My son could be Trayvon Martin.

My son could be Trayvon Martin.

It’s 2:15 AM and I’m still up just thinking about all the implications of the Zimmerman verdict. I watched the trial waiting for some major points to be made: Trayvon Martin had the right to be in a public place without being stalked, he had the right to stand his ground and fight back, and he had the right to get home safely.

Of course, all I can think about is how scary it is to have brought my precious son into a world where the Voting Rights Act can be gutted in the 21st century with the logic that it’s no longer needed because it has worked (never mind that it has worked THIS very year). I’ve brought him into a world where when a man shoots an unarmed teen, the murdered teen has to stand trial, not the shooter. I’ve brought him into a world where the family dynamics of the murdered teen is a key part of the story (just imagine if he was raised by a single mother like me). I’ve brought him into a world where although I don’t immediately leave a movie theater when a weird looking white person comes in for fear that he will shoot the place up, it is considered acceptable testimony to listen to a woman talk about how she was robbed by a black boy, even though that particularly black boy had nothing to do with the case. I’ve brought him into a world where wearing a hoodie in the rain is suspicious. I’ve brought him into a world where even as the unemployment rate continues to decrease, the unemployment rate of blacks continues to increase. I’ve brought him into a world where you can go to jail for firing a warning shot when someone who admits to abusing you is approaching you and threatening you, but not for murdering an unarmed boy who wanted some Skittles and tea.

I pray that I can instill in my son a strong sense of self worth. And I pray that others will respect his worth. I pray that my child will not be seen as a stereotype, but as the bearer of light he is. I don’t even know how to approach preparing him for a life in this world. Do I make sure he wear galoshes and a plastic poncho any time it’s raining? Do I drive him around the corner no matter what? Do I stock my pantry with snacks for a lifetime? Do I tell him to defend himself or to run or to just take whatever is thrown at him JUST in case he’s murdered and he needs to be clearly the victim? Of course, there is NO way for me to adequately prepare him in a place where people are justified in jumping to irrational conclusions.

So, Friday, as I was thinking about the possibilities the verdict could bring, I tweeted this:

So what are we going to do after today? Regardless of the verdict? My issue with marching is that I don’t always see forward movement after the fact.

Can we commit to joining a mentor group and giving back to our kids?

Can we agree to start writing and calling our legislators and staying vigilant about new laws that adversely affect our communities?

And I added these tonight:

Can we agree to start/continue educating ourselves about local and state politics and voting accordingly?

Can we agree to start focusing on building up our communities and knowing our neighbors so we can look out for each other? We are obviously all we got.

Can we stop making excuses for grown people who choose to not contribute to our children and start holding each other to higher standards?

Can we begin to invest in our own businesses and communities and watch where we circulate our dollars?

We can’t afford to be two day/two week warriors. We have to protect our kids through civic involvement and community engagement.

Now is the time to rediscover our own worth and wield the economic power we all know we have but don’t use.

I guess I’ll try to sleep now. But I’m sure it won’t be as restful as I need it to be. Another sad day in America. It’s becoming a norm. What’s next, people?

The Plight of Our Black Boys -> The Plight of Us All

The Plight of Our Black Boys -> The Plight of Us All

I discovered this report published by the Schott Foundation today, and my heart is heavy.  Just take a look at some of these stats.

  • Nationwide, in 2008, white male students graduated at a rate of 78%, while black male students graduated at a rate of 47%.
  • The gap has widened–in 2006, white male students graduated at a rate of 75%, which means there was a 3% increase over the two year span.  Black male students graduated at a rate of 47%–no change.
  • The ten lowest performing states (including the district) for black males are: GA (where I live – 43% graduation rate), AL (42%), IN (42%), DC (41%), OH (41%), NE (40%), LA (39%), SC (39%), FL (37%) , and NY (25%).
    • Side note: 25%?!?! 25%, New York? Whoa!!!  The graduation rate for white males was 68%!  That’s a 43% gap!

