The Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys
For those of you who have followed me for any significant time, you are aware of the work I do at The Odyssey Project, especially when it comes to my work with young Black males. Together, with my wife Marion and her work through Restoring the Ghettos Forgotten Daughters, and I are fighting an uphill battle to prepare and empower our youth to enter into a world that is inherently hostile toward them to not only compete but win. I have written on the disproportionality in special education referrals for Black males as early as five-years-old. I have highlighted how the lack of proper racial socialization has resulted in a form of hyper-masculinity and violence in adolescent and young adult Black males.
To assist in the area of socialization, I designed the Black Men Lead rite of passage initiative — a set of protocols designed to effectively socialize young Black males into productive roles that will lead to a systematic and progressive evolution in cultural ideology and social responsibility for young Black males. Despite the acknowledgment by a significant number of Blacks, both men, and women, that there is a need to address certain psychopathological behavior by Black males and well as the multitudinous machinations set in place to divert them from their destiny, I am concerned that we have failed to develop a collective and lucid perspicacity of the depths at which Black boys are struggling to breathe in a society that fears and despises them.
According to recent studies, even the most affluent Black families cannot free their male progeny from the manacles of social restriction that are inherently in play in the social fabric of this country (Badger, Miller, Pearce, & Quealy, 2018). In fact, there is pragmatic and empirical data that suggests that Black boys who are fortunate enough to grow up rich will find it much more difficult than White boys to sustain that financial status as adults.
According to a Havard study, there is an intergenerational persistence of racial disparities across several socioeconomic verticals (Chetty, Hendren, Jones, & Porter, 2018). The study also identified significant disparities in parent marital status, wealth, and education. The gap between White men and Black men cannot be explained differences in ability.
There is substantial data that suggests that Black males face unique obstacles that are unique to them (Badger, Miller, Pearce, & Quealy, 2018).
While there are some who are making an argument that institutional racism is a thing of the past in the United States (Cokley, 2016), the truth is that the racial caste system in American has taken a clear aim at young Black males, especially in the education system (Alexander, 2010). What is alarming is the fact that some of the loudest voices suggested that racism in America is dead are African American academics (Cokley, 2016).
Unfortunately, racism and discrimination are a way of life for Blacks in this country, and no sub-group has felt the squeeze of this reality as much as Black males of all ages. As early as age five, Black males are isolated and singled out in the public education system, subsequently alienating them in a manner that increases the risk of dropping out. This form of alienation is directly linked to a higher dropout rate, which results in a higher risk of incarceration — feeding the school-to-prison pipeline. The Private Prison Industrial Complex is sustained through the mishandling of Black boys primarily (Wallace R. , 2015).
It has become painfully clear that we have allowed our young boys to be exposed to a nefarious force that is meant to marginalize their social impact. We have trusted our White counterparts with the responsibility to educate and prepare our children to compete with theirs — despite the direct conflict of interest.
It is easy to observe the hyper-masculinity in our adolescent and young adult males, but we fail to question its origin and our ability to positively impact it. In an attempt to gain an understanding of the heightened violence in the Black community that moved beyond the suggestions and explanations of sociology and penology, I discovered the works of Dr. Howard Stevenson and Dr. Joy DeGruy who had determined that a significant influence on the risk of young Black males committing acts of violence was centered on two specific areas — respect and proper racial socialization.
It became obvious that despite the expected rise in violence and crime associated with poverty, Black males who were properly socialized were less at risk to become violent. It was this understanding that led to my work in creating the Black Men Lead rite of passage initiative — a program designed as a mechanism of socialization. We take young black males from the age of four through 30 and introduce them to their identity, both individually and culturally. We assign a sense of purpose and responsibility to their lives, subsequently raising the level of their expectations for themselves and their performance in the world around them.
We teach them how to earn respect as well as how to properly handle when they feel that they are being disrespected. We go to great lengths to teach them how to treat Black women/girls. Following is an 11-point declaration that we use as the foundation for preparing young Black males for their passage into Black manhood.
A Black man…
- Never harms, mistreats, or disrespects a Black woman/girl
- Takes care of his progeny (offspring)
- Always has control of his emotions
- Works so that he can provide for his family
- Strives to build wealth for his family and offspring
- Understands the importance of ownership of businesses and property
- Is always in a state of learning and growing
- Takes responsibility for his own actions
- Seeks wisdom and knowledge from men in greater situations and conditions
- Abides by a standard of excellence — never settling
- Never makes excuses for his failures — making the necessary adjustments to overcome them!
We use many techniques to teach and inculcate these principles into the psyche of young Black males, but at the center of this is male mentorship.
As Blacks, we must acknowledge that we are in a war. We are fighting not only to survive but to thrive in a world that is hostile toward us. We are fighting to create our own voice and sense of being. One way that we can get ahead of the struggle is to properly prepare our youth to engage these challenges with a proper mindset. At The Odyssey Project, we are committed to building stronger men through the proper development and socialization of our Black boys.
I am personally issuing a challenge to everyone who reads this to become a part of the solution beyond complaining and pointing a finger. We are not victims because we have the power to respond to our issues. I refuse to lay down the mantle and walk away. I refuse to leave our youth in such a precarious situation without gifting them with hope. We do not have to carry the curse of poverty, impotence, incarceration, miseducation, and the likes into the future. We can prepare this next generation to walk freely out of the shackles of oppression and boldly into a life of liberation. ~ Rick Wallace, Ph.D., Psy.D.
Support the Black Men Lead rite of passage program for young Black males at https://www.theodysseyproject21.top/black-men-lead/ or you can contribute directly through the Cash app at $TheOdysseyProject21
Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press.
Badger, E., Miller, C. C., Pearce, A., & Quealy, K. (2018, March 19). Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys. The New York Times.
Chetty, R., Hendren, N., Jones, M. R., & Porter, S. R. (2018). Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective. Opportunity Insights Havard Uni.
Cokley, K. O. (2016). What It Means to Be Black In the American Educational System. The Conversation.
DeGruy, J., Brennan, E. M., & Briggs, H. E. (2009). The African American Adolescence Respect Scale: The Measure of Prosocial Attitude. The University of Portland, 1-3.
Stevenson, H. C. (2006). Parents’ Ethnic-Racial Socialization Practices: A Review of Research and Directions for Future Study. American Psychological Association, 1-24.
Stevenson, H. C. (2015). Development of the Teenager Experience of Racial Socialization Scale: Correlates of Race-Related Socialization Frequency from the Perspective of Black Youth. The Journal of Black Psychology.
Stevenson, H., Davis, G., & Abdul-Kabir, S. (2001). Stickin to, Watching Over and Getting With: An African American Parent’s Guide to Discipline. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.
Wallace, D. M. (2007). Black Male Gender Role Socialization and the Performance of Masculinity in Love Relationships. Department of African American Studies at Temple University.
Wallace, R. (2014). The Emasculation of the Black Man in America. The Odyssey Project.
Wallace, R. (2015). America’s Racial Caste System and the School-to-Prison Pipeline. The Odyssey Project.
Wallace, R. (2015). The Disproportionality of African American Males Referred to Special Education. The Odyssey Project.
Wallace, R. (2015). The Miseducation of Black Youth in America: The Final Move on the Grand Chessboard. Etteloc Publishing.
Wallace, R. (2016). Special Education Disproportionality Position Paper. The Odyssey Project.
Wallace, R. (2017). Born in Captivity: Psychopathology as a Legacy of Slavery. Houston: Odyssey Media Group & Publishing House.