- Why does Wayne State University graduate less than 15% of its black students in 6 years?
- Why do Detroit Public Schools graduate less than 50% of their students in 4 years?
- Why the incarceration rate for African-American women has increased by 800% since 1986?
- Has the influx of rappers and entertainers that embrace criminal lifestyles translated into a greater acceptance of incarceration in our community?
The Ominous Gender Gap in African-American Higher Education
By 2097, Black women will earn ALL Bachelors degrees awarded to African-Americans in the United States.
Thats according to statistical trends analyzed by the U.S. Census Bureau and presented in Where Did We Go Wrong. If this statistic seems far-fetched, Charles delves into the story behind the numbers to reveal what we have known, but were afraid to acknowledge: that at each step of the way – from birth to adulthood – Black men have been systematically victimized and eliminated from the path to higher education and opportunity.
Charles’ analysis reveals that “In 2010 the Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males reported the national high school cohort graduation rate for African-American men was 47% in the 2007-2008 academic year. Furthermore, states such as Nevada and Florida graduate less than one-third of their African-American male students within the designated four-year period.”
If you thought these numbers were bad, according to the same report “In most American cities, dropout rates for African-American and Latino males are well above 50%, and they’re less likely to enroll or graduate from college than any other group (Schott, 2010)”.
Many of our Black boys who survive this process of elimination end up in special education – the equivalent of being the academic “walking dead”. These boys may remain in high school and may even graduate. However, the diplomas they receive are Special Education diplomas, making them ineligible for college entrance in many states.
The damage done to our Black boys isn’t limited to the loss of academic and professional opportunity. According to Where Did We Go Wrong, “research by Drs. Oswald and Coutinho concluded that nationally African-American students were two and one-half times more likely to receive a diagnosis of mild mental retardation and one and one-half times more likely to receive a serious emotional disability diagnosis when compared to non-African American students.”
The emotional and psychological damage inflicted on these boys as a result of their “inferior” status leads to frustration, anger, a sense of helplessness, low self-esteem, and depression. These destructive emotions are the root of Black male drug use, sexual deviancy, violence, and unemployment. All of this culminates into the statistics that the rest of the world can see: incarceration, dropout rates, sexually transmitted diseases, children born out-of-wedlock, and poverty.
A World of Hell for the Black Man
If a Black male survives Elementary and High School with a traditional Academic or Vocational diploma, a world of hell awaits at the hands of law enforcement. We already know that approximately 12%-13% of the American population is African-American, but they make up 40.1% of the almost 2.1 million male inmates in jail or prison (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009). We also know that
- Nearly one in three African-American males aged 20–29 are under some form of criminal justice supervision whether imprisoned, jailed, on parole or probation.
- One out of nine African-American men will be incarcerated between the ages of 20 and 34.
- Black males ages 30 to 34 have the highest incarceration rate of any race/ethnicity.
- 298,919 were totally innocent (89 percent).
- 179,449 were black (53 percent).
- 107,812 were Latino (32 percent).
- 31,891 were white (9 percent).” - Source
Looking at the chart above, we see a drastic increase in incarceration rates starting with THE REAGAN ADMINISTRATION until today. It is worthy to note that no American President since then has made any effort to curb this pace. Why? America is sustained by its Prison Industrial Complex.
South Africa under Apartheid was internationally condemned as a racist society.
- South Africa under apartheid (1993), Black males: 851 per 100,000
- The U.S. (2006), Black males: 4,789 per 100,000
What does it mean that the leader of the “free world” locks up its Black males at a rate 5.8 times higher than the most openly racist country in the world?
These trends indicate that Black men who make it out of the school system go on to face a world of hell, one in which they are targeted, victimized and disenfranchised thanks to a system build on their backs.
Police, Politicians, and the Hypocrisy of “To Protect and Serve”
“An old man was beaten down by a carjacker last month. People stepping around him like he’s garbage. Ignoring his calls for help. But what if somebody had the heart to call the police? There’s a distinct possibility they wouldn’t have come. Not with the new 911 policy. Unknown to most people, the Detroit police last week quietly rolled out its latest plan to save money: Virtual 911.
This is how it works. If you’ve been held up and the gunman is long gone, or you’ve been assaulted but not too badly, or your home has been broken into, that’s not 911 anymore. They’ll transfer you or you can call the Telephone Crime Reporting Unit yourself at 313-267-4600.” - Where Did We Go Wrong
The above quote describes vividly how policies are created to the detriment of the safety of Black communities. The notion that these institutions are in our communities to “protect and serve” are challenged throughout this book, while the author also examines the roots of high Black male incarceration and the subsequent destruction of Black communities. Like a detective, Charles traces evidence back to its origins in corrupt and apathetic politicians, law enforcement personnel and policies, and do-nothing churches and civic organizations.
He points out that “In the midst of the education and incarceration crisis we have in our community, I have always wondered where are our leaders? It is clear that we have an elite group of leaders in our community and these individuals always appear on a national stage to denounce black-white crime or police brutality. Yet, we NEVER see these individuals in our community and they NEVER discuss black on black crime or issues that directly pertain to us.”
“Do police kill black men in record numbers, or do black men kill each other in record numbers? We have a serious problem here…Al Sharpton…Jesse Jackson! We need leadership and we have never seen you in our community! I would love to see Al Sharpton in my neighborhood talking to the people he claims to represent on a national level. I would love to see Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson come to my city and immerse themselves in the struggle my people endure every day. I know you walked with Dr. King, Mr. Jackson, but we need you to walk with “us”! We need help! Where are you?”
Do We Care?
Throughout Where Did We Go Wrong, the author challenges we as readers and activists to take action. He states that “the purpose of presenting this information is so we can all agree that educational attainment in the African-American community is not solely an issue of money, availability of resources, or personnel. It is not solely the teachers’ or school psychologists’ fault that our children are not successful in school.”
“We must ask ourselves why do we accept a system in which our children are not successful? Why do public schools have such poor parent involvement when our children are at such a high risk for academic failure? DO WE CARE? We have allowed our education system to have complete control over our children’s future and it is time for us to take that control back! Brothers and sisters….we can do better!”
Where Did We Go Wrong is more than just a statistical analysis of some of the most alarming trends facing Black men and women in America – it is an opportunity for introspection and a call to action. Readers are confronted with questions that demand accountability and responsibility for the role we play in our own destruction, such as;
- Why don’t we actively discourage crime in our community?
- Do phrases such as, “Get it how you live”, “I’m a product of my environment”, or “Snitches Get Stitches” indicate a general acceptance of a criminal lifestyle in our community?
- There use to be a time where you could not sell drugs in the black community because activists discouraged such behavior.
- How did we deviate from those times to where we are today?”
About The Author
Detroit native, Wayne State University, and Michigan State alumni Charles Bell is . His accolades include The Poster Presentation Award for Physiology Research at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). In 2010, Charles served as a panel member for a special education conference at Michigan State University.
Charles has also served in a community outreach capacity in the Metro Detroit area for several years. Working along side Dr. Keith Williams, Charles helped provide Detroit Public High School students with free preparation for the American College Test (ACT) from 2004-2011. His academic publications include contributions to the respected journals Endocrine (2007), The School Psychologist (2009), and The Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development (2009).