Dear Academia: Stop Telling Me that Black Boys Are Not Important

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by Dr. Boyce Watkins

This week, I sat on a Congressional Black Caucus panel for the Janks Morton film “Hoodwinked,” starring myself, along with Marc Lamont Hill, Jawanza Kunjufu, Steve Perry and Ivory Toldson.   One of the men on the panel was Dr. Bryant Marks of Morehouse College, a highly-respected scholar who focuses on the success of African American males in his research.

Professor Marks and I had a brief conversation before the panel about the state of black males in America.   One of the other parties to the conversation was John Wilson, the head of President Obama’s initiative on HBCUs. John is a likeable person, and it is my greatest hope that all he said about the president’s commitment to HBCUs was real talk and not just political spin.  Others, such as Professor Darrell Issa, who claims he might be sent to prison by Joe Biden’s son for a peaceful protest at Delaware State, seem to have concerns about the future of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

I envy Dr. Marks, for he has the great honor of educating black men at the greatest generator of black male achievement in the history of the United States.  Morehouse College is second-to-none when it comes to helping our men stake claim to their greatness, humanity and personal power.  You can always tell a Morehouse man when you see one, for he has been built to be a special breed.  Unlike many black students at predominantly white institutions, the Morehouse man is not made to believe that he has to overcome second-class citizenship in order to be respected as a human being.   In many cases, he is built for leadership.

After speaking about my visit to Morehouse that we’ve planned for October 8th, Dr. Marks and I also talked about the fact that many black scholars feel that they almost have to apologize for doing research that focuses on black men.  At white universities, you are typically told that this kind of work is not of significant scholarly importance or that you’re being too narrowly focused in a world that seems determined to believe that is has become sufficiently post-racial.   Black men have the highest unemployment, incarceration and homicide rates in the nation, and we are expected to act as if everything is normal.  To hell with that….our families cannot survive if our future heads of households are having their futures murdered in broad daylight.

One of the reasons I fought so much with my colleagues at Syracuse University is because I was told that my advocacy for black men made me something less of a legitimate scholar than my colleagues.  If I was on CNN talking about black males, there would be no mention of it, even though my colleagues would get accolades for appearing in the local news.  Of course it was easy to ignore the criticism, since I was trained by some of the best scholars in the world in my field and determined to bring my expertise back to my community.  Also, the fact that my business school has not tenured one single black finance professor in over 100 years of existence speaks to the awesome wall of blinding racial inequality that had been built over several decades.  In other words, racism makes people stupid.

Dr. Marks and I came to the same conclusion when it comes to studying black men:  Our boys and men are important and we don’t have to apologize for a damn thing.  We are the husbands, fathers and leaders of our community, and it is critical that we do all we can as scholars to build and equip as many black intellectual warriors as we possibly can.  I see brilliant black men in all walks of life, who’ve been convinced that their intelligence should be used to bust rhymes, throw a football or convert grams to ounces.  So, our unharnessed power is everywhere, and all black parents, scholars and mentors are called to the front lines in the battle to save our children.

Also, black women are a critical part of this fight as well.  Mothers are often the first teachers of a child, and also a woman’s ability to find an adequate husband is largely determined by whether we raise our boys to be responsible men or a pack of reckless “baby daddies.”  As Frederick Douglass once said, “It’s easier to build strong boys than to repair broken men.” So, the protection of our cultural ecosystem is highly contingent upon all of us being committed to raising our children to be strong, responsible, intelligent and productive.  We are all in this game together.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. He also appears in the Janks Morton film “Hoodwinked.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


38 Comment

  1. "Mothers are often the first teachers of a child, and also a woman’s ability to find an adequate husband later in life is largely determined by how this boy was raised in early childhood." I get that mothers are teachers, but what does the second part mean. Finding another man when the first one's gone?

    • If a woman gets pregnant at 19 and then her son is a 13 year old unruly, undisciplined terror when the woman is 32 it will probably be hard for her to get an adequate husband at that point because the husband will need to be extraordinary to deal with this situation

    • I do believe, Brother Alfred, this comment takes in a multi-dimensional reality. We must not abandon the mother to her 'fate' in the rearing of Black Boys, because few women can be a substitute for a man. So? Our Black Men must get involved with organizations that provide positive role models. We need to support the mothers in guiding Our Future.

    • Truthfully? No woman can be a man.

    • No, it refers to raising good Black men for the young women who are their peers. Those who are boys now will be the ones in the dating pool available to girls when they become women. It has nothing to do with mothers getting a second man, although that is another issue for another thread…

  2. powerful article here and refreshing to glimpse the continuing efforts and visions to uplift our falling ranks and build a foundation upon which our communities can stand.

  3. Wow! Someone actually said it!

  4. Thank you.

  5. Respectfully, I am certain you know Dr. Marks will not be working to remedy this dilemma. He is only there to talk a good game. They wouldn't have hired him if they had given him any real power. He'll throw a bone and wonder why you don't think it's a full meal.

  6. Absofreakingloutely….. and to black and white academia.. open your research to include black boys who have developmental disabilities and talk about more then disproportionality. Help those who serve them understand what they need. Conduct research on that population that revolves arounds ways those who desire to help them and their families could best assist. Give us data to help support their families narratives. I can appreciate this piece in its entirety , by my husband and I are always left wondering when the body of research will expand to include the population I referenced and their families. It is has a left a major gap for those of us who rely on data to support our advocacy.

  7. All parents are first teachers. Children learn in the womb.
    Mothers and fathers have to step up for sure. Educators should do it. Parents have to do it.

  8. How 'bout we stop all this nonsense of racial and sexist division and put it this way: If you're an adult, you own up, you stand up, you do what's right. Period.

    Until we get it in our heads to hold everyone, regardless of sex or ethnicity, to the exact same high moral and ethical standards, across the board, we're always going to have problems. Because statistical mechanics are what they are, there is -always- going to be one group who has at least slightly, if not significantly, higher %'s of trouble. That's just life and the world. Were all the tables turned, and it had been whites who were the American slaves way back when, and not blacks, all the %'s would be turned as well. My point is, there is -so much- nonsense that goes on as a result of racial bigotry and sexism, across the board, that I just feel it's high time we held -every- adult accountable on an equal level. I feel it's also time we made sure that -every- child is aware that they must "overcome" all kinds of issues, on an individual basis, if they are to succeed in this monstrous world we've created for them to live in. To have one set of children convinced that they are demi-gods, and another set convinced that they can never be of real account, is -absurd-. Rather, finding a balance in all that mess, and teaching that balanced approach to both, is the best answer for their own best good.

    When are we, as a society, going to figure this out and -just do it-?

  9. Here is news ".
    What is your thoughts and your opinion?
    This is just a sample of more negative lifestyles to come [DAMN].

    The death of the African American in America, not trusted irresponsible and extremely violent.

    This is just the beginning, and that is the most unfortunate situation specially in African American communities. We have finally cause problems that the rest of the American community will not deal with. The African American community is on their own. The crime rate in all major cities is exclusively caused by African Americans. Statistics indicate that the average African American male and female under the age of 40 is either unemployed on welfare or in jail. We are killing each other stealing from each other wholesale. The white and Hispanic community is no longer willing to trust and higher African Americans for any type of opportunity's that or anything else that may be available. We as a people are no longer trusted and unable to blame anyone but ourselves for our own stupidity and ignorance.
    African Americans did not take advantage of the opportunities that were available, these opportunities are being taken by immigrants willing to work to make a better life for themselves.

    A message to the African American community when we had the opportunity we did not take advantage of it, so now we will have to hope that the new immigrants are willing to deal with the few African Americans that are willing to take advantage of the opportunities that may be available.

    I said it before, and I say it again, you didn't want to work for the white man , and now you have to hope that the new immigrant business community is willing to let you work for them.

    ["DAMN": we have become losers in our own country.]

    A message to all [PARENTS].

    The Bronx is infested with stupidity ignorance and Violence. This is so unfortunate the Bronx used to be a beautiful place to live , it had its moments over the years , but never as violent as it is now. A message to all you parents it's Saturday night. Take a look at your gangster and thug Children. By Sunday morning one of your children will not come home again , Unfortunately he or she will be Amongst an unnecessary statistic of street death And street violence.

    Again parents are you listening cry for your children's while there alive because once their dead from street violence your tears will be in vain.

  10. @Alfred – what I meant was that if a boy isn't raised to be a responsible man, this significantly reduces the likelihood that he's going to be able to provide for a family later in life. Fatherhood and being a husband requires the man to be strong enough to carry a specific economic and psychological load, and it's not a load that can be carried by a little boy.

    So, for women who would like to see a stronger black male dating and marriage pool, they should realize that much of this starts wit how we raise our boys. They must be trained to be men and know what manhood means.

    • Yes Dr. Boyce and that is why I wrote and self published my first book: Raising Princes to be Kings: A Single Black Mother's Guide to Raising Her Black Son. I also just finished up an empowering interview on my show on black childbearing: Awesome show on Black motherhood with Shafia monroe – president of International Center of Traditional Childbearing Please like them on FB here is link to the show: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/denise-bolds/2012/10/07/black-maternal-health-positive-concept–negative-statistic

    • Preach

    • Tell some of these brothers to stick around and raise their sons instead of being pussies.

    • This article makes me see the type of commitment that I haven't seen in years. Beautiful article. God Bless you Boyce, to be effective in reaching the masses and turning this mess around, in Jesus name.

  11. It’s okay to use your knowledge to “bust rhymes” as long as the “rhymes” are positive and built off of knowledge. XD like all Hip-Hop is prostitution, cars, stripping, or robbing our black women of respect XD come on, g.

  12. Oh yeah..and you not black…”nigga”.

  13. Real Game recognizes bullshit games….

  14. […] via Dear Academia: Stop Telling Me that Black Boys Are Not Important | Black Like Moi. […]

  15. We keep spinnining around about the state of Black males and we keep coming up with dilemmas after dilemmas. What appears to me as the problem, is the lack of Black Ownership. We have no commerce, and without it we have no political or economical clout. Those who do have their “inalienable rights.” They are not complaining about the atrocities that Black Men face on the daily. What concerns me is that we constantly advocate for educated brothers, but we get them we are stuck into giving our expertise to those who minmize our genious while profiting greatly.

    While I agree that education is vital. I also believe that education should be a spiritual, intelligent and economical liberator for our people. It behooves me seeing all of these highly intelligent and educated Black People committed to making other communities richer for pennies of their dollars. The measure of true education is the ability to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining. Our professors should be modeling and teaching our young men and women. Dr. Boyce I do not know why you are not teaching at a HBUC, you are always pontificating about sharing your insight and wisdom to your people, well?

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