The Struggles Black Men Face in Education – Mikaela Tucker

Black History at USD – The Struggles Black Men Face in Education

El-Ra Adair Radney

Mikaela Tucker

Throughout American history, we’ve seen how the education system favors certain groups of people and fails others. At the start of public education in the United States, it catered to wealthy White families who had male children. The kids privileged enough to get an education were often White boys because it was seen as not a necessary thing for girls to have an education. Later on White girls were allowed the same opportunities as White boys but were treated differently in the classroom setting, such as being expected to behave “properly” and “polite” while their male counterparts were not expected to do the same things. Black children were much later allowed to gain an education in the same schools as White children but the marginalization continued. “The desegregation of schools,…, fell squarely on the shoulders of girls” who faced violence, threats, and continuous harassment (White, Ch. 14). When Black boys were introduced to the public education system, they didn’t face the same challenges as their female counterparts but faced their own set of challenges and struggles. They were looked down upon and not expected to thrive or want to do well, and this is exactly what Dr. Brooms talked about experiencing. Dr. Derrick Brooms (pictured on the top right) is a professor of African American Studies, Women’s History, Africana Studies and Sociology at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Brooms grew up on the south side of Chicago and says that this shaped his view of the world because the neighborhood he grew up in was a hyper segregated community putting him on a trajectory that he couldn’t necessarily control. While trying to find his own sense of identity and understand his own life he found the answers in Africana Studies. Dr. Brooms believes that there isn’t a homogeneous Black community and wants to use his own background and studies to take away the comparison of Black and White education. He faced so much adversity through his educational years due to his identity as a Black man and wants to put an end to the disparities in education based on gender and race. There were, and still are, preconceived notions that young Black men don’t care about their education. Society didn’t give young Black men a fighting chance in education and there are structures in place that continue to set them up for failure and little is being done to address this issue. Equal opportunities and fair treatment of Black men in education is a continuous fight to break the cycle of society continuing to fail young Black men in the education system due to harmful stereotypes placed on them dating back to the very beginning of this country and in order to accomplish such, two major things need to be addressed; proper scholarship opportunities and opportunities to seek help.

Scholarships for college education often have a minimum grade point average that needs to be maintained in order to keep the scholarship. They also tend to not cover all of the students’ costs in order to attend college. With these terms and conditions surrounding scholarships, students who cannot pay the difference out of pocket are digging themselves into a hole that they may never get out of. In today’s society it is often required to have a college education from a respectable college in order to get a well paying job. In order to get said education, you typically have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars which the average person cannot do without the help of student loans. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 77% of Black students attending a university took out loans in order to pay for their schooling compared to the 54% of White students who took out loans. This statistic shows the disparities between Black and White college students and how the lack of scholarship disproportionately affects Black students. Dr. Brooms stated that he believes a federal solution is needed in order to combat the inevitable debt that Black students are going to put themselves in in order to receive a college education. He proposed that this federal solution could come from lower interest rates and increasing the number of federal grants available as opposed to loans. There is another struggle with scholarships that Dr. Brooms addresses and that is how it is difficult for Black male students to maintain the set grade point average due to a plethora of things that White students don’t inherently face. He says that there “is a lot to prove being a Black man on a university campus” and the weight can feel crushing. Dr. Brooms spoke from his own experience with how he faced a lack of encouragement from his professors and was even told he was going to fail. He said “[he] was only praised for his athletic achievements” rather than his educational ones. When you aren’t being supported by professors, peers, etc. it is hard to get the proper help to thrive in class. Now although a set standard is necessary for receiving and maintaining a scholarship, there needs to be a way to do so that will allow all students to benefit from it. 

Being in college, you cannot be afraid to ask for help. In order to succeed in your studies you have to ask questions, be willing to be wrong, and seek out your professors for additional help. This tends to be easy for some and very difficult for others. When you are conditioned to never ask for help and to never be vulnerable, these things are going to be hard. Society has created a dynamic between men and women that men are not allowed to be “emotional” or “vulnerable” because it is weak, and that women are “too emotional” or “too vulnerable”. This harmful dynamic causes internalization that men cannot ask for help because it is seen as being vulnerable and this causes a “I can do it myself” mentality. This mentality sets you up for failure in a college environment because you truly cannot do it yourself. According to a study done by John Ogbu, Black students tend to underperform, in comparison to their White counterparts, due to “national and local mainstream white society”, meaning perceived notions of how Black students will perform, and beliefs and behaviors from within the Black community itself (Ogbu, Ch. 1). This goes along with what Dr. Brooms had indicated, saying that “young Black men are socialized to not ask for help” and that “[their] vulnerability can be weaponized against [them]”. Within the Black community, parents and other custodial figures are implementing ideas that can subconsciously cause failure in school. When something is so engraved into you, it becomes difficult to reverse those ideas. Young Black men cannot be expected to reverse generational beliefs on their own. In order to reverse this mentality Dr. Brooms suggests that professors need to create a safe space where students can get to know each other and the professor. By doing this, you are allowing the students to make connections with their peers and you are allowing them to see it is okay to let people know you for you. If you allow people to open up during a set time it doesn’t create an added pressure of having to be the one to reach out. The student can realize that you are willing to make an effort so they should too. By creating an environment where all students feel like they can get the help they need, it will allow them to succeed in their college careers. 

Creating methods that will allow for the success of Black men in the educational system is vital to the disruption of stereotypes that have been in place in our society for decades. Understanding history is understanding how what happened in the past led society to where it stands today. With acknowledgement and understanding of Dr. Brooms’ lecture, the text Freedom on My Mind and Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb, we can understand how the history of African Americans led to the current struggles Black men face in education. 

Works Cited (MLA 9)

In Class Source: White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021. 

External Sources: Ogbu, John U. Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement. Routledge, 2009. 

“Indicator 22: Financial Aid.” National Center for Educational Statistics, Feb. 2019,


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