"Males a distinct minority at HBCUs" is the title of a recent article in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. In it, the author Suggs expounded on what many people already know: There is a crisis, a disparity, an inequity in the number of Black males attending college and grad schools as compared to their Black female counterparts.
Suggs cited Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund, who says, "Women are very motivated to pursue education. Black women get it, but ... that same impetus hasn't been happening with [Black] men, or with men, period." True: Boys and young men of all races are lagging behind in many areas these days. But the contrast is strikingly and painfully sharp in the Black community; and despite the historical lure of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Black male enrollment is down even there. Why is this, what is the psyche, why does it continue, and what can be done to reverse the trend? Also, what effect does this have on the Black community, Black women and Black family structure?
First, let me make it clear that I love seeing Black men who fulfill what they can be, and should be, to themselves, their women, their children, church and community. Second, I know I'm sure to step on some toes in this post, but even the most sympathetic observer and the most "afrocentric" soul is likely to agree that there is a worse-than-ever crisis in the community concerning modern-day Black boys and young men.
White boys have problems, too. There is internal bleeding in both communities. But regardless of what White kids are doing, it has nothing to do with what is happening in the Black community. We can determine our future. Each community needs to focus on remedying its ills and I say too many times young Black males take the path of least resistance.
Our general society places too much emphasis on sports and music, and not enough value on science and math. Modern-day heroes are athletes and celebrities, not scientists, physicians, and "nerdy" inventors. Nerds are good ... and are often secretly funny, loving and sincere.
A few years ago I wrote an essay entitled "Black Family Structure Lacks Male Foundation: In Search of Black Men who Read, Lead, Respect and Protect."
The community and the nation as a whole needs to see young Black men who read–those who are getting college and advanced degrees in such fields as finance, education, law, medicine and architecture. We need responsible Black men and fathers to lead their young boys into becoming true men, showing them they can do more than simply play ball, sing rap, and acquire "bling." We need to see the men who direct their young girls with fatherly love and support.
We need men who respect, and govern themselves as the respectful, God-directed head-of-household. Men who cherish their wife/woman as a woman whose name, honor, image and person is to be respected, and men who have enough spine to protect their woman, family and race from disparaging, harmful practices. We see some; we need to see more. We know you're out there. We need to hear from you; we need a word or two.
I contend that much of the problem is due to too many children born out of wedlock. There are still too many Black girls and young women raising children by themselves, without the benefit of a husband, or even, minimally a constant, well-reasoned father-figure in the child's life. It is important for young women to realize that this cyclical pattern of out-of-wedlock births only adds to the stress on Black women's lives; it adds to poverty, poor health care outcomes and failure in school.
There is a problem with a lack of positive role models for young Black boys and men. There is too much promiscuity, causing major problems in the health of Black women and men. (The HIV rates in the HBCU area of Atlanta are alarming. I have the data in hand and it is frightening.) Unbridled sexual activity has lead to high rates of STDs-even those diseases whose numbers had been declining in recent years.
It also can add to an increased risk of psychiatric disorders in Black children such as Borderline Personality Disorder–a disorder for which certain family dynamics greatly contribute to its development. BPD can occur in children who come from "normal" households. But the research has shown that BPD is commonly found in children who experienced inconsistent parenting, absentee parenting, divided parental input, early parental loss (from death or divorce), and 70-75% are victims of sexual abuse. How often does that scenario present itself in single-parent households: There's a single parent-guardian; an absent parent (usually the father); too many kids in the home, causing divided parental input; and without proper supervision, or poor partner selection, many un-parented children are exposed to sexual abuse at the hands of an extended family member or the woman's not-well-vetted consort.
I also point to the proliferation of hip-hop/rap "music," and its inherent disrespect for mankind and especially for women. The so-called lyrics are anything but. They are vile, crass, misogynistic, and crude ... yet young Black males see they can get paid six and seven figure paychecks from music producers to spout such debauchery. Why go to college and study when you can get paid big bucks to curse, grab your crotch and spew broken English?
In closing for this, part one, I submit that it is Black men who need to lead the redirection of this wayward ship. Black women can't do it all. It is my prayer that Black male organizations take a break from a glut of social events and deal with this–the aberrant, misguided mindset of many young Black boys and men.
If responsible, educated, well-focused Black men can get younger men to stop the vile recordings and show more respect to women, there will be a brighter future for the Black community. I have told some gents I know, "You guys work on the fellas; I, and other socially-conscious sisters, will work on the women." I think the men have a tougher job. Without a doubt, the Black community needs to get our young Black men back on track. We can all party later.
In Part 2, I share what effect the lack of Black males in college has on Black females, Black family structure, and the community as a whole. Also see other related posts on my blog's home page.
Living Well, Despite Catchin' Hell, a book about health, sex and happiness, with a foreword by Pauletta Washington, musician and wife of Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington; and endorsed by psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere and others. The book includes current comparative data for Black, White, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women. The first book in 8 years addressing Black women's health; also addresses the effects of negative stereotypes. (print and eBook).
Copyright © 2012 Dr. Melody T. McCloud. All rights reserved. Any excerpts reproduced from this article should include a hyperlink to this--my original post on Psychology Today, with author credit. Feel free to post the link to this, and any of my PT posts, to your social network pages. Follow me here at PT (mostly); and now (I've finally joined the fray) on Twitter: @DrMelodyMcCloud.
Melodies of the Heart: Poems of Life & Love (eBook with erotic love poems, being Black in America and more)
Medical Bloopers! Amusing & Amazing Stories of Health Care Workers (foreword by Dr. Neil Shulman, author of Doc Hollywood). (now as an eBook)