Archive for the ‘multicultural’ Category

I’ve been sitting her thinking of something very profound to say.  It is Black History Month after all.  I was looking for things to push up to the sun and celebrate.  I was looking for these great achievements.  And I got more and more sad and stuck. So I thought I’d share my ten top wishes with you

  1. I wish that we as Black adults would apologize to our children for somehow leaving them the impression that we had arrived.
  2. I wish that we as Black people would take responsibility for teaching our children their history, and not leaving it White educators.  Schools have their place.  Do your job. That is why our kids think that the “N” word is cool!
  3. I wish we could truly understand how coupling education with property taxes cripples our children.
  4. I really wish that rappers, entertainers, and athletes with money begin investing in our children’s education.  Open schools!
  5. I wish they’d find me something other than a White savior…one who looks more like me.
  6. I wish we could find more rounded stories of our history to recreate in the form of a movie.  Give me some balance.  There must be other stories you could find.
  7. I wish I could hug the creators of the two biracial advertisements. One is with the cereal. The other is with the swift-duster.
  8. I wish our school choirs and choruses would inject one or two African American songs in their repertoire.  Not the same tired Negro Spirituals.  It just might encourage my kids to join and parents to attend.
  9. I wish we would stop parading ourselves with food and song & dance every February, for some idiots to pat us on the back.  Stop shining shoes!
  10. Did I mention that I wish my Savior looked a bit more like me.  Little dark tan and rounded nose would help.

But I’m not going to hold my breath.  I have not seen evidence of us jogging just yet. We’re still in the walking chair.

Read Full Post »

  1. The challenge you/we have is earlier. Our kids’ initial contact with the system is around 13 – 14.  Since that is the “initial contact” point – then the “warm-up” or preparation is much earlier (possible 5 – 6 yrs old).  So these “initial patterns” are seeding much earlier.  Part of this has to do with deficit self- and cultural-identity models.  These are developed very early in life – but that is another conversation.
  2. Education has to be relevant to (a) life experiences, and (b) the projection of life experiences.  The lack of relevance in our current education system to these children’s lives (who they are, where they are, where they see themselves going) serves to keep #1 (above) as “normal.”
  3. Because our penal system is based on a “business model,” there is no incentive to decrease the prison population.  It pays us to jail them.
  4. Because there is financial reward, vis-a-vis census, in building prisons in rural areas (we get the numbers while retaining the politics of “safety”), there is no incentive/reason/cost to stop.
  5. See “The Delinquents” – a program done by 60 Minutes on the consequences following the removal of elephant bulls from the pack.  Briefly:  Without checks & balances, young children become “adultified” – increases in testosterone, estrogen, et cetera.  They become sexual very early.  They become aggressive.  Removing adults from the environment leaves a void that will be filled.  Voids are “always” filled!  You may not like what it’s filled with, but it will be filled.  See Chicago: With the increased incarceration of the gang leaders, our kids are blindly killing themselves and each other.  VOIDS WILL BE FILLED.
  6. Now we come to post-incarceration job opportunities.  Color is a factor.  Everything being equal, there is a different internal (guttural) impact that Barry Bonds has on the “hiring” population than Roger Clements has on that same population.  This is natural.  We may not like it – but there are many things we do not like that are what they are.  Do not harp on it.  Do not make it the central course.  Simply recognize that race is a factor.  Access is a factor.  Education is a factor.  Financial solvency is a factor.  This is as true for 2013, as it was for 1850.

So you will have to (a) identify, through research, those areas, jobs, business people who would be most present to offering jobs – not a second chance…a job.  What are the personality characteristics that would lend someone to be willing to engage in this process…to be willing to offer an ex-convict a job?

