In the midst of the chaos and havoc brought by the shooting of black teen, Mike Brown, it is important to reflect on this story and how higher education is imperative for black males, and how student affairs professionals can positively impact the experiences of black men.
Mike Brown’s case has been expedited with the help of social media and is now an international phenomenon. Despite the shooting of Brown taking place almost two weeks ago, it still continues to be a top story in every social media and news outlet, with very few signs of slowing down anytime soon. Part of this is because there have been expressed, widespread, discontent of police violence, and part of it is due to the continuous events that the Ferguson shooting has ignited.
While the prevalence of looting, violence, and rioting have exponentially increased from this event, the silent protests have also made a huge impact. Notable protests that are taking place are happening in professional sports, Hollywood, Washington D.C., and college campuses. One form of activism that has made some of the greatest changes in US history have come from college campuses.
The US can finally say that there are more black males (and students of color in general) in higher education, but the incarceration rates are still overwhelmingly high. In addition to heart disease, homicide is a leading killer for black males in the United States, which shows, below average, life expectancy rates. These two facts are why we need student affairs professionals in higher education more than ever.
First, with more and more black males attending institutions of higher education, it is important that access, retention, and persistence are prioritized for SA professionals. Black males are among the top racial group for high attrition rates. Factors may include acculturative stress, lack of connectedness, unawareness for institutional supports/resources, or under preparedness. Without the support in higher education, many end up in the prison industrial complex with few outlets for success but many for recidivism.
Secondly, homicides are a large contributing factor for the deaths of black men. In a troublesome setting, if they’re not in jail, they’re at risk of death, because of the situations they’re forced into. We hear about many success stories of black males who “make it” and do great things for themselves, but many don’t have that opportunity to succeed. So, as student affairs professionals, we need to ask ourselves how we get young black males out of the streets and into the classroom. I’m not sure about you, but I am tired of seeing young black men dying everyday instead of being our future SA professionals, lawyers, doctors, tv hosts, businessmen, or activists.
These are all opportunities that they should have access to, so moving forward, how do we hold ourselves and our institutions accountable for all of the black males who feel they don’t have a chance. These boys and men need higher education, and it is here, so let’s figure out a way that they can have it and take advantage of its benefits. Then, let’s ensure they have the tools and resources they need to do well. Finally, let’s enjoy sitting in the audience while they walk across the stage and become, possibly, the first one in their family to do so.
Most importantly, let’s make sure that students are involved in that process. Students MUST be part of the success of other students, and without student leaders to help this process flow smoothly, every else is at risk of failing. As stated before, many of the big changes in history have come from college campuses with college students leading the way. If we’re not paving a way that cultivates transformative and socially active student leaders, we need to reevaluate our practice.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Darcy Kemp on Advising Student Groups