N&R Column: “Crisis of the black male”

This week’s Carolina Peacemaker ran an article highlighting the National Urban League’s annual assessment of the “State of Black America“.  Sen. Barack Obama, writing the forward to this years report, subtitled “Portrait of the black male”, had this to say

“The crisis of the black male is our crisis. It is in our shared interest and in the interest of every American to stop ignoring these challenges and start finding the solutions that will work.”

Locally, school board vice-chairman Amos Quick helped convene a meeting with Guilford County’s school resource officers to explore reasons as to why black children are being arrested and/or suspended at a rate that far exeeds that of their white counterparts.  (Replays of that very candid meeting will be aired on TW Cable Channel 2 at 4:30p on the following dates in April: 23, 27, 28, 29 and 30th)

The officers gave it to him straight.  My bi-weekly N&R column takes it from there.

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During a meeting with school resource officers last Friday, Guilford County School Board Vice Chairman Amos Quick wanted answers to simple questions.

Quick wondered whether “black male students (are) misbehaving more than other racial groups?â€? according to an article in Sunday’s News & Record.  He pointedly asked, “Do we have a crisis among our African American students in our schools?â€?

The SROs’ answer was just as simple: “Yes�.

With three children in public schools I have spent many hours in hallways, cafeterias and classrooms involving myself in the education of my own children and in support of the larger community that good schools strive to foster.  My observations align with what the officers told Quick. 

The danced-around truth has long been that the majority of our school discipline problems are caused by a relatively few, mostly male, disadvantaged black students.  Most everyone realizes it and has talked about it in hushed, same-race conversations for years, but it hasn’t been stated clearly among polite, racially mixed company before now.

But before white folks get smug and feel vindicated because the problem is mainly with “them�, and black folks get defensive about having fingers pointed in their direction, let’s refrain from recoiling into defensive positions.  We need a commitment to fix the problem with the resolve of a combined army. 

The first step towards figuring out why poorer black students comprise such a disproportionate amount of our school’s arrests and suspensions is to create a ‘community task force’ to study the problem and prescribe solutions.  It is right that we do so.

Officer Tom Branson said, “Our schools have changed into a day care.� My children’s teachers have long echoed Branson’s sentiment and therein lies the crux of the problem.

We cannot expect, nor is it desirable, for our schools to act as surrogate parents.  For too long now we have required teachers and administrators to undertake the impossible: teaching children who have little interest in learning and expecting conformity and discipline from students who have been reared to reject authority and do as they please.

School safety coordinator Anthony Scales says, “There’s a disconnect.  We’re not getting the message to our African American males that this type of behavior is not acceptable in our school system.�

Any student – rich or poor, black or white – who hears “the messageâ€? only from teachers and administrators, and who lacks constant reinforcement from home that there are high expectations of good behavior at school, is going to run afoul of rules that necessarily apply to everyone.  When the foundation for a successful education is not firmly established at home, our schools will never be able to close the many gaps that uninvolved or plain bad parenting creates. 

I am convinced that the discipline disparities showing up in school have a lot more to do with wealth than race.  I am just as convinced that, on the whole, black parents want their children to be just as successful as any other student.  But the difficult-to-tackle reality is that there are many more poor black families in our community than other ethnicities.  Until that changes, progress on improving overall school behavior will be difficult.

While it is painful for our police to confirm Amos Quick’s fears of “a crisis among our African American students�, at least we now know where to target our resources with pinpoint accuracy.

Working together, this community can solve any problem that it sets its collective mind to.  Few problems are more worth solving than impediments to safe and excellent schools.

Let’s get to work.

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13 Comments

  1. John D. Young
    Posted April 25, 2007 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    David, what happens if some of the key assumptions about education are themselves questioned? Is the high pressure and insane competition around education itself not also part of the problem? It seems that we have created a system that has pipelines starting by middle school, that divide and separate students into their proper groove.

    Some are heading for a chance at Harvard, others for UNC and a possible law degree others are sorted for Wal-Mart and fast food chains. Many of those in this sorting system feel that their fate is already sealed. Their response can easily be disillusionment and anger.