  1. You will have to increase the percentage of first-generation ethnic minorities (Blacks, Latinos) who have businesses, and whom you can leverage to offer job opportunities.  (SECRET) You will find a greater level of “willingness to engage” amongst first-generation ethnic minorities than any other.  Promoting and marketing toward ethnic minority athletes and entertainers who are already doing this would be useful.
  2. Practical preparation:  Jail is not a cognitive environment, despite all the rhetoric.  Jail is authoritarian-behavioral.  It is, at best, behavioral-cognitive.  (You do as I say, or else!!!) The only other environment that has “demonstrable” success in behavioral-cognitive leading to insight, is the Army.  The challenge, therefore, is: recognizing and acknowledging the truth of the jail system (authoritarian), given the success of the Army system (authoritarian) – how do we train these young men for jobs post-sentence. There is a potential marriage somewhere here.  Good luck with that one.  (I did not articulate this as clearly as I would want, but I hope you get the idea.) There is a successful model out there.  Use it. Engage with it.
  1. Finally (and closing the circle):  Recognize that we, all of us, become less and less malleable as we get older.  You are trying to impact change, you are trying to mold as early as possible.  It becomes more and more difficult to mold a plant (a person) the more it (he, she) matures.  This is not simply a behavioral concept or an observation.  This is both biological and necessary.  This is how the mind (necessarily) lays down memories, which become patterns, which become automatic, which become “normal.”  When “normal” becomes shared, it becomes “cultural to the environment.”  Not “cultural” – – – “cultural to the environment.”  Those are two different things.  You are actually, therefore, trying to shift “normal,” not through pathologizing, but through advancing a new theoretical concept of “normal.”  This takes time, and the development of a critical mass – that offers a shared alternative, perspective.  It’s like a teeter-totter.  You’re trying to balance it.  If you try to takeaway “normal” you will be rejected.  Establish an achievable alternative, which opens up new avenues, which establishes and new “normal.” Image

Read Full Post »

Dear Dr. Al,I’m concerned for/about my 16 year old daughter. It seems there
are a multitude of things swirling around her spirit lately…none of them
allowing her to move from this cloud.She is almost 17 and in her second semester of her junior year.
She is also on the track team and she is the track captain. She also lost her
father to cancer 2 years ago. I believe her pain about this is surfacing and
is mixed in with all of the above.

It is my opinion her health is starting to show signs of all
this stress. We have been to the Dr. twice in 2 months. She is having difficulty
with pain when she breathes. This could be/is related to her running track.
Her chest muscles seemed to be inflamed near the sternum. Her last track
meet, she was unable to run all her events, due to this issue. She called me

Most of all I have noticed my ALIVE, VIBRANT, ENERGETIC daughter
succumb to a tired, worried, stressed 17 year old. I see more stress than
smiles. I am there for her 24/7, but understand she may not even be able to
sort all this out. My conversations with her end in…”I’m just tired
mom”…I do believe she is as very worried about the condition of her
breathing as am I.

Just need some guidance as a mom so I can support her through
this. She deserves it.


Dear Mom,

This response may be a bit longer than either you or I anticipated.  I will start with the end point. Then I will list some of the concerns you shared and address each briefly.

  1. You mentioned that “she deserves it.”  I have no doubt that she does, and that is part of reason for your concern.
  2. She is 16 and a junior in high school.  Do you remember you at 16 and a junior in high school?  Do you recall your emotional roller-coasters – your ups, your downs,  your crying for what seemed to be no reason at all, your parents who did not
    understand, your cliques at school (those who liked you, those who hated you and those you disliked?  Your daughter
    is right there – right now. Under the best of circumstances, that is a difficult place to be.  The acne
    outbursts do not help either.  So in the best of scenarios where, let’s say, 10 negative points put you into
    the high stress region, that alone amounts for 5 of those 10 possible points.
  3. She is the Captain of the track team.  Let’s add 1 more stress point for that.
  4. She lost her dad to cancer at age 14.  Any loss at any time is horrific – can you even imagine what the loss of her father, at this critical stage of her life, does to this young woman?  And she is still trying to play the role of captain and leader?  How does one really do that effectively?   You seemed to suggest that she may not yet have mourned his passing. Let’s add another 3 stress points.   A conservative estimate puts your daughter at a 9 on a scale of 1 – 10.
  5. You also mentioned some swelling in the sternum area, and shortness of breath – plus an inability to complete her events.
    This tends to have a child question her own competencies.  Her team is expecting her to compete, compete well, and lead.  She feels incapable (at this time) – both physically and emotionally.  How does she tell herself that?  How does she tell her team?  How does she forgive herself?

