Fifty-years after its genesis, there is no doubt that the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense still reigns as the most memorable Black Power Era organization. Co-founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the Panthers longevity is largely attributable to the iconic images of revolutionary Black men, and women, carrying guns in a direct attempt to protect their community from external aggression.
Although the guns and iconic imagery have ensured the Panthers a prominent place in the psyche’ of modern-day revolutionaries, many such individuals have failed to examine the Panthers beyond the aforementioned superficial level. Incredibly, many aspiring Panthers have neither examined ‘the ten-point platform and program’ nor understood that point #5 is as applicable today as it was when it was penned on October 15, 1965.
Point number 5 reads as follows;
“We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.”
We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.
As an educator, I have repeatedly witnessed the tendency of many African-American males to rebel against education and learning for no logical reason, they often behave as if the quality and longevity of their future existence is not directly tied to education.
There appears to have been a wicked trick played upon African-American males that they seemingly cannot conquer. The alluded to trick is a pervasive lie that persons of African descent have historically had nothing to do with intellectual pursuits, learning, and academic excellence. Although nothing could be further from the truth, African-American males’ investment in this fable has had disastrous consequences for our entire community.
The life prospects for uneducated African-American males are particularly daunting. Census data relates the following:
- In the year 2000, 65% of Black male high school dropouts in their 20’s were jobless — meaning, unable to find work, not actively seeking employment, or incarcerated.
- Four years later, that percentage had grown to 72% for African-American males, 34% for white males, and 19% for Hispanic male dropouts.
- Shockingly, when Black male high school graduates in their 20’s were included with the aforementioned dropout population, 50% of Black men were jobless. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20’s were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.
The inability to secure gainful employment has historically relegated many African-American males to a pool that is best termed ‘unmarriageable’ as it will be nearly impossible for them to provide for offspring. However, the absence of gainful employment has not prevented these men from procreating.
Nearly 50% of all Black men in their late 20’s and early 30’s who failed to pursue any form of higher education will become non-custodial fathers.
There is an obvious link between the lack of formal education and incarceration rates for African-American males. Studies relate that by the time African-American males reach their mid-thirties, 60% of dropouts have spent time in prison. This stat becomes much more meaningful when it is contextualized that in most inner-city areas over 50% of Black men do not matriculate from high school. According to Steven Raphael, there are more twenty-something African-American male dropouts in prison on any given day than are gainfully employed.
So the issue standing before our community is a very daunting one that is convoluted by two issues: (a) the current educational offerings are either unappealing or of no utility to the vast majority of African-American males and (b) there does not appear to be a reliable means for Black male inmates to emerge from incarceration and secure employment sufficient enough for them to take care of themselves and any dependents.
Not to belittle the murder of African-American males by white police officers, issues such as the one previously discussed regarding Black males and education does multi-generational damage to entire families and neighborhoods. One thing is certain; this problem will continue to worsen if for no other reason than our collective failure to consider it one of the primary problems facing African-American males and the Black family structure.
James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.