Tag Archives: black males

Obama and Paterson: Painful Politics

metzlerDr. Christopher J. Metzler

The New York Times has reported that President Obama has asked New York Governor David Paterson to drop out of the 2010 Governor’s race. While not exactly denying the report, a White House official said, “There are officials in the White House that share the concerns that are widely held in New York about the very challenging political environment confronting Governor Paterson.”

Yet New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine is running into similar political headwinds with a Quinnipiac University’s poll putting Republican challenger Christopher Christie ahead by 10 points and a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll favoring Christie by five points. The White House remains unconcerned about Corzine but concerned about Paterson. Perhaps, this is a disagreement on policy.

At the risk of stating the obvious; Paterson is one of only two Black governors in the nation; Deval Patrick is the other. Thus, some will no doubt point out the supposed irony in the first Black President asking Paterson to drop out of the race. Asked on “Face the Nation” whether Obama’s decision was a racial one, and reveling in the racial optics both inside and outside of the Democratic Party, RNC Chair Michael Steele smiled goofily and said “I found that to be stunning that the White House would send word to one of only two Black governors in the country not to run for re-election.”

“That will be very interesting to see what the response from Black leadership around the country will be about the president calling the governor to step down or not run for election,” Steele quipped.

Steele, of course, was not playing the race card as Republicans never do that; they only disagree on policy. So, what is the policy disagreement here that Steele raised with his pallid attempt at sarcasm?

Of course, Governor Paterson has not helped himself with a series of maladroit decisions including: appointing a Lieutenant Governor without having the legal authority to do so, leaking information about Caroline Kennedy to the press over her failed bid to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate and replacing Clinton with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand after promising the White House that he would not do so. It is not an understatement to say that Patterson’s administration is incompetent at best and bungling at worst.          

Who could forget the rather salacious details that Paterson shared with the world about the sexual assignations that both he and his wife had outside their marriage while they were both married to each other? Paterson seemed more adept at managing peccadillo than managing the budget. Of course, Paterson is himself a beneficiary of political peccadillo as his ascension to the Governorship is because of the improper proclivities of his predecessor.

Under Governor Paterson, New York’s economic conditions have crumbled as evidenced by soaring unemployment and seemingly multitudinous job losses. So, there is reason for the citizens of New York to reject him.

However, the last time I checked (the birther issues aside) President Obama is neither a citizen nor resident of the state of New York. So, why does he have a say in who the citizens choose to lead their state? Paterson made the ultimate political transgression in Obama’s “post-racial” America; he blamed race for his declining popularity and then tried to drag Obama into the racial swamp with him.

In an interview with blogger Gerson Borrero, Paterson said, “Part of what I feel is that one very successful minority is permissible, but when you see too many success stories, then some people get nervous.” He went on to say, “I submit that the same kind of treatment that Deval Patrick is receiving right now in Massachusetts, and I’m receiving, the way in which the New York State Senate was written about, calling them a bunch of people with thick necks,” He concluded “that we’re not in the post-racial period. And the reality is that the next victim on the list — and you see it coming — is President Barack Obama.”

Did Paterson not get the message that President Obama will not engage in any discussion about the racial optics surrounding his Presidency. He believes that while race may be in the backdrop of America; his Presidency does not stand in front of that backdrop. Let’s be clear, the critique of Paterson has nothing to do with race; it has to do with his unmitigated incompetence. In fact, prior to his decline in the polls, Paterson in an interview with The Wall Street Journal said, “I don’t think this country tolerates open racial codes as it has in the past, which is a real demonstration of improvement not just in race relations but just in the decorum of political campaigns.”

So,  in addition to his political blunders, Paterson has angered a White House for whom race, not Social Security is the third rail. The President is betting that Blacks will understand that he cannot engage in any substantive discussion of race lest his presidency be defined by the reality of his race. He is also betting that Whites will reward him for not discussing race by reelecting him.

Of course, this is a political decision but do we expect a politician to make non-political decisions? That would be like expecting a doctor to make a medical decision to treat illness and then complain that his decision was medical.

 So Governor Paterson, have you asked Rev. Wright, Van