My suggestion is that you get her to a specialist.  Try to find a kind, competent, male pediatric specialist dealing with activity and sport related injuries.  You seem to be an extremely competent mother.  This is evidenced in your ability to identify and list her potential challenges.  What your daughter needs is a kind, competent male specialist.  Her coach (if male) cannot do it.  He may be well-intended, and capable of understanding intellectually, but he has a track-meet to contest and win.  His job depends on it.  His ego depends on it.  His first reaction will probably be to suggest a relief from her responsibilities as Captain.  This actually does the reverse of what’s intended and places additional internal stress on the child.  This tends to be perceived as another failure.  She
may begin to develop an internal perception of herself as a failure.  Because of her strengths (as you identified them) this will more-than-likely not be shared with you.  So she will carry this pain by herself –  possibly leading to symptoms of depression.
Have your daughter checked-out physically first – a thorough check-up in critical.  At the same time the plan is the
development of the relationship between (a) herself and herself, and (b) herself and the doctor…with you guiding it.  Give
the doctor some insight on what’s going on.  Guide him as to the questions to ask.  He will be the first line to her therapeutic engagement.  If psychotherapy is deemed necessary – meaning that there is no evidence of a physiological reason for her chest pain – then have the doctor speak with her about it in your presence.  If you bring it up, she will reject it.  If he brings it up after a thorough evaluation (tests, et cetera) as part of the assessment and recommendation, there is a much
greater likelihood of compliance.

Good luck and thank you for your question.

Dr. Al

Read Full Post »

Listen ~ The Black color just pisses some people off!  It simply infuriates them.  It’s got nothing to do with why.  There’s no “why” to it.  They just shake and bubble with anger.  You can’t ask them “Why?”, ‘cause there’s no “Because!”  It’s an actual, physical bubble-up of pain, anger, resentment, “piss-off-ed-ness.” 

They would aggress against it if given space (freedom) and authority. Some environments offer that authority.  Some situations offer that space.

In some places, there is nothing you can do but cede that authority.  Education is one.

In some places they take that authority.  The Prison is one.   

It is always a holding pattern in some parts of this country. There is that tenuous balancing act – – – that tight-rope that you walk to keep yourself and your family safe.

Yes, this is 2011, but we’ve really not advanced the civilization much.  We’re good at clothing stuff – but we’re not particularly civilized.  But then, there is always next year.

Then for others the Black color increases anxiety. 

          “Look to your left.  There’s a Black one.”

          “Where? Where?”

          “To your left!  Right there!  You blind?”

          “Oh my gosh! Fuh real! He is Black.  What’s he doin’ here?”

That anxiety provokes unnecessary attention.  That’s when you get a personal escort around Wal-Mart, or Shopko, or Target – or cameras at Boston Store…or cops follow you out of town.

Now, that happens on the other side too. The difference is POWER.

POWER or access to it is the game.  Don’t get it twisted.

Read Full Post »

I was at a meeting recently and this White guy, about 5’ 11”, 200lbs, starting his rotund process, steps right under my chin and declares: “What if all the kids were White huh!  There wouldn’t be a need for all this diversity crap, right?”

So I ordered two cups of coffee…decaf for him.

We sat.  I pulled out a piece of paper.  I always have paper.  My wife worries about that!  I tear a piece out and pass it over to him.  The coffee is here now.  We place it to the side.  He nods a “thank you.”

 I rifle through my bag, find a pen; place it on the loose sheet of paper.  Then I say, “Let’s walk through this together.”

What’s your favorite color?  White it down.

What’s your favorite flavor ice cream?  Write it down.

What’s your favorite food?  Write that down.

What’s your favorite music?  Write that down.

What’s your favorite sport?  Write that down. 

All this time, I’m drawing a box-figure of him.  Then I take his answers and place each like little labels sticking out from his rounding body.  (I didn’t draw him to scale)

I turn the paper to him and share, very politely: “So let’s say this is you.  …and I make a city that’s got two-thousand people…all looking just like this – eating like this – walking like this – being just like this.

So he chimes in, “That will never happen.  That’s pretty stupid.  People are different.”

So I smile and say, “But it is you who asked me the stupid question! It is all in your conceptualization of diversity and how you operationalize it. It’s not whether it’s important or not.  The great Spirits decided on that one long ago.”

He never finished his damn coffee!

