Why this Blog?
In countless conversations with athletic directors, coaches, academic staff, and support staff, the subject of the Black Male Student-Athlete (BMSA) is inveitably raised. No one can deny the fact that some of our Black Male Student-Athletes bring unique challenges to campus. We can no longer ignore the issue. We must be proactive in meeting these challenges by creating effective support structures that allow them to succeed both on and off the field.
Are we talking about all Black Males in college athletics, of course not. But the more I travel across the country I am realizing that despite one's background, many Black Male Student-Athletes are facing similar challenges. This blog and website should help you address those challenges.
Top 10 Issues Facing Black Male Student-Athletes
10. Lack of a Spiritual Base
Years ago one could assume that the BMSA had at least been raised in the church. Not anymore. Because we have little or no connection to God we have a non-existent prayer life, we rarely read the Word, and we don't surround ourselves with people who Love God. So we just live for ourselves and do whatever makes us feel good without any respect for God.
Recommendation: Make connections with local churches and get the BMSA plugged in.
9. Pornography and Sexual Addiction
A constant diet of pornography and easy access to sex is unhealthy. What we see on the screen is treated as an exemplar of sexuality (i.e., if all women in porn are screaming ecstatically, then men assume that all women outside of porn will do likewise). Thus men get the idea:
- All women want sex all of the time
- No really means yes,
- Multiple women are better than one
- Women want what men want
- Cheating is ok
- Marriage as an institution has no value!
Recommendation: Talk to them about the dangers of porn--they want to talk about it.
8. Very Little Respect for Women outside of Mom, Grandma, and Sister
When I speak to young men across the country I have come to the conclusion that our respect for women is at an all-time low. When I challenge these young men to stop calling women "b*****s" and "h**s," they respond with "Doc, I wouldn't call her that if she didn't act like one." This attitude teaches men that women have to earn their respect. We teach men that all women are worthy of respect.
Recommendation: Challenge your young men and ask them to talk about the most important women in their lives.
7. Interacting with Professors
Many BMSA's feel that professors, both black and white, stereotype them. Imagine being one of a few African American Males in a class full of white students. Now imagine being 6'4 265lbs in that same classroom. Unfortunately some professors do have pre-conceived attitudes toward athletes that puts Black males at a disadvantage in the classroom.
Recommendation: Teach your young men to sit in the front of class and stay engaged.
Despite the level of intellectualism it takes to perform at a high level on the field or on the court, many Black Male Student-Athletes don't view themselves as intellectuals. Whenever I visit a schoo,l I ask them to tell me what class on that campus is more difficult than football or basketball. These are intellectual enterprises. And although many of them will tell me that they were born with athletic talent, I suggest that if that were true they would not practice year-round. When they see what they do athletically as an intellectual endeavor they begin to view academics in a different light.
Recommendation: Remind them every single day that sport is an intellectual enterprise.
5. The Boyz in the Hood
Many BMSA's come to campus with a foot in two worlds: the campus and the hood back home. The pressure to remain connected to the hood is strong. We don't want to be perceived as being a "sell-out," so we bring the culture of the hood to campus and it causes conflict in a university setting.
Recommendation: Be persistent in telling them that they can do more for their hood in the long run if the get a degree.
4. Who Am I?
Hip-Hop Culture teaches us that Black males have four career options: criminal, athlete, entertainer, and thug. We must do better. Because Black male intellectualism is rarely seen in the media or promoted on ESPN many BMSA's lack an identity outside of sports. Because we have failed to provide them with additional career options, this explains why everyone thinks that they are going to the League.
Recommendation: Expose them to Black male professionals in various career fields as early as their freshman year.
3. The Thug Persona
The hood comes in all shapes and sizes and many BMSA's feel the need to show a facade of toughness. This psychic armor or cool posing is nothing new. Many Black males from all walks of life have embraced similar strategies in order to survive a particularly unfamiliar environment. BMSA's know that their existence is often tenuous and we embrace the Thug Persona as a way of staying distant and not getting emotionally attached to the environment.
Recommendation: Develop strategies and programs that make BMSA's feel welcome across the entire campus.
Since I began this work over 14 years ago while a graduate student at Ohio State, I am almost brought to tears when I hear some of the personal stories of these young men. Here is a brief snapshot:
- Doc, I been smokin' since I was 11
- I was raised by my Grandma because my Dad killed my Mom
- My Mom has been locked up for the past 8 years
- We lived in a trailer with no electricity
- We were homeless for my entire sophomore year
- I never knew my parents, I was a foster kid
- My Mom died of AIDS
- I was abused as a kid
- If I weren't in college I'd either be in jail or dead
- My mom is only 31, she's like a sister to me
Recommendation: Find out what events have shaped their lives and take any and all necessary steps to help brothers heal from these wounds.
1. Dear Daddy
The #1 issue by far facing Black Male Student-Athletes is Daddy. He wasn't around. He was invisible. And many of us are still walking around with the scar that Daddy left on us. This is generally the most emotional session whenever I meet with a group of guys. When I ask guys to write a letter to their Daddy their eyes get wide and some immediately get angry. Here is what some of the say in those letters:
- I hate you
- Why did you leave?
- I know you and Mom had issues but why did you stop coming to see me?
- Why are you raising someone else's children but you don't spend time with us?
- I missed seeing you at my games
- You better hope I never see you again
- You are an example of the kind of man that I don't want to be
- After you left things were hard on us
- I had to become the man of the house at 10
- Because you weren't around I don't know how to be a man
Recommendation: Implement a manhood training program that allows BMSA's to deal with the father wound.
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