Before I launch into my diatribe about the plight of our children, let me highlight some positives in the report:

  • The ten best performing states for black males are: ME (98%), ND (93%), NH (83%), VT (83%), ID (75%), MT (73%), UT (72%), SD (71%), NJ (69%), and IA (63%).
    • Side note: Now, this is good and all,… but I will have to pull the population data for these states to see just how many black male students were there in the first place. :-/
  • Two of the best performing large districts for black males are in GA: Gwinnett County (58%) and Cobb County (51%).

Now, listen, I know that everything in this report can’t be fully analyzed (and please remember that this report provides more than just graduation rates–it also has reading and math test average scores, advanced placement, special education, and discipline data) until they are put in context (I do this every day for a living).  BUT, at the surface, it’s obvious that we have a problem, a serious one.  Here are my initial thoughts in reaction to this report.

:: Coupled with the incarceration rates of our black men, this is certainly alarming.  Our futures are in jeopardy if we can’t reel this on in.  When folks start droning on and on about the plight of the educated black woman, this is the stuff we really need to be focused on–the root of these problems.  If you think black women can’t find suitable mates, then we need to figure how to reverse this–not let it fester and perpetuate.  The black community is at danger when we can’t get our kids through the bare minimum level of schooling.  And we’ve known this, right? But now, here it is staring us in the face through this report. So what we gone do now?

:: Yes, it’s time for my me vs. we soapbox.  So many of the black community’s problems are embedded in the fact that we have become so disjointed from each other.  So many of us go day to day thinking about only ourselves and our short-term happiness.  And while those are certainly valid thoughts, we should also be thinking about our community and our collective long-term happiness.  Yes, the parents are responsible for their kids, but I still believe the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child.  We need to be reaching out to those less fortunate than us through mentorship and even advocacy.  Give up a weekend to volunteer with an organization that focuses on our youth.  Skip a couple of coffee breaks and donate that money to charity or your alma mater or to buy a book for a neighbor’s child.  There are so many ways we can get beyond ourselves and redevelop our interconnectivity.  And that’s vital.

:: Black folks aren’t the only ones that should be worried about this.  Listen here–the performance of each and every one of our kids is factored into the overall graduation rate. Guess what–if we can get these rates up, the overall rate will increase as well.  How can we expect to have competitive communities if we aren’t effectively training our future workforce? It’s no wonder (besides other educational factors) that the U.S. has gone from #1 to #12 in college completion rates for young adults in one single generation.  This has a direct impact on how competitive this nation is compared to other countries.  As I’ve said time and time again, what we do for our kids today molds what our society will look like tomorrow.  And guess what–you can support the cost of quality public education today or you can support the cost of programs that support the unemployed and those not even in the labor force tomorrow.  You can run, pulling your kids out of school and putting them in private schools instead of getting involved with the local school board and making your concerns heard through local politics, but trust me, you. cannot. hide.  Uneducated kids grow up to be uneducated or miseducated adults. (Sidenote: I mean, educated kids can grow up to be miseducated as well, but that’s not relevant to today’s post, so moving on…) We cannot continue to be okay with shortchanging our kids.

:: Y’all know I’m not a problem-oriented person. I’m solution-oriented. So what do I want you to do?  I want you to read this report and really think about the repercussions. Tell me how you feel about it in the comments.  Then I want the mentors, tutors, volunteers, philanthropists, and advocates out there to keep doing what you do, and I want the teachers to continue going into those classrooms and busting your patootie everyday even though you are likely underappreciated.  I want you guys out there to continue (or start) reading the news and keeping up with issues like this one that impacts us so adversely.  And I want anyone who is looking for something to do to become a mentor.  You don’t have to be well off to be a mentor. Join Big Sisters/Big Brothers or go through your district to see what opportunities are available or take some interest in someone at your church and be a light in a kid’s life.  Show them that they are cared for and encourage them to be their best.  Just because you can.  It only takes an hour here or there to make a difference.  Do your part.