Richelle Carey at CNN Headline News (HLN) recently reached out to me to find out why black men aren't graduating from college. I've written on this topic on a few occasions and also in my book, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about College." The segment is here if you'd like to watch, and you can tell in the segment that I am angry.
I was angry during the interview because the lack of educational and economic achievement of the black male, along with mass incarceration, has continuously threatened the strength and stability of the African American family. I was angry because most of us as Americans have not had a sense of urgency when it comes to resolving these disparities. Some black men are too busy learning how to become thugs, and white America is too busy perpetuating racially-imbalanced institutions that keep Jim Crow alive in America. Many black women are busy blaming every social ill on black men, which is equally problematic. At the end of the day, all of us are wrong, and we all have the ability to work together to solve this problem.
First, universities must stop making excuses for not hiring black professors. When I opposed the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan, one of the reasons I stood against her is that during her tenure as Dean of the Harvard Law School, she didn't hire a single African American faculty member (out of 29 total tenured and tenure track appointments). This problem is all too common, as many universities get applications from solid black professors and find some ridiculous, ambiguous and often secret reason to turn them down. The result is that many students go to college for 4 - 10 years (adding in graduate school) without having any black professors for the entire time (except in African American studies, where they allow us to teach). That was my experience, as well as the common experience of many other black men who were educated at predominantly white universities. My hurdles in higher education led me to feel like a fish out of water, since there was no role model for me to look up to - I always felt like I was swimming upstream. Universities have to stop making excuses for not diversifying their faculty with under-represented minorities, they must also stop hiring black professors for only temporary jobs, and start giving permanent positions to black faculty so that black students can have role models too. A case in point is my brother's recent graduation from the Business School at Cornell University. I saw only one black professor out of dozens on the stage. The same was true at my sister's graduation from medical school, where there was not a single black person in the entire group of faculty. Such outcomes should be appalling and unacceptable to all of us.