Originally posted on March 4th on an older version of this blog
While perusing through Tumblr tonight, the following story caught my attention:
In 2009, the DOJ’s most recent year for data on prison populations, there were more than 150 percent more black males in college than incarcerated. Given the declining prison presence of African Americans—incarceration rates fell sharply between 2000 and 2009, and remain on a downward slope—and the growing presence of blacks in higher education, the difference between the two populations is likely larger.
The first thing that came to my mind was: YESSSS!!! Then I read the article…
While I am happy the numbers are there, the reality is so much more dismal and to see a pure lack of understanding for that in this piece is disheartening. Don’t let the facts get in the way of the truth.
The way the author disregards the fact that black males are still disproportionately represented in community colleges and alternative higher education due to a lack of opportunity in public elementary and secondary education (which the research article he wrote this piece on acknowledges) is a disrespect to many who are working towards building up those systems.
For instance, at the University of Michigan, where I am currently an undergraduate, there are more International students enrolled than African American students, with one of the most African American populated cities (my hometown of Detroit) less than 50 miles away.
And this is not to say, of course, that those institutions can not serve those students well. But there is a definite lack of opportunity when compared to schools like Harvard, Berkley, or Michigan, further disenfranchising this community.
Another fact that I believe should be included in the research and should have been a apart of his analysis is the fact that the research article implied that many schools did not report to the 2001-2002 data, which could mean that there has not been that great of a change, while the number of African American males incarcerated seems to have remained stagnant. This implies that nothing has changed, we still incarcerate many black males who are victims of a failing system instead of righting their path to truly see these two data sets become inversely proportional. That complacency is saddening.
I will say, however, the fact that more Black males are seeking higher education of any kind is elevating as a Black male to hear, but to say that this number makes everything ok, which is the sense I got from the article (especially the last line), shows true ignorance on the part of the author and anyone who doesn’t ask for a deeper understanding of this complex issue.
I don’t profess to have all the answers but as someone who is a part of these numbers and someone who will make it his life’s work to change them for the better, that ignorance can not stand alone.
That’s Where I Stand.