Last week Long Island teenager Kwasi Enin captured national headlines after becoming part of an impressive club: high school seniors who have been accepted into all eight Ivy League schools. However, while many celebrated Enin’s achievement, a bitter minority griped that the teenager had somehow gamed the system. The racial subtext was obvious: Enin couldn’t have actually have gotten into all those schools by himself. Why? Well, because he’s black.
This type of harmful and wholly inaccurate narrative has been constructed around African-American male student achievement for years. Enin is just the latest high-profile example of how it hurts all young men, high school high achievers or not, by implying that the majority of African-American boys are hopelessly behind and may never be able to narrow the achievement gap.
There are, of course, legitimate issues that African-American male students face due to a confluence of factors. But even data that show the more dire aspects of black male achievement do not exist in a vacuum, with researchers misrepresenting or not calculating for the experiences of African-American male students.
The good news is that bright spots like Enin may help raise the profile of America’s African-American young men. However, there is a lot of work to be done, beginning with rethinking the way we use these seven common “facts.”
After you finish reading this wonderful article, the staff of MahoganyBooks suggests you read the classic book, The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson for deeper insight into this topic. This book delves into the many ways the American education system disabuses African-American children of the self-esteem needed to be engaged learners because of the disingenuous representation of their history and heritage as non-relevant.