“Don’t give up on us and ignore us…we need to be inspired. Don’t group us all together. We’re more similar to other students than people realize. We want to be respected. We need mentors to stay on us and see us — and our potential.”
Last June, just before summer break, I met with groups of young African-American males during my student listening tour. I visited each of the Madison high schools in an attempt to find the cultural and academic pulse of young black males. I needed to hear for myself how they felt about what’s being said — and thought — about them in our community.
Those discussions were one part of a much larger conversation I had engaged in with several hundred local African-Americans since writing “Justified Anger” one year ago. My personal essay for the Cap Times called on Madison to address pervasive racial inequalities here.
To these young men, I had asked the question: What message do you want to convey to the superintendent? Their answers deserve to be heard by the broader community, too.
These young men were troubled by stereotypical views of them as well as their own willingness at times to play into those views. The young men stated that too many teachers and administrators underestimate their ability, worth and potential. They mentioned feeling unwelcome and expendable.
Although visiting with these students was very powerful and a highlight of my year, their overwhelming and collective sense of isolation — at home, at school and in the eyes of the law — broke my heart. These young men don’t want or deserve to be statistics. They have dreams that are being snuffed out by hopelessness.
Our communities, schools and homes cannot afford (in every sense of the word) to lose this generation of talented young men. There will be no African-American community of the future if they don’t survive and succeed today.
These young men may look like me, but they belong to all of us.
Source: Madison.com | REV. ALEX GEE