I remember the moment very well for one particular reason, that being, it definitively displayed for me the harsh reality that in their pursuit to give their children all of the material things that they did not have growing up, many working-class and middle-class African-Americans had foolishly failed to provide their children with the life lessons that they needed to navigate what has historically been a harsh, cruel, and unforgiving world in its dealings with our people.
After a lecture on a predominantly white campus, I found myself speaking with a group of African-American males who had graciously attended the event. It was during that moment that a non-descript African-American male began railing against each and every aspect of his collegiate experience. He spoke about how difficult the course work was, how there was little support for the African-Americans on the campus, and how he was more than prepared to abandon his pursuit of an undergraduate degree.
At that moment, I realized that one of the primary issues facing some, certainly not all, African-American male collegians was a woeful absence of perseverance; put simply, they are simply not ‘tough’ enough to struggle through the innumerable obstacles that they are going to face not only on their collegiate campuses, but also as they live their lives. Apparently, someone failed to give them what was standard advice in the Black community. That advice is, “You are going to have to work twice as hard, to get half as far.”
I later learned that the young man griping about his present predicament was actually a student-athlete of some note. Predictably, his fame flowed exclusively from his athletic prowess.
Although I would never deny the existence of either discrimination or racism, life has taught me that so much of what ails our people flows from their unwillingness to eagerly embrace opportunity. There is quite possibly no greater example of such failure than the present plight and predicament of African-American male student-athletes participating in major Division I football and basketball.
A recent study has quantitatively revealed what we have long suspected, that being, the vast majority of African-American male student-athletes are simply not getting it done in the classroom. The alluded to study by Penn researcher Dr. Shaun R. Harper relates that when data from ‘the Power 5 conferences’ is examined, only 54% of African-American male student-athletes graduated within six years, a slightly lower rate than the 58% rate for all African-American male undergraduates.
Let me first say that I most certainly agree with Dr. Harper’s contention that “Generations of young black men and their parents and families are repeatedly duped by a system that lies to them about what their life chances are and what their athletic outcomes are likely to be.”
However, I think that the focus of his study is unnecessarily limited, meaning that our community needs to be made aware of the disturbing reality that the graduation rates of African-American male collegians, athlete or non-athlete, lag far behind their contemporaries.
|Black Male Athletes||Non-Black Male Athletes||Black Male Students||Non-Black Male Students|
To be quite honest with you, I, and droves of others, have tired of both the excuse making and the concessions that have been repeatedly made for African-American male collegians; if I did not know any better I would believe the thread-bare lie that they are mentally inferior to other groups. However, such an assertion is a blatant lie.
The latest movement to aid African-American males on predominantly white college campuses is the creation of ‘learning centers and living communities’ where they will be segregated from others in a space that is ‘conducive to learning.’ Unfortunately for those advocating such a move, without a significant alteration to study habits, respect for academic pursuit, and abandonment of what can be appropriately termed the ‘Cool Pose’, African-American male collegians will continue their unfortunate tradition of lagging behind others academically. A dastardly feat that they have achieved at every level of education: elementary school, middle school, and high school.
Although most have foolishly ignored Jawanza Kunjufu’s assertion that ‘What you do the most, you will do the best’, it nonetheless remains true. Put simply, until African-American male collegians abandon their resistance to that age old mantra of “You have to work twice as hard, to get half as far” they will unfortunately continue to lag behind all others and allow unprecedented, never to return, opportunities slide through their hands.
It may just be time for them to grow up and realize that there is no secret path to success for them. They will have to earn their way to academic and professional success the old fashioned way; they will have to work for it. And until they understand that, there is absolutely no hope for academic success.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016