On Empowering Male Students of Color

Here’s an abstract about the evidence published in a recent book. The author writes, about the way men of color are currently treated on campus:

 On the one hand, like many of his peers and other college students, he acknowledged an increased motivation to succeed academically and develop “a vision” to achieve his goals. On the other hand, while his family helped motivate his aspirations, he expressed having to contend with the added burdens that come with being a Black male – being a negative statistic.

The statistics about males of color cut two ways. First, they can serve to “justify” the already-lowered expectations of males of color throughout the educational pipeline. Because they do not complete college at higher rates, some may argue, it might be expected that they will not be successful in college. In fact, some of our youth receive these messages well before they reach college. Second, the statistics signify to these students a narrowed conundrum: succumb to the perceptions or attempt to prove them wrong. Inherently, the cost of this dyadic view is that it strangles away these students’ sense of agency and belonging on many college campuses.

At some institutions, students of color in general and males of color more particularly are responding to and trying to navigate hostile and apathetic campus cultures. Here, the students often are trying to “survive” just to “make it through” college. In effect, with little and not enough support, racial tensions between themselves and staff and faculty, social and academic dissonance, racism and discrimination, and lowered views of them, standards of and support for excellence for males of color are compromised quite easily. And the resulting discussion indicts the students themselves for not performing better.

I really don’t want to write much else. The author, Professor Derrick R. Brooks, knows what he’s talking about, and here’s hoping what he and his colleagues have found is spread across the country.

Students come to our campuses full of potential and possibilities and some come with greater needs than others. They also come with various forms of capital at their disposal. While we need students to engage in specific performances to progress through college requirements successfully, a key component is better positioning ourselves to support males of volor [sic] for success. College should not operate on a sink or swim mantra, and our support for students should not depend on our job titles or how students “prove” to us how much or if they care. Greater attention to helping students become who they are, even as they continue formulating their identities and sense of self, can go a long way in helping them achieve their goals and increasing their possibilities for success.

I know I spent far too much time just trying to stay above the water myself, and I suspect that experience is common.

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