Read Full Post »

This is not my blog.  I picked it up off Blogspot this morning.  It is a post by Dean Dad.  The entire blog is reposted here for your review.  The response (below) is mine. Enjoy!

Diversity Hiring

I’m on the horns of a dilemma here, and I’m hoping that crowdsourcing the problem might lead to a sustainable solution. Wise and worldly readers, I’m counting on you!

Like many colleges, my college’s faculty does not reflect the demographics of either its students or its community. Bluntly, it’s a lot whiter. The disparity is largest on the faculty side.

The Board of Trustees has made a public commitment to diversifying the college. However, opportunities for hiring are fewer and farther between now than they once were, with the recession-driven cuts in state aid. The pincer movement of ‘a drive to diversify’ and ‘a paucity of openings’ means that the college has to take a serious shot at candidates from underrepresented groups whenever it can. That’s proving harder than one might expect.

The teaching load here is typical for community colleges in this region, which is to say, it’s not for the faint of heart. And while the benefits are good, the starting salaries won’t blow the doors off.

Even in this economy, we’ve had trouble recruiting minority faculty. We’ve made offers, but we keep losing out to places with higher salaries or lower teaching loads. Minority candidates are in much higher demand than others, so even in this market, they can command offers far sweeter than what we can muster. And faculty salaries here are determined by a pretty mechanistic collective bargaining agreement.

We’ve exhausted the low-hanging fruit. We advertise in venues likelier to attract minority applicants. We have racially mixed search committees. We screen job posting language carefully to ensure that nothing in them creates unnecessary barriers. The low-cost, nonconflictual stuff is already done.

Which means, in practice, that the available options are few.

One is to simply make the salary offers the contract allows, and to hope for the best. When we get turned down, turn to whomever else is available. It’s legally clean, but in practice, it makes an already very white faculty that much whiter. It winds up placing a value of ‘zero’ on diversity, with predictable results.

Another would be to go above the grid and simply endure the grievances. If paying an extra, say, 5k will make the difference, and the Trustees have determined that the difference is worth making, then so be it. The advantage of this approach is that it stands a greater chance of actually recruiting people. The disadvantages, though, are several. For one, it virtually guarantees protracted legal battles with the union. For another, it stirs up resentments that tend to get ugly fast. And at a really basic level, it raises the question of just what, exactly, the candidate is being paid for.

The union, of course, would prefer that we simply raise the entire salary scale until the whole thing is high enough that we can recruit without premiums. But that’s a budget buster, and it would actually freeze the existing imbalances in place. It’s both unaffordable and unhelpful. It’s a nonstarter.

(And please, don’t start in with the usual “bloated administrative salaries” crap. We’ve already shed administrators, and I’m looking now at the fourth consecutive year at the same salary.)

Which means that the second option is rapidly becoming the preferred one. Without it, recent results have shown, the racial gaps will simply continue to grow.

But if we go with the second option, the question of magnitude becomes real. So, wise and worldly readers, is there a reasonably elegant and sustainable way to improve our minority hiring results within the confines of limited resources and a vigilant union? I’d honestly like to know.

 # posted by Dean Dad @ 2:18 AM

RESPONSE to Diversity Hiring: 

Okay ~ let me help you out here. 1.  I don’t know where, geographically, you are talking about. That makes a difference relative to your ability to attract ethnic minority candidates. (I am assuming that is your reference in using the term “diversity”). If you are in a culturally white area, there are only two reason I would come there. (a) Does the benefit of the 5k balance the social & emotional cost of uprooting myself and working in that environment?  (b) Would my experience in that environment translate into opportunities elsewhere – let’s say 3 years down the road.

If the answer to each is “no” or “not likely” then I am not coming. Makes sense?

So you are left with another option:  Search within an environment, similar to the one you’re in, where the population you are looking for (Blacks, Latinos) are already acculturated. They’ve grown-up in the environment.

3. You have differences (not the point of discussion here) between African Americans and Africans, or African Americans and Caribbeanos.  Africans and Caribbeanos are more readiliy acculturated or “acculturable” (See – I made up a word) than African Americans. Why is not our point of discourse here. You target that population.

Finally, it is according to what you want them to teach.  There are readied populations in certain areas…there are invisible populaltions in other areas of academia. There are certain areas of academic that we have not yet discovered, been advised of, engaged in…blah, blah, blah.

