CHICAGO — A 3-year-old boy struts down the street wearing “gangsta” gear. A fourth-grade boy can't read the comic book he holds in his hands. A teen male sells drugs to support his mother.
The old saying, “Boys will be boys,” takes on new meaning in the black community, where boys are suffering from academic failure, low self-esteem, frustration and a lack of direction.
According to Jawanza Kunjufu, author of Raising Black Boys and father of two sons, “The spirits of too many of our boys have been broken. During the preschool and kindergarten years, our boys are energetic and curious. They love learning and ask thousands of questions. There's a glow in their eyes. By the time they reach high school, however, that glow has been replaced with suspicion and anger."
The statistics paint a disturbing picture of life for black boys:
- 72 percent lack a father in the home.
- Nationally, African-American males have a 53 percent chance of dropping out of high school. In some districts, the rates are significantly higher.
- While African Americans make up 17 percent of the total school population, they account for 32 percent of the suspensions and 30 percent of all expulsions.
- One of three black males is snared in the penal system.
- African-American male teens are placed in remedial or special education classes at triple the rate of their white counterparts and they are under-represented in gifted and honors classes.
The top three influences on African American boys today are peer pressure, rap music and television. However, Kunjufu believes that the greatest problems they face are a lack of spirituality and fatherlessness.
“If you look at all the woes in our society – drug addiction, teen pregnancy, illiteracy, grade retention, incarceration — the common thread running through them all is the absence of the father in a child's life,” Kunjufu said.
He explains the nine types of fathers in Raising Black Boys:
- Sperm Donors – those who define their masculinity based on the quantity of children they create, not the quality of their child-rearing.
- No-Show Dads – Those who promise to pick the child up for the weekend but they don't show.
- Ice Cream Dads – instead of spending quality time with the child, they buy presents out of guilt.
- Dead Broke Dads – They may be penniless but they still want to be involved in the child's life. Some mothers' “pay to play” philosophy prevents this type of dad from raising his child.
- Dork Dads – they are physically in the home but are not emotionally present.
- Divorced Dads – they are divorced from their wives but would never abandon their children.
- Stepfathers – they often see their wives' children as their own.
- Daddies – they stay with their spouses and enjoy being fully involved fathers.
- Single-Parent Dads – they assume full responsibility for the children when the mother walks. They show that men, too, can develop a strong bond with their children.
Using research and examples from his own life and the lives of prominent African-American men such as neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Kunjufu goes beyond the gloom-and-doom reports that haunt the Black community and provides strategies and a ray of hope for parents, teachers, ministers and mentors who are struggling to raise Black boys against tremendous odds.
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