In the age of Barack Obama, the first African-American President, the dropout rate among black males is 70 percent in cities like New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia and over fifty percent nationwide. While each brother who drops out has his own reason for leaving school, I’m gonna break down some of the reasons why so many brothers feel like they have to leave school before they get their diplomas.
As a brother who struggled through Middle School and High School, I can tell readers attending classes from Middle School onward in the inner-city is a game of survival. It’s hard for brothers to concentrate on studies when they have to navigate a war zone of thugs, gangstas, pedophiles, and drug dealers. In this hostile environment black males receive no support from apathetic faculty who practice a policy of Resentment, Resistance and Racism towards them. Nor do they receive support at home from indifferent parents and family members who see no value in an education in their son’s lives.
The main reason many black males quit school is because they don’t feel safe. Even with metal detectors and an army of security guards, most middle and high schools are still a danger zone full of predators. Drug dealers and street hoods prowl the streets around the school grounds terrorizing young brothers trying to get an education. Gangs like the Crips, and Bloods intimidate and harass young brothers in their recruitment efforts in and out of school. Sometimes these criminals work with school security to sneak weapons and drugs into school buildings through side doors and windows. Vulnerable brothers targeted by these thugs suffer silently and feel powerless because they can’t get any help from indifferent counselors, deans, and angry parents who enforce rules on them for defending themselves but do nothing to discipline predators who harass them. Feeling trapped in a hostile environment most young black males either join the gangs who bully them for protection or drop out to avoid being confronted by them.
As they navigate the dangerous hallways to get to class black males receive no support or encouragement in the classroom. On the achievement side of the grading scale, Brothers who do well in school are under constant pressure from their peers to conform to false stereotypes about their black identity by acting ignorant. Mocked by their lost and confused classmates for “Acting White” many young brothers don’t push as hard for academic excellence like their sisters do. Unaware of the historical roots of the impact of education on Black America, many young overachieving brothers follow a false path of “reality” made up of propaganda from the streets and forsake the road to success taken by our Slave ancestors. As brothers try to conform to the false “real” identity of being “Black”, they cut classes, and skip classwork. While they “keep it real” by hanging out with the fellas in the street and the girls on the corners, many wind up so far behind at school that they become frustrated and drop put.
On the other end of the grading spectrum brothers who need extra help to get on grade level are met with cold indifference or hostility from teachers in the classroom. Some teachers have no idea that many black males with poor grades often struggle with learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD and literacy issues. As they become more resentful towards black males who have a hard time with their classwork they often respond with resistance by ignoring failing black males, dismissing them, or writing them off. As brothers react to being mistreated by teachers they express their anger by cutting school and being absent for months at a time. Eventually, these brothers become so far behind in their classwork they become discouraged and stop coming to school.
When black males need help navigating their courseloads for the semester, they often run into more resistance and resentment from apathetic guidance counselors who have low expectations of them. Instead of working with young brothers so they’ll take subjects that challenge them academically, indifferent guidance counselors schedule them for classes that meet the minimum requirements for graduation. Usually this limited schedule doesn’t have enough depth to allow black males to see the value of a good education or the fun of learning. Instead of helping brothers plan a course for college, they help them plan a course towards a GED. By expecting so little of black males, these indifferent counselors create a self-fulfilling prophecy where black males give up on working towards their diplomas and give up on themselves.
At home and in the neighborhood the lack of support black males receive at school is compounded by parents, siblings, friends and relatives who also practice Resentment, Resistance and Racism. Some brothers and sisters in the black community who didn’t graduate are resentful of a young black male’s opportunity to get an education. Using passive-aggressive behaviors, these jealous individuals sabotage young black males attending school with resistant tactics. These include ridiculing and mocking black males for doing well in school, questioning their “black” identity and sexuality, dismissing important school events, “forgetting” to sign permissions slips for class trips or not showing up for important meetings with teachers or counselors about grades or college. Combined with the lack of support brothers receive at school, this malicious treatment at home discourages many brothers from persevering about pursuing their education when crises arise.
In addition to the mistreatment brothers face on the streets, some parents are so afraid of being embarrassed about their son’s learning disabilities that they don’t go out and get help for them. Because of this shame, a lot of brothers suffer in silence as they struggle with dyslexia, ADHD and reading comprehension issues. This situation becomes more exacerbated in Middle school as black males run into more complex classwork and reaches a tragic climax in high school when young black males fall completely apart in the face of complicated subjects like algebra and interpreting novels. As they fail and get further behind they get frustrated and drop out.
Worse, in some households academic achievement isn’t an expectation for young black males. Instead of encouraging young black males to do well in school some parents have given up on their sons. Instead of helping brothers struggling with subjects or learning disabilities they verbally abuse and belittle their sons. Even more are encouraged to drop out by parents and family members who view education as something foolish, “White”, or irrelevant. Sadly some black parents today actually expect their sons to do prison time at some point in their lives instead of expecting them to finish high school or pursue higher learning.
Due to this lack of support and encouragement regarding academic achievement a majority of black males feel alone in school. With no one in the institutionally racist educational system to see a value in them, they aren’t able to see the value of a good education. With no one in the neighborhood understanding Black history enough to tell young brothers how African-Americans have used education as one of the tools to overcome oppression and achieve financial independence throughout history, many lost and confused brothers have no idea they’re forsaking a historically proven road to success. Unless efforts are made to provide support for brothers to keep them in school, many more lost and confused black males will continue wander in the inner-city wildernesses of the poverty, prison, and poor-paying jobs.