Good Luck.

Read Full Post »

Q:   Ebony has been taught that she is not worthy.  She has responded by becoming addicted to heroin. 
Now, in her efforts at recovery, she has reached out to me and other adults.  She wants to be worthy.  She doesn’t know how. 
She is a female Brer Rabbit who thinks she needs to trick people and control us through her wits rather than through the strength that is inherently part of who she could be.  She wants to change the social mores rather than live within them.  She is confused and reaching.  
How many Ebonies are there in this world?  How do we help them?  Do they need to adapt to the mores that surround them or can those social expectations be changed.  Do they have the power to make these changes?  Do we?  Together?

A:   As always, thank you for your question.  Let’s walk through this together.  What you have here is one culture (CA), dictating to another culture (CB).  CA dictates to CB how to be, how to act, how to think, what they can become, how much acceptance they will get, et cetera.  Despite what anybody on the television tells you, CA does not engage with CB.  CA dictates to CB.   Those are two very different things. That’s why a state like Wisconsin could have a 7% African American (AA) population and 44% AA inmate population without many people finding issues with that.  That is why you could have this vitriol against your President and nobody really challenging it.  This is why certain people could do insider trading, go to jail for a few months, come out and make millions while others lie about drug use in the Olympics and get to sit for years.  That’s why in 2010 a little Black kid stays in school with the dream of going to the NFL – not teacher, not plumber, not electrician, not truck driver…the NFL. 

The cultures are not even.  They’re not even close to being even.  But it is what it is.  Sitting and wishing for different does nothing to change reality.  It is what it is. 

Now, you have a number of options.  (a) You could learn to navigate that culture while not losing yours – biculturalism.  (b) You try to learn and blend totally into that culture while attempting to erase yours – assimilate.  (c) You could totally reject that culture while totally immersing yourself in yours – separation.  Let’s say you try “A” but don’t have the skill-set, the education, the knowledge – you begin to reject it.  Let’s say you try “B.”  You change your accent.  You change your look.  You even get yourself a “status elevating” white wife – and get rejected, then you are left with “C.”  Part of the problem with “C” is that it is a culture that is so heavily developed on the premise of a rejection of “A” and “B.”  Much of the skill-set necessary for “C” is determined by one’s ability to reject or aggress against the CA.  Here is the problem: If you build a culture based on rejection, there is not much positivity there.  What is yours?  Where are you building from?  There is not much to build a positive movement on.  You start life from a negative posture. If this is your experience and the experience of your neighborhood, then you tend to sit and support each other in that shared negativity.  It becomes your cultural reality. 

You are trying to pull Ebony out of that which she is “normalled” in (new word). That has been her cultural and social normal.  Ebony understands, intellectually, that you may be helping her, and wishes for an opportunity for change – but at times of stress will go back to her “normal”…her equilibrium.  Think of it like you doing something one way for all your life and now trying to change.  (a) It is very difficult, and (b) whenever you come to times of stress you will revert to your normal.  As we get older, we become less malleable. Change is hard.  If she was younger and not so skilled in that normal, I would see greater opportunity for bicultural skill development.  Remember, I have not even touched the neurological and physiological changes that occur in the brain with drug use nor the potential of her having been born with an altered neurological state.  That will shift the conversation relative to the ease with which she may be able to rehab from her current or recent drug abuse.

Thanks for the question.

Dr. Al

Read Full Post »

The coyote knew full well that despite his best efforts and the strongest ACME (sp) product available to him, there was no way he would ever catch the fleeting road-runner.  An anvil would crush him, he would fall into a deep chasm, or if all failed – they would go to commercial.  He knew it.  His wife knew it.  His children knew it. His neighborhood knew it. Every television show, book and movie reinforced it.  So he quit and drove a cab.  

In a recent self-identity study on 342 Afro and Indo-Caribbean students ages 8 – 11, respondents were invited to choose one of 5 male models (1 Asian, 1 East Indian, 1 White, and 2 Black) for the role of Medical Doctor, Security Agent, Police Investigator, Drug Pusher, or Janitor for an upcoming movie. 
Results indicated that
118 (35%) of students investigated chose the Indian model for the role of Medical Doctor in the movie, while 65 (19%) chose one of the two Black models for the same role.  Conversely, 63 (18%) of the students chose the Indian for the role of Drug Pusher while one of the two Black models was chosen to perform the role of the Drug Pusher by 168 (49%) of the respondents. 