    Somehow we have to redirect the belief that education is about competition, tests, SATs, college acceptance and jobs. Education, the quest for knowledge, learning from each other and teaching each other is itself a worthy virtue. The insistence that knowledge is just another restricted, quantifiable commodity becomes a big part of the problem.

  2. The CA
    Posted April 25, 2007 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    It is largely related to wealth but only as a common symptom- but not a cause. The reason the wealth gap is there is because of single parent households which disproportionately affect blacks. The lack of discipline because of an absent father is what causes the behavior. The lack of wealth is just another adverse affect caused by the single parent home. More wealth would not translate into better behavior, but a two parent family with a father figure would go a long way. Even in homes with two parents that still are poor, discipline is less of a problem.

    Blaming it on poverty per se is no more effective than blaming it on race, and if we waste time chasing that rabbit, we won’t get any closer to a solution.

  3. dhoggard
    Posted April 25, 2007 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Agreed on the “not a cause”, Sam.

    I see a big portion of the “cause” as a breakdown of families largely due to a high dependence on the governmental dole.

  4. Posted April 26, 2007 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    it’s such a complex issue once we all move beyond the stereotypical rationales.

    i mean, why are there more single parent households in the black community (if that even is an accurate statement)?

    it’s not because one race is less able to commit than another. so how does the incarceration rate impact families? what about substance abuse? murder rates? the root of all of these particular issues tend to be poor education and life choices related moving forward.

  5. dhoggard
    Posted April 26, 2007 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    It IS complex, Sean and my “stereotypical rationale” is a part of the complexity. Just becuase something can be termed “stereotypical” doesn’t make it any less valid.

    It just seems to me that all of the symptoms you mention in your last paragraph have the markings of a classic ‘viscious circle’.

    What will it take to disrupt and turn it into a straight line with an upward trend toward success?

  6. jwg
    Posted April 26, 2007 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    I’m confused – “What will it take to disrupt and turn it into a straight line with an upward trend toward success?” when “we now know where to target our resources with pinpoint accuracy.”. Or am I just confused?

  7. Posted April 26, 2007 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    i wasn’t referring to anything you said when i said “stereotypical rationale,” david. i was referring to a bunch of conversations that historically occur when race is the focus of the conversation and nothing else. i really liked the column and think it’s a great starting point to look for solutions.

    you’re right, addiction, crime and incarceration all seem to be a part of a vicious cycle in how they each affect parents relationships with children as mentors (this is still a gross generalization of cause, but if we’re to have a frank discussion, i’m more than happy for someone else to provide another angle), but i’d classify these real issues as not just symptoms of one ill in particular.

    so here’s my question: what improvements in day-to-day life would need to be made to reduce the likelihood of drink/drug dependencies? what about crime?

    historically, churches have played a major role in the black community to provide support and community, but then the free market plays the self-interest role and people open up liquor stores left and right to take advantage of a poor community.

    there are a myriad of issues at play here. i’m glad you’re attempting to tackle them.

  8. The CA
    Posted April 26, 2007 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Does the liquor cause the poverty or does the poverty cause the liquor?

  9. Posted April 26, 2007 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    well, the former definitely causes a slip in responsibilities and the latter sure as hell can drive one to the former as a manner of escape.

  10. Gene Hoggard
    Posted April 26, 2007 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    As for the so-called social problems of the children who come from single parent “families”, we can place the entire blame on the good ole USA. For years now, we have had the IRS marriage penalty, which in part says, “If you get married, you will pay more income tax”. In my opinion, this has promoted the single parent phenom, both in the white community and black community-maybe not in toto, but at least partially.

    Our free loading welfare system also rewards the single parent family. When we continue to reward illigitimacy, the problem will not go away. Each generation learns from the previous one that free loading and crime are easier roads to take than than the road of working for a living. During my years of teaching, I would hear more and more students say, “Why should I work when I can live on welfare?”. Believe me, this statement was made by whites as well as blacks. In today’s world, we mix in the growing influx of illegals which, for the most part, are receiving some kind of welfare.

