January 29, 2020

Educated and Endangered



When most people graduate college, it is a big accomplishment.

While much of the day is all a blur, there are certain moments that are very clear. Sitting in the audience and as each student walked the stage to receive their diploma, one closely observes how many of them were black men.

Of course, this seems like a ludicrous thing to look at but in a culture that acculturates educated Black men to an endangered species, this phenomenon is worth unpacking.


According to Black Male Student Success in Higher Education, a 2012 report done by the National Black Male College Achievement Study at the University of Philadelphia, data that was collected shows that black males seem to fall behind in the pursuit of higher education. Black men are overrepresented in collegiate sports- being 3.6% of the undergraduate class but 55.3% of athletes. (Harper 2012) Black male college completion rates are the lowest among both sexes and all racial/ethnic groups in U.S college system. (Harper 2006a; Strayhorn, 2010) Lastly, in 2002, it was reported that black men were only 4.3% of students enrolled in college, the same number in 1976. (Harper 2006a; Strayhorn, 2010) Beyond the numbers, the assumption is Black males are considered ill-equipped for academia and as a result, many of them disappear before reaching graduation.


These numbers not only confirmed what has been seen happening, but it also helped expose a truth that lies beneath educated Black men in America. Many of whom had fathers and grandfathers who are not college educated and were limited in some form or fashion. Many of whom had experiences where they were the only Black male in a class and were seen as an anomaly to want to pursue intellect. These men were the beneficiaries of a culture where boys are told incessantly the only way to be successful is to be like Lebron James and Michael Jordan. What was once a revolution has now transformed into the unintended legacy of Black men.


Finding themselves in, what sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s refers to in her work on gender, a “stalled revolution,” today there is a myriad of Black men being afforded the opportunity to attend college than ever before. However, the numbers of those who graduate continue to stagnate. My experience and those like me who have managed to graduate represent a thread in the narrative of the Black male intellect.


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