In short: The East Indian students chose the East Indian for the role of the Medical Doctor.  The Black students chose the East Indian for the role of the Medical Doctor.  It was more likely for a Black student to choose a Black for the role of the Drug Pusher than it was for him/her to choose a Black for the role of the Medical Doctor.

Results suggest that regardless of the race of the respondents, East Indians were more likely to be perceived in the role of Medical Doctor – Blacks were more likely to be perceived in the role of the Drug Pusher. 

Of the 342 students tested, only 88 (26%) were of East Indian descent, while 254 or 74% were of Afro-Caribbean descent.

This study has very strong implications for the relationship between a child’s…a culture’s early identity development and academic success. It suggests that if evidence of success is not demonstrated within a child’s early environment (home, story books, neighborhood, movies, television shows, school, pictures, et cetera), the stories of “You can be whatever you want to be” are only rhetoric that we adults enjoy spewing for emotional and political release. 

…from a child the little coyote knew in his heart that there was no way he would ever catch the road runner…so he rejected that possibility – to himself.  Sad but True.   

Read Full Post »

The pigs shimmied up to the bar at 106 Dooley Street.

 They sat, ordered their usual, and engaged in spirited conversation about the issues of the day.

 It was 12:30 when Chicken-one arrived.

 He waddled-shimmied up to the bar where the pigs had convened two-hours before.  They were sharing spirited brotherhood.

 “Oink oink, cluck cluck, oink oink oink, grunt grunt, cluck oink” he said as he bellied up to the bar.

 “Oink oink grunt” they responded, and tossed a few candied corn and a piece of bread in his direction.

                                                                           Two more hours had passed.

 The door swung open.  In the doorway with breast held high and one monocled eye  –  stood…chicken-two.

 The pigs all turned to stare.                 At the far end of the bar a beak-snout peered…barely visible.

 Spurs armed to strike – – – beak poised to maim – – – dust-broom at the ready.

                                                               Chicken-one blocked the entrance.

Oink oink oink, cluck oink, oink oink cluck!” he charged.  “There’s only room for one.  There’s only room for one.  There’s only enough candy-corn and bread to feed one!  Find your own!”

 “But Brother – – – cluck!” complained, retorted, begged, pleaded chicken-two.

 “NO Brother!” demanded chicken-one.  Oink!



                                                  Chicken-two was put out by chicken-one.   He turned and left.

 Chicken-one waddle-shimmied back to his spot and continued to eat what was given to him.

 “Oink oink cluck oink” he said proudly.

                                              The bar was crowded. The music was blaring.  No one paid notice.

                                               He had earned his day’s rations.  He knew it.  They knew it.

Read Full Post »

AA Success

The social and academic success of African American (AA) students within our current educational system continues to be an elusive goal. Social success deals with the idea of being wanted in the environment – the belief that you actually matter.  Academic success is the A, B, Cs – the appropriate matriculation through the system.  In any environment, the academic and social should be closely partnered. There is a convincing positive correlation between social engagement and academic success for all students.  This suggests that students who feel comfortably accepted in their environment tend to perform better academically. 

There is huge difference between being comfortably accepted and attempting to be accepted, or attempting to belong.  Current data demonstrates that AA students who aggressively “attempt to belong” show lower levels of academic success than those who do not.  It would suggest therefore, that part of ethnic minority student lack of success may lie in the amount of energy focused toward the polar opposites of engagement or disengagement from the social environment to the predominantly white institution (PWI).  Notice, I am not talking about the act of engagement or non-engagement, but the amount of energy employed in the process…energy that may be better spend on academic pursuits. Students who actively and aggressively alienate themselves from the predominantly white environment as well as those who try to fully engage seem to be less successful than those negotiate between those two poles.  

Many reasons have been put forward as part-explanations for the high drop-out/stop-out rates of AAs at PWIs.  These include financial insolvency, feelings of marginalization, low academic preparedness, coming from single-parent or broken homes, et cetera.  It is also true that despite these challenges, many AA students are successful.  The question, from a strengths-perspective becomes; “What factors can be identified as responsible for success in this population?”

