"Despite the election of the nation’s first Black president and the growing clout of Black Capitol Hill lawmakers, the lot of African Americans remains largely unchanged and even slightly worse.
…African Americans [are] twice as likely as Whites to be unemployed and three times more likely to live in poverty; and with the gap in home ownership rates widening from 64 to 63 percent, economics remained the area with the greatest degree of inequality and worsened from 57.6 percent in 2008 to 57.4 percent in 2009.
Blacks [are] six times more likely than Whites to be incarcerated; equality in social
justice also remained elusive, declining from 62.1 to 60.4 percent. Education (78.6 percent to 78.5 percent) and civic engagement (100.3 percent to 96.3) also demonstrated growing rather than diminishing gaps. Health care was the only area that showed progress, with parity increasing from 73.3 percent to 74.4 percent."
The question is; why are some African Americans continuing to sub-achieve, even as a growing number gain unprecedented success? I believe the reason we as a race continue to fall short of our true manifest abilities is us or more exactly, our p-poor choices.
Have you ever read Mathew Lynch’s “15 Reasons Why Black Students Continue To Underachieve”? I believe that the reasons Lynch sites for the failure of African American students may also explain why African Americans, in general, continue to fall short of their potential. But what struck me most was that out of the 15 issues Lynch talked about, 8 were under the individual’s and family’s control and none of them would cost a dime to change! How many of you have ever thought that while racism is a part of the problem, many African Americans blame to many of their failures on a failed system? If so, yours is a legitimate point of view. For instance, take poverty. African Americans cannot blame a lack of achievement solely on poverty because it’s often hard to tell which came first: poor behavior that led to poverty, or poverty that forced one into poor behavior. My central point is it’s not all someone else’s fault or the failure of institution’s that has completely caused some African Americans to sub-achieve: it was their poor choices. The external solutions proposed by the Urban League are only band aids. Brothers, sisters; we must fix ourselves and our families to thrive!
The following eight maladies, adapted from Lynch’s discourse, continue to prevent some African Americans from achieving high levels of success.
I. Self Sabotage
Many African Americans simply believe that they cannot achieve the American Dream. My experience is that while many African Americans in the lower socioeconomic class give lip service to achieving the American Dream traditionally (i.e. through hard work, education, business ownership, saving, etc.), in actuality many behave, and teach their children (either through life choices, deeds and actions) that they cannot achieve the American Dream, at least in the traditional sense. In fact, African Americans in the lower socioeconomic class see entertainment, sports, or crime as their only way to prosperity.
Black America, if more of us are truly going to rise, we are going to have to change our priorities and our choices. We are going to have to choose to stay in school, be fathers to our children, avoid premarital sex, save our money, and open businesses. Simply put, we must put school before tennis shoes.
II. Family Influences
“In the United States today, more than 63 percent of African American children come from single parent homes, most of which have the mother as the primary caregiver. Having no positive male role model, the boys in the home are particularly at risk to fail in school and get into trouble. As the mother’s time is stretched so thinly, the girls in the family are at risk for teenage pregnancy…"
“Just my baby’s daddies” need to be more than that. You need to be fathers to your children: read my post entitled "No Father = Broken Child: On The Absence of Black Fathers".
III. Cultural Gaps
African Americans have a culture unlike any other. Unfortunately, our culture is often looked upon as negative. As Lynch observed, “…our hairstyles, dress, music, body language, and verbal communication styles can be disconcerting to a society that is based on conformity. When defining or identifying behavioral problems [as a group], it is important to consider the influence of culture on the definition and perception of the behaviors [how others outside the hood see us].”
As African Americans, it’s important for us to understand several things in order to be successful: First, while we are proud of who we are, not all of us grew up in “the hood.” Second, we don’t have to emulate the negative aspects of urban community life. Third, we most certainly don’t have to carry “the hood” everywhere we go. Finally, it’s okay to speak and act properly...or at least know how and when to do so.
Let's put an end to "single-parenting." Let's save our money to build businesses by buying only what we need, living below our means, and pooling our resources. Let's tutor our kids, and teach them it's okay to do good in school!
V. Lack of Parental Involvement
“Parental involvement is actually the best predictor of a [child’s] …achievement. Parent involvement demonstrates…the importance of… [a wide variety of issues], resulting in [either success of failure]…higher aspirations in life. In contrast…parents who are not involved…are more likely to ‘raise adults’ who struggle academically, experience behavior problems, and generally make poor choices.”
Again, African American parents must accept that they are parents, know how to take care of themselves and their kids, and make it a priority to take time out with them.
IV. Crime and Drug Abuse
According to Lynch, African American males make up the majority of those incarcerated in the nation’s prisons. Why? As Lynch explains , it's not bias on the part of law enforcement but...the all-too-frequent...inability of young people to overcome the risk factors of single-parent homes, poverty, failing schools, and cultural gaps... resistance to Middle-Class…Norms “Instead of surrendering to the typical standards of behavior and success…which many African American[s]…view as cruel and oppressive, some…end up rejecting European American speech patterns and devaluing high academic achievement, therefore unintentionally limiting themselves.”
I applaud the fact that many African Americans want to hold on to what they feel is their unique identity but as Lynch says, “sometimes it may be better to play the game. This does not mean becoming a sellout or the “Decent Negro” that Nas talks about on his latest album, Streets Disciple; it means that you are a very sagacious individual.”
VI. Lack of Priorities
Unfortunately, many African Americans do not realize that school, business ownership, and saving should be their first priority. In other words; we should put more emphasis on what’s in our brains, in our names, and in our savings account than what is on our backs.
VII. Low Effort Syndrome
“This phrase was coined by Jonathon Ogbu in his monumental book, Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb. It simply means that some African American pupils are not adequately engaged in their academic endeavors. The time that most African American children spend actively engaged in learning, studying, and enrichment is not conducive to the acquisition of intellective competence and perpetuates the myth of African American intellectual inferiority.” In layman’s terms, most African American students, and African Americans in general, do not work hard in school.
“Traditionally, African Americans have been labeled as intellectually inferior to other races. As a result, our culture began to collectively doubt their intellectual ability and began to associate scholarly achievement with “acting white.” This leads many African Americans to behave as though “school” and “black” are incongruous. This belief has effectively permeated the culture and cognitively debilitated its members. These truths are at the root of anti-intellectualism. What is most troubling is the fact that black student achievement is a problem among all classes of African Americans. In my opinion, anti-intellectualism is one of the most pernicious factors that contribute to the achievement gap.”
Black folk, please teach your kids that it's okay to be smart—and show it!
I believe my train of thought holds some merit, how about you? Do you feel the failure of some African Americans to achieve is tied directly to the choices they make? How much control do they have in their own success?
If you care as much as I do, help me answer these critical questions: please comment.