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Black Male Students: Not Giving In, Not Tiring Out

Black Male Students: Not Giving In, Not Tiring Out

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired
— Fannie Lou Hamer

Four recent implication-laden events in the legal arena remind us how perilous “our gains” can be. They are: 1) The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federally funded state agencies may not be sued over policies that allegedly have a discriminatory effect on minority groups; 2) The high court also gave police even wider latitude in arresting citizens even for minor offenses; 3) The Mississippi higher education desegregation case was settled; and 4) The overdue conviction of one of the suspects in the 1963 Sunday school bombing in Birmingham, Ala. that killed four girls.
Fannie Lou Hamer’s quote is used because today we may tend to tire even considering the implications of these four events. But in the i’50s and i’60s under much tougher conditions the Mississippi civil rights activist never gave up or out.
Today our individual spheres of influence may not permit us to get actively involved with solutions to these unfolding events. But as our cover story demonstrates, when it comes to the role that our young Black men must play in the eventual outcomes, we likewise cannot afford to tire out.
While reviewing data for our June 7th “Top 100” edition, a familiar yet disturbing observation was made. Only one college in the top 100 baccalaureate rankings graduated more Black men than women in 1999-2000.
Similarly for Hispanics, of the top 100 bachelor’s producers only eight graduated more Hispanic men than women.
There are a lot of things that higher education indicts itself on, but its failure to address this highly consequential trend may be one of the most egregious.
The reality is that each of these young men who doesn’t realize his potential exacts a tremendous toll on our communities. Female students don’t have men to share the learning experience with, and later if they want to get married, cannot find husbands. Eventually, children will have fathers with limited earning capacity.
In her landmark book, Blacks in College, Dr. Jackie Fleming, as have many other researchers, documented the tragic consequences of the gender imbalance on campus. She found that women often engage in unhealthy competition for men. The men get into the destructive habit of thinking that they are entitled to have multiple women at their disposal and this type of behavior tends to follow them into the workplace and other social settings.
So the question becomes “What is an appropriate response for higher education?”
The University of Georgia recently had their White male affirmative action program overturned. The decision notwithstanding, I think they were on to something. What better role can a college or university play than to engage in a little creative social engineering that will likely benefit their respective community?
Well-conceived and supported initiatives are especially warranted at Black colleges due to the gender gap problems in the Black community. Programs like the “Call Me Mister” initiative at Clemson University or the University of Cincinnati’s outstanding annual Black male conference demonstrate what traditionally White colleges and universities should be doing to address this most pressing of societal issues. 
Ronald Roach’s articles in this edition point to what many scholars are doing. Though laudable, they haven’t scratched the surface of what can and should be done by our governing boards, presidents, alumni and others.
Atlanta’s Morehouse College enrolls only men, but its example and record of Black male achievement can’t continue to be the exception instead of the rule. We all benefit when our young men realize their potential. But only if we don’t tire out. 

Frank Matthews

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