Felice (2006) interviewed 10 first-generation, sophomore, AA male students at a Midwestern PWI, to determine the skills that each indentified as responsible for his success.  Students were interviewed independently.  Themes were then drawn from each interview and collapsed.

Results indicated that successful male AA students;

  1.  found/created social enclaves within the environment of the university,
  2. only engaged with the university to get specific needs satisfied,
  3. retained very close ties with their home environment (parents and/or friends),
  4. suggested that they saw themselves as representatives of friends, family, or cultural group that did not have that opportunity, and
  5. were committed to a sense of deferred gratification – each was going through current discomfort for a better tomorrow.  

The creation of social enclaves and the strong retention of ties to home and family, run counter to Tinto’s (1997) assertion that students who transition successfully invest time and energy in attempting to assimilate into the larger culture.  Successful AA students find a safe space.

This study does not reject Tinto’s findings.  It simply suggests that this may not be the process for successful AA students at PWIs.  If AA students do not see the potential for reward in their efforts to engage they would, quite justifiably, find spaces of emotional security until better could be done. We may, therefore, consider creating the environment for the development of these social enclaves.

In another study looking at AA versus White students’ feelings of connection to the university, Felice (2009) found that;

  1. 51% of White students interviewed indicated that they attend sporting and other University events versus 8.8% of Black students
  2. 67% of White students indicated that they wear their school colors around campus versus 21% of Black students
  3. 97% of White students felt themselves very connected to the University versus 62% of Black students, and
  4. 72% of White students identified themselves as a (mascot name placed here) through and through versus 25% of Black students.

It is interesting to note that despite feelings of disconnect, 40% of Black respondents suggested that they would consider giving money back to the University versus 49% of White.  Additionally, of the population interviewed, only 14% of White students identified themselves as first-generation versus 55% of Black students. This is of particular interest because a very different posture must be taken in engaging first generation students versus second-generation students – despite ethnicity.

Readiness for Academic Engagement:

There is also the concept of readiness for academic engagement – and the social culture that that perception breeds on campus. 

It is true that many of our AA students do not enter colleges and universities with the necessary level academic skill acquisition and academic competence as determined by the accepting institution. 

  1. This is many.  This is not all.  Many and all are two very different words, and as there is no way to identify the difference within the institution it raises everybody’s anxiety.
  2. This is also very true of many white students.  Yet it is not accompanied by the anxiety of the null hypothesis.
  3. Although the numbers of under-academically prepared white students is probably much higher than Black students, the percentages are much lower.  For example: If we have twenty out of one-hundred AA students under-prepared (20%), that is a much higher percentage than the three hundred out of ten thousand white students (3%). 
  4. This truth and perception leads to inter- and intra-anxiety amongst AA students and how they perceive themselves to be perceived by whites and each other. You begin to observe these students separating “themselves from themselves” on campus.  There is a lack of acknowledgement of each other in classes and on campus.

This separation of self from self is what I call the “Affirmative Action baby” syndrome.  It seems as if AA students, particularly males, are saying to themselves: “I am not an Affirmative Action baby.  You may be.” This area needs more research.

Notice we are talking about the emotional anxiety around the perception of academic preparedness.  The question therefore is “How do we shift that perception?” Given that perceptions are very well defended (stubborn), our positive changes must be aggressively marketed.

Demanding a Better Product…or Else:

Last time I checked, academic readiness for full inclusion into our environment was the forte of the high schools.  It is from these high schools that we draw our product. If the quality of the product is not as we would wish, we have four options.

  1. We accept the product.  Once we accept the product, knowing that it has deficits, it is our responsibility to fill those gaps. We have accepted the responsibility.
  2. We demand a better product from our wholesalers.  We do have the choice here of engaging in the preparation of the product, relative to our needs.
  3. We expand our recruiting umbrella.  In this instance, we search-out and create relationships with competing wholesalers. We no longer offer our current wholesalers the comfort of sending us sub-quality products.
  4. We establish our own wholesale producers.  In this instance, we actually establish a high school which meets the requirements for full inclusion into our environment.    

Inclusive Excellence:

The question becomes: “How do we attain a sense of inclusivity while retaining academic excellence?”  This will be the topic of another piece.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »