gay,” “faggot,” and “pussy” are the shorthand ways to do this. It’s the way to marginalize someone. Even with advances in gay rights, it’s still the way they do it.
So this just happened: I was driving a group of 10-year-old boys who started using these words. I had to practice what I preach–I turned and said, “You are not going to use those words to put people down.” They got crazy uncomfortable, my son didn’t like it. I asked, “Are we good?” It took 15 seconds and we went back to listening to the radio.
Boys often hear these jokes and know they’re wrong but don’t know how to stand up to their friends.
It’s not a fight that they can fight. It’s too difficult for them. The power imbalance is so strong, so intense in that moment. The boy eventually needs to learn how to do that, but most adults can’t even do it. How many times have adults been to a party where someone says some racist or sexist joke and no one says anything? So to expect a 10-year-old to do it is a little much.
You write from the perspective of a mother and your book includes advice specific to mothers and fathers. What advice do you have for single-parent households?
There are a lot of different types of parents today. It’s a complex issue. I’ve seen parents who are married but the mother or father is so undermined by the spouse that it’s so much worse. To have a single parent who lays down the rules and expectations is way better than to have a parent who is undermined by the other parent. I’m not saying that being a single parent is easy. But we don’t credit how dysfunctional married relationships sometimes are.
What are the most critical challenges parents and teachers face now as opposed to 10 or 20 years ago?
It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the technology that boys are interacting with all the time. I totally understand that. But I think the conversations we should be having with boys are the same: Conflict is inevitable, you’re going to need to speak your truth when it’s really uncomfortable, you’re going to see somebody abuse power. Reacting to someone who grabs your tricycle when you’re five is different from when you’re at a party and have to speak out against your friend who’s about to rape a drunk girl–but those are the moments. Those are the moments when who you are as a man counts.
Can you debunk any myths about popular boys?
We have stereotypes that the highest social status boys are having the most sex. And that they’re having a particular kind of hookup–that they don’t have heartbreak and only have random hookups, that they use girls. And that’s not the case. Nor is it the case that lower social-status boys are sitting there hoping a girl hooks up with them. Adults make assumptions that, for example, the theater people are geeky, and they’re not getting it on. In my experience, that’s 100 percent not the case. Those people are very active, shall we say.
I brought this up with a male friend in his 30s, who completely disagreed. He still says the popular guys got all the girls.
No, they don’t. Ask him if the guy in high school who played his acoustic guitar got any hookups. Really, the theater and band people are spending all their time together. It’s a tight-knit group. Some of them will be good friends and some of them will hook up. The athletes, on the other hand, are spending much less time together. When the football team goes to an away game four hours away on the bus, that’s a single-sex activity. When the band goes, it’s co-ed.
As a mother of two boys, what have been your biggest surprises?
There’s something every day. Here’s one from this morning. My boys love to play hard-to-get with me. When I say “Come here and kiss me before you go to school!” my 10-year-old will run away to his bike, as fast as he can, laughing the whole time. For me, in that moment, I wonder: Why can’t I just have a kid who wants to kiss me goodbye? But I have to realize that from the boys’ perspective, that was the bonding. The bonding wasn’t the kiss; it was “I’m going to run away from Mommy.”
So we need to be more attuned to the ways they express themselves?
This conversation was edited for length and clarity.