By Evette D. Champion
Reclaiming the Promise of Racial Equality, a report from the American Federation of Teachers looks at the difficulties that African American students, specifically males, face when they try to obtain the American Dream of supporting their families.
“For too long, America has broken its promise of liberty and justice for all,” reads the introduction to the report. The doors of educational and economic opportunity remain firmly closed for many men and boys of color. Systemic cultural and institutional racism—rooted in a legacy that extends back more than 400 years—-has created and perpetuated a state of crisis for black males in America.”
Here are 10 challenges that black male students face, according to the report:
- Black male students have the lowest graduation rate in 38 states and Washington D.C. Black males have a graduation rate of 52% where as the rate for white males is 78%.
- Fourth grade black male students score 27 points lower in math and 29 points lower in reading on average. By eighth grade, the rates are 33 points lower in math and 26 points lower in reading. Both were compared to white male students.
- Although black children make up only 18% of preschool enrollment, they make up 42% of preschool kids who are suspended once and 48% who are suspended numerous times. Of the students who were expelled, 26% were black.
- Although black students make up 16% of enrolment, they makeup 27% of referrals to law enforcement and have 31% of the school-related arrests.
- There is a significant decline in the number of black teachers.
- Black males make up less than 5% of students who go to college, and only 2.5% of them graduate. Also, black males have to borrow more money in order to attend, which means they incur more in student debt compounded by the wage gap.
- Black male employment and income level is much lower than white males, and the rate that which black males are unemployed is twice as high. Black men are also stuck in low-income jobs—half of the black male population is employed in the lowest-paying fields.
- Black males experience higher rates of poverty, with 37% of those under the age of 18 and 42% of those younger than 5 years old living in poverty.
- Black males of all ages are disproportionately represented in the prison system. Of 2.3 million people who are in prison, 1 million are black. One out of every three black men can expect to be locked up within their lifetime.
- Young black men account for 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of children who are detained and 58% of young criminals are sent to state prisons. 13% of all black men are prohibited from voting because laws prevent felons from voting.
In an effort to guarantee “world-class public schools in every neighborhood so that young black male students have equal opportunity to achieve” and to “[e]nsure our schools provide safe, welcoming and caring spaces for students and educators to guarantee effective teaching and learning,” here are 8 recommendations the report lists to combat these issues:
- Reduce how frequently black males are suspended and eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline.
- Drastically increase the percentage of black males who are ready for a career and college.
- Develop culturally competent teachers, students, and education systems.
- Increase the availability to access an education, particularly early childhood education, career and technical education, as well as higher education.
- Increase preparation and access to higher paying jobs.
- Address inequalities in taxation and policies that generate revenue.
- Fight for fair policing through higher accountability and transparency so that communities are safer.
- Work to eliminate factors that lead to the high incarceration rate of black men
What are some other solutions that work?