It is no secret that Black men in the United States face a separate set of issues in life due to the color of their skin. From racial profiling to lack of educational resources, the path of what is conceived as success is made harder for Black men. In order to bring to light the several issues Black men face, the University of Alabama’s Black Faculty and Student Association held a lecture and discussion entitled, “The Plight, Path and Progression of Black Men.”
“The Plight, Path and Progression of Black Men” was just one webinar in a series of programs the BFSA has facilitated since the start of March. The discussion was led by Pastor Kris Erskine and Dr. Chance Lewis, co-authors of the book, “The Dilemmas of Being an African American Male in the New Millennium.” The book lays out plenty of issues and solutions to help aid Black men in the United States. When recreating the path of a better life in the United States, Pastor Erskine discussed the separation of Black males from their families and communities.
“You have a government that has perpetuated the removal of the Black male from the house and the community,” Erskine said.
Erskine would continue to say that removal of Black males from their homes has torn the fabric of black communities. Young Black males have less positive male figures in their life to give them support and uplift them. Many of them eventually surround themselves with groups of men that directly inhibit their success.
“Your associations will also give you assimilations. It will always assign you to a lane of life,” Erskine said
We, as a community of Black people, must work to change those preconceived notions about who we are as people. In order to change how people outside of the Black community view us, we must change how we value relationships with each other. In turn, the Black community can begin to repair broken homes and rekindle relationships ruined by various sectors of systemic separation.
Although the repairing of relationships are important, many of the monetary and career related issues Black males face stem from inequalities in education. This country values the pursuit of higher education and finding your career. Yet, Black males experience issues in getting access to high quality education. Dr. Chance Lewis discusses the amount of Black males who have a high school teacher that doesn’t have an undergraduate major in the subject said teacher is teaching. According to data from the National Urban League Dr. Lewis used, 21.90% of Black males have teachers not highly educated in the subject that they are teaching.
“We tell students ‘go to school, pay attention, get a good education’ but look at what’s happening,” Lewis said.
Not only do Black males have teachers that are not educated in the subject that they are teaching but they also have teachers with limited experience teaching inside the classroom. Black males are expected to reach the highest levels of education available in this country with a lack of quality educators supporting them. Black males cannot reach their educational goals nor have a chance at a higher level of income because the system set in place constantly gives them obstacles to overcome while pushing the goal line further away.
What are the next steps? How can people in the community around Black males step up and support them? Dr. Lewis listed several different solutions that people can use to recreate the path of a successful life for Black males in the United States, one being the enhancement of the Black male experience during college while ensuring graduation.
“I’m willing to bet and I’m pretty sure you know what I mean when I say this, every Black male at the University of Alabama does not have the same kind of experience,” Lewis said.
Lewis would continue and state that people at the University should be focused on ensuring that Black males receive the support they deserve. With the problems Black males had to face in order to reach campus, the University has a responsibility to this group of students to prepare them for success in the world— whatever that may be— and not be an added hindrance. How is the University and people connected to it using funding and the various resources on and off campus to change the outlook of a Black male’s experience at the University? This is the question Dr. Lewis stresses that the University to continue to focus on in the future.
While the experience for Black males on campus is important, their view of the school before becoming a student is vital as well. One of the solutions Dr. Erskine gives is exposing Black males to daily life as a student in college.
“Why don’t we walk them through what it looks like to be a student at the university [of Alabama]? What is the real campus like, the rigor on the day to day basis,” Erskine said.
If Black males see the campus outside of the athletics or the extracurriculars a particular university has, they can form their own ideas of how any campus can not only help them be successful, but the multiple paths they can take. Shaping their minds young allows these Black males to see a new path of life that fights the dilemmas they will face.
Throughout this discussion, both Dr. Lewis and Dr. Erskine centered their points around the fabric of community. More specifically, the role the Black community and people outside of it has in ensuring that Black males are afforded the same opportunities as others. Black males cannot do this alone. They are not given the support or resources to fight the systems holding them down by themselves, nor should they have to. It takes a community effort to recognize the issues, have discussions, and work together to tear them down to make space for better and more equitable systems. That way, Black males are able to progress freely in life and choose their path to success.