“Young nigga go to school; stay away from me…”: A Look at Our Role in the Racial Educational Gap

I want to start off by saying stereotypes and statistics are two different things.  Below are the definitions of each:

  • stereotype-  to repeat without variation
  • statistic-  a random variable that takes on the possible values of a statistic

Stereotypes are a factor that you can apply to all members of a group, as you see there is no variation.  This is why most people hate them.  We hate just being clumped together, especially when it’s in a negative view.  Statistics on the other hand look at random variables that may help to explain “statistically significant” or stereotype numbers.  So no, we are not all walking around with the woes of Precious, but many of us can attest to one or more of the factors that kept Precious from being all she can be. And let me be very frank when I say, the system didn’t fail Precious, her mother and father did.  The last I checked “the system” and “MAN” wasn’t giving birth to black babies, black people do.  So let’s talk about the behaviors amongst ourselves that may lead to our babies becoming statistics.

I recently read an article in the New York Times  for MSN.com titled, “Black boys score far behind white students: Poverty alone doesn’t seem to explain gap; expert cites ‘racial differences’“.  I’m not even going to go all black girl on the word choice for the title and tag sentence, lol. Though I must say, behavioral difference seems like a better term than racial differences, but that’s me.  Anyway, the article makes note of points we have been hearing since forever, such as:

  • Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys
  • Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty
  • In high school, African-American boys drop out at nearly twice the rate of white boys, and their SAT scores are on average 104 points lower
  • In college, black men represented just 5 percent of students in 2008.

Most of us are very aware of these numbers as we deal with the “real life” consequences of them everyday.  That would be seen in our statistics.  So now what?! The article also produces the same solutions that many of us have been hearing for years, “change the system” or ”the teachers are bad”.  And as those factors may be true,  like the article makes point they don’t stand alone.  They are only a part of the problem.  The metaphor that comes to mind is a baby whose diaper needs to be changed. You don’t just change the diaper, you have to wipe away all the shit and then put on the new diaper.  We need to start wiping away some of our shit, if we really want change.  One way we can start wiping, according to Dr. Robert Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, is by looking at what’s happening in the home before kids even come to school.

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten. They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.” I just want to say that I have been saying that talking is the solution since forever, lol.  But I’ll let Dr. Ferguson take this one :-)   The article goes on to say, “Those include ‘conversations about early childhood parenting practices,’ Dr. Ferguson said. The activities that parents conduct with their 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds. How much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.” And there you go. I mean if you’re not “amen”ing to that, then change will never come. It starts at home with us.

Moral of the Story: Education is important.  We need to stop spreading the message around that it is not or you don’t need it.  Education teaches us how to better communicate our feelings and chances of becoming a statistic become greater without it. As we see, lack of education is often the constant factor behind many of our men becoming statistics.  And the same “MAN” we accuse of keeping us back is actually scrambling around changing “diapers”, but someone has to be willing to wipe the shit first.  I’m not a dummy, I’m very aware of racism being well and alive in 2010. But unless you’re a white person, you can’t change that.  You can change making sure your kids get to school on time, are well fed, clothed and eager to learn.  Especially our little boys because one day those little boys will be men.  And as we interact with many of these men everyday, the expectation for a great one will be the same.  I’m no one’s mom, but we must also nurture  and communicate with our men the same way.  When we start there and form healthy relationships, we don’t become baby mama’s, but rather wives and moms.  We all have different stories, but step one is to wipe away the shit. Let me be the first say, love and trust are a great brand of wipes. Oh and condoms :-) xx

Happy “Being a Catalyst and Achieving Despite Stats”  Ladies!! xx

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