Talking About Black Men and Boys
- Lead with values. Expanding Opportunity for All and Community, that we all have a stake in each other’s success.
- Lift up systemic causes. Explain the role of systems and structures that are obstacles to opportunity to help people see beyond “personal responsibility” and individual bigotry as the sole causes of inequality.
- Highlight clear, concrete solutions to help overcome “problem fatigue” and build support for change.
- Acknowledge the progress that black males have made in American society, while documenting the persistent challenges that remain. Doing so helps persuad- able audiences to “hear” evidence of discrimination and unequal circumstances.
- Avoid leading with historical appeals, which may lose persuadable audiences. Unless you have a receptive audience and enough time for detailed discussion, these arguments are unlikely to persuade in the short-term.
- Avoid framing the debate in “us vs. them” terms, which tends to turn off audiences of all races and ethnicities and increase opposition to reforms. Instead, focus on our shared goals and values, and how we all win when opportunity is expanded.
- Our future depends on educational opportunity for all children in our community. Access to quality schools with well-trained teachers and adequate resources is crucial to helping kids succeed and contribute fully as adults.
- Unfortunately, our schools are falling short of standard, and African-American boys face particularly high obstacles to educational opportunity. In our school systems today, black boys are disproportionately suspended and expelled, often for minor behavior that in-school approaches could address. Too often, these educational decisions are based on stereotypes and over-reaction instead of best practices and valuing the potential of all children.
- Some school districts are adopting more productive policies that expand the opportunity of all kids to learn. Under a new Arkansas law, for example, the state Department of Education will submit a report each year to the State Board of Education with district-level data on suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement, and the Department will provide districts with strategies and resources for implementing positive discipline policies that keep kids in school.
- Our Parent Teacher Association should push the Board of Education to adopt best practices like Arkansas’ that prioritize education for all children.