    Noting all of the above ladies and gentlemen, we have no one to blame for our social problems, except the person you see when you look in the mirror.

  11. Posted May 2, 2007 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    John Young said, “Some are heading for a chance at Harvard, others for UNC and a possible law degree others are sorted for Wal-Mart and fast food chains. Many of those in this sorting system feel that their fate is already sealed. Their response can easily be disillusionment and anger.”

    John, I couldn’t agree more. In my day it was the textile mills instead of the Wal-Mart but when I was a student in what was then the “Greensboro City Schools” a college education was something that was never mentioned by my teachers, a guidance councilor or school administrator. In 12 years in the GCS I never once spoke with a guidance councilor.

    Aycock was a troubled and neglected school in ’67-’68. I know because I was there. And when I went to Mendenhall in ’69 I was so far behind I never managed to catch up.

    Then came my freshman year at Dudley where I was attacked and beaten almost to death in a restroom to be found in a pool of blood by an assistant principal.

    It was 1970 at the ripe age of 15 that I bought my first Saturday Night Special which I carried 24/7 until after graduation.

    For the life of me I don’t know who doctored my grades so I could graduate but I guess being that many of my teachers slept-off their hangovers during class they only wanted to see us leave.

    And yes, I came from a two parent family that was stricter than most even way back when. My mother– an elementary school teacher– tried and tried to get me help but no one cared as I was picked for the mill.

  12. Brenda Bowers
    Posted May 4, 2007 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I beg to differ with the assertion that most illegals are getting some type of welfare.This most certainly is not the case. For one thing being illegal thjey stay as far underground and away from the authorities as possible. Also having been volunteer working with programs that serve the poor I see very few Hispanics. The Salvation Army provided Christmas for 1,200 children last year in their Angel Tree Porgrams; they were all Black and 909.9% single family with only a handful of whites and Hispanics. I personally interviewed 93 families and had only 2 Hispanics and 1 White.

    I do agree that welfare has created a Black lower class. In fact , welfare has destroyed going on 3 generations of Blacks. The Black illegitimate birth rate in 1965 was 28% it is now in the high 70′s with an estimate here in Guilford as being as high as 80%. Welfare and the acceptance of society (especially in the Black community) of unwed motherhood and irresponsible fathers.

    David I just noticed you don’t have a preview and neither can I go back over my comment so I am not able to correct my typos. Bad of you for those of us who are dyslexic! BB

    dyslexic

    of the unwed mother.

    BB

    ces.

  13. Posted February 7, 2008 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    In “theory” I show how Males falling behind academically and economically due higher layers mental frictions. Belief Males should be strong allow sociey to damage Males in ways to make them tough. Also the belief Females should be protected which creates lower layers of mental frictions academic growth.lower the socioeconomic bracket the higher the allowed confrontations now falling on Black Male. This creates lower academics, more frustration lower esteem and self-worth. Theory to all explains

4 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Last Week Filed under: Uncategorized — E.C. Huey @ 8:27 am See local columnist/blogger David Hoggard’s take on that meeting, via an excerpt below from his column in today’s News & [...]

  2. [...] David Hoggard: […] “I am convinced that the discipline disparities showing up in school have a lot more to do with wealth than race. I am just as convinced that, on the whole, black parents want their children to be just as successful as any other student. But the difficult-to-tackle reality is that there are many more poor black families in our community than other ethnicities. Until that changes, progress on improving overall school behavior will be difficult.” […] [...]

  3. By at connecting*the*dots on April 25, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    [...] this Friday night, from 7:30 – 9pm at the Greensboro Historical Museum. Come on down and be moved, schooled and entertained… for [...]

  4. [...] Hoggard’s take on local politics and life in general from Greensboro, NC « N&R Column: “Crisis of the black male” I hate to say I told you so, but… April 27th 2007 @ 6:26 am Guilford County [...]