In her new article for Rolling Out, Yvette Caslin calls on more black men to step up and be an active presence in the lives of young black boys.

We know the stats and we’ve heard the anecdotes—70% of our kids are born to unwed parents—but that doesn’t tell the whole story. While there are scores of involved and dedicated black men who step up and take on the daunting task of being a parent (no matter their marital status), there are others who shirk responsibility and leave their children on the sideline while they move on with their lives.

And it is precisely this breakdown that has had a negative impact on so many young men and women in our communities.

Caslin breaks it down:

The school-to-prison pipeline for African American males is not just propaganda. According to new data released by the U.S. Department of Education this spring, “African-American students, particularly males, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers.”

The statistics are disheartening because there are many officials and educators, and a plethora of research, that supports that this disparity is not based on or related to “differential bad behavior” but to “differential responses” from the educational system.   

You know the saying, when a door closes, a window opens. In this case, the alienation from school opens a window of opportunity for our young black men to often end up on the wrong side of the law and land in prison. Our young black men are “at risk” and three times more likely to be incarcerated than non-African American males. And that’s a fact.

Caslin highlights the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Atlanta and points out that of the 455 children waiting to be matched with mentors, 95-percent were male and 77-percent were black. So what’s the hold up? The Big Brothers Big Sisters programs says they need more African-American male mentors to volunteer.

While Caslin focuses on Atlanta, I’m sure mentoring programs in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Houston, and other metropolitan areas have similar numbers. And one thing is clear: more black men need to get involved.

Inside and outside of the home black women are stepping up to parent, teach, and mentor children, but we can’t do it alone. More black men need to join the ranks of teachers, mentors, coaches, and community leaders if we are going to help our young people avoid the traps that are ready and waiting to swallow them whole.

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  1. If anyone ever gets a chance, read the book, “All God’s Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence.”

    Morality is black-and-white, but real life rarely reflects such a clear dichotomy. Restorative justice (justice that seeks to have perpetrator find some sense of accountability as well as attending to the victims).

    Picture this: When a father leaves a a mother and her children, the mother is left with few options. One is working. Working means leaving the child in some one else’s care for that time the mother is working. If the mother has other issues–depression, happens to be homeless and is in a homeless shelter, was abused by her former partner, has other kids by other fathers–this further compounds the issue. The mother is too stressed to fully attend to the child, and there is no father or consistent second caregiver to relieve some of the parental burden. The parent gets called up–first, by school teachers, then case workers, and then police–throughout the years. Temper tantrums become fist fights, small thefts become armed robberies, fondling at school becomes future rape. And if this is a guy, with no positive male role model, he becomes the father he always had but never knew–sexually promiscous with several kids, perhaps on drugs or dealing drugs, and perhaps in and out of jail. If this is a woman, she might begin having kids in her teens. Both inevitably repeat the cycle.

    Restorative justice happens when, for example, a boy who is suspended for fondling a girl gets sent to a rape crisis program, so he can understand and has to write an essay before re-entering the school. It happens when, instead of simply sending a man to prison, victim-perpetrator dialogues take place, and willing participants take steps to not do what they did again. I know of one convicted man who engaged with such a dialogue with the mother of the man he killed. After they talked, it was revealed that the man was himself once a victim. Now he has a child, is out of jail and working on staying sober. his child will not have to grow up with an absent father, if his father keeps his promises. Restorative justice does more than provide justice for the victim. It also heals the one who hurt. When they heal, the community heals because that is one less Black man who ends up out of jail and in the same cycle of mischief as before.

  2. *KhweziM

    It’s so sad to see how many people missed the point of this article. Honestly, as a 26 year old black woman in South Africa, childless by choice, I find mentoring to be very helpful. I grew up in a single parent home, my mom was still married to my dad, but he split, and died in 2006, so for all my life all I knew was my mom. And I was blessed to have an attentive mom, who threw trying to raise 4 kids, work a 9-5 and still educate herself further, we were loved, and she still mentored and took in other kids from bad situations. Those kids today are successful people because they got love, attention and someone to believe in their dreams. My mom always taught me that a child can achieve great things if they have just one person believe in them. At this point I’m mentoring a young girl in Grade 10, from a really poor background, and just seeing her become the best she can be is amazing. She often calls me just to tell me how thankful she is to God that there is someone who believes in her. My point is mentoring is not a way to solve all the problems in the black community, but it is a way for us as black people to give back and give young kids hope. It is our responsibility to help our communities, not just the government or celebrities, both male and female need to help point blank period.