“That Black Lives Matter”


  Dr. Alwin Spence

The phrase Black Lives Matter” has come into prominence as a result of so many black males, in particular, who have been murdered without good reasons. The suggestion here is, if these killings continue black lives will soon non-exist. So with this threat of losing our black young men -the phrase “Black Lives Matter”.
The troublesome part of all this, is that, instead of accepting the fact that black men are wantonly killed, and this practice must stop, another phrase is introduced-“All Lives Matter”. This is very true, but it is expressing the obvious. Let us play with this awhile…Everyone should go to sleep. This is normal, accepted and does not have to be repeated. If 5 year old children are staying up until 2 am, then it is fair to say several times that all 5 year old children should be in bed at 8 pm. It does not help the situation by saying everyone should get some sleep at night. This does not help the 5 year olds who are already sleep deprived. So “All Lives Matter” does not prevent the continued killing of black young men. What will happen is that, “All Lives Matter” will compete with “Black Lives Matter” and the original idea and intention will soon be lost.
The difficult part of all this, is that the people who suddenly come up with “All Lives Matter” in order to minimize the impact of “Black Lives Matter”, are they racist, supremacists, or, are they merely stressing the very obvious; which is uncalled for, unnecessary and redundant. This may be a new form of racism which we will soon learn to understand. Five white drivers speed above the speed limit but do not get stopped by the white police. The sixth speedster happens to be a black man who is promptly stopped and charged. Surely he also broke the law, but by giving him a ticket and not the first five –is this racism? The police claims he did not stop you because you are black, but because you broke the law. What about the first five drivers. What about them? Can you charge the police for racism? This situation happens too often and is very frustrating.


Blacks were subjected to poor schooling, lower class education for years. As a result they could not compete for places in Colleges and Universities in certain subject areas such as medicine, law, engineering, dentistry, to name a few. To right this obvious wrong, Affirmative Action was introduced as a solution. Blacks with minimum qualification (that is enough to ensure success in the programs) were recruited and given the opportunity to enter these facilities. This at times meant that a white student with a 90% average may have to give way to a black student with an 85%. Affirmative Action with all its good intentions suddenly became reverse discrimination settling in the courts of law.
With this legal threat, Affirmative Action lost its steam, while Blacks continue to lag behind. But one cannot have reverse discrimination if there was no discrimination in the first place. As old racism dies, new forms spring up. But while the police shooting and killing of black men continues, the black community must take serious notice of this activity and take action. First and foremost is that the black community must begin to monitor itself.


On campuses all around the world and especially in the Western World, women continue to outnumber men. After forty-two years teaching at the College and University levels, I have noticed the gradual shift from a majority of male students at all levels to a majority of female students at all levels. Disciplines which were traditionally male are now female dominated. The trend is also obvious at the graduate and post graduate levels. Don’t get me wrong. I applaud the women, but I have concern for the reduced number of males.
The statistics are more pronounced in Black America where studies show that black women earn college degrees at a rate almost two times that of black males. This is consistent with my observation. My classes, generally in the area of Psychology used to have a majority of male black students over black students. Of course the institutions are predominantly white. The ratio of black males and black female students has been so reversed that at times there are in my class six or seven black females to a mere one or two black males. Again, where are the black men?
At historically black colleges and universities, some schools report very steep margins. At Clarke Atlanta U. in Atlanta the student body is about 71% female, while at Morgan State, almost two-thirds of the graduates are female and approximately the same ratio for honor students. The trends in most black colleges is similar. One observer said that when you walk on the campus of any black college, you will notice hundreds of ambitious black women, studying, organizing, representing their sororities, or just hanging out. The black men may as well be an endangered species.
Beyond the obvious concerns about future employment opportunities for black men who do not have college degrees, there are concerns about the social impact on the African American community at large, particularly when it comes to dating, marriage and the formation of families. This situation of more women to men may even lead, according to Frank Matthews, publisher of Black Issues in Higher Education, black men to believe they are entitled to four or more black women and black women to feel they have to men-share. The result of all this maybe disrespect from both sexes. Matthews goes on to say, that Black colleges have the responsibility to actively recruit black males and work to retain them. I will go one step further and say, that every institution where this phenomenon is occurring, should take steps to remedy this situation. This does not mean the reducing in numbers of black females, rather an encouragement and a reaching out for more black male students.
Everyone agrees that the trend is a problem. In the 80’s and 90’s black men were more likely to succumb to drugs, gangs and prison. But lately, new statistics point to other social issues. A study done by the University of California at Los Angeles found that women generally study harder than men, have higher career and personal goals and spend more time preparing for the future. The same study found that male high school students are likely to spend their time watching television, playing video games, partying and exercising, than studying or planning for their futures. Also from my own experience, males not only black ones, are more easily persuaded by their peers to perform below standard and to seek negative attention.
David Williams, an 11th grade reading teacher at a Senior High in Miami and a graduate of Wilberforce University, claims women are better prepared by their families to leave the nest, go out on their own and become independent. The absence of a father may also affect the aspiration of males. For the Afro-American male it is not just ‘boys will be boys’, there are deeper reasons. Carmen Cannon, who was director of Admissions at Howard University, states that black men historically had very way little incentive to pursue college degrees. Black male children were expected to very early provide economic support for the family, so many of them worked part-time while in school and sought permanent jobs after high school. Also because of gender inequality in the workforce women needed more education to compete. The women’s movement did not only advance white women, but it also encouraged black women to further educate themselves. This paid off in more available jobs, and better salaries. Solidarity among women, black and white was a reality, while there was no effort to unite white and black males. Historically, these two groups were never united. Who did the lynching and to whom? So where do we go from here, the trend continues.


The wanton killings of Michael Brown, Treyvon Martin and Jordan Davis by white police have triggered riots and opposition to this racist behavior. Not to mention the gruesome killing of Emmett Till in 1955, whose alleged crime was flirting with a white woman. These and other incidents have reached the highest level of government. President Obama expressed concern for young men and boys of color when he invited a group to the White House. He also endorsed the initiative “My Brother’s Keeper”, which seeks to provide opportunities for these boys and young men.
Tori De Angelis in an article entitled Building Resilience among black boys, points out that too many white teachers distance themselves socially and emotionally from black boys because they assume they come with the baggage of behavioral problems. This attitude on the part of the teachers only leads to the self-fulfilling prophesy –what you expect is what you get. If teachers could change their expectations and socially and emotionally bond with these boys, the outcome could be different. ‘Boys will be boys’ does not apply to black boys. White teachers need to show some warmth, not fear.
Parents at times fail to grasp the emotional and behavioral problems their teens are experiencing. This failure to recognize may lead to serious depression. At times, parents need to be more in tune with what is going on and to be less preoccupied by other things which may not be as important.
Black boys, young men with a positive sense of ethnic identity and who participate in Black community activities, through the Church or community organizations, get into trouble less. Presently, researchers are exploring how religious leaders, coaches and even barbers can positively influence the lives of young black men. Interestingly, one such study called, SHAPE UP-Barbers building better brothers, a project which is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The assumption is that the free-wheeling debate style discussions that take place in black barber shops could be used as a spring board to educate young black men about a range of different survival topics such as sexually transmitted diseases, the risks of retaliating violence, understanding how a racist police force operates, effective negotiation skills and how to keep alive at all cost.
Bob White’s imaginary Barber Shop and all the positive activities was never far off from this concept. My own son, when he visits always makes the effort to go to his old barbershop. Seems he gets some positive reinforcement from the barbers there who know him personally.
The continued marches and protests after a black male is killed, is not the answer. Preventing the killing is what is foremost and this means an education process: for the white killers, and also for their potential victims –young black men.

 Dr. Alwin Spence (Retired)
Professor-John Abbott College & Concordia University