Recently in Chicago, a city where only 9 percent of 8th-grade Black boys read proficiently and where thousands of Black boys have been killed and maimed over the past few years, the MacArthur Foundation passed out “Genius Awards” to people who were musicians, authors, scientists and poets. In their way, the MacArthur Awards congratulate and reward people who are not working to educate and save the lives of Black boys. Essentially, they are saying, that in this American city , the one they call home, educating and making young Black men productive citizens is not valued.
The MacArthur Foundation speaks for America. America has a reputation for helping people all over the world. We have soldiers stationed in dozens of countries and we invest hundreds of billions of dollars in countries worldwide. But in the streets of most American large cities, police shoot down young Black men with alarming regularity (about one every 28 hours); tens of thousands of young Black men die every year in an undeclared “ghetto war”; hundreds of thousands of young Black men are annually ushered into the prison system of America; and millions of young Black men and boys are under-educated and mis-educated in American schools. These realities constitute a sophisticated, 21st -century form of lynching young Black men and boys.
Such genocidal treatment of any population should gain international attention including sanctions by the United Nations and massive national and international petition drives led by human rights groups. But because these are young Black men and boys in America, little is said or done to change this horror. And Black America, by its inaction, remains complicit in these horrendous outcomes for young Black men and boys! Most Black church and business leaders, educators, and elected officials are silent as this gargantuan-scale human tragedy continues unabated.
American schools are systematically slaughtering the minds and spirits Black boys. Chicago is not alone with only 9% of 8th-grade Black boys reading proficiently. Louisville, Atlanta, Houston, Austin, Philadelphia and Los Angeles share Chicago’s ignominy with 9 percent of 8th-grade Black boys reading proficiently. Unbelievably, some cities are worse including Baltimore, ?Dallas and San Diego, 7 percent; Washington D.C., 6 percent, Detroit, 5 percent, and Milwaukee and Cleveland, 3 percent. In America, only 10 percent of 8th-grade Black boys read proficiently. This failure to educate Black men and boys is America’s unspoken shame.
Nearly 150 years since slavery ended in America, Black America must accept the reality that no help is coming to transform the plight of young Black men and boys! If our young men are to be saved, it will be because the Black community saves them.
If our young men are taught to read, it will be because we teach them to read. If our Black boys develop into strong, positive, productive, globally competent Black men, it will be because Black America makes it happen. And we should expect no help from foundations like MacArthur.
Until the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Black men and boys were lynched in America with ropes and trees. Now they are lynched with schools and prisons, but the results are still the same.
Founder and Executive Director
The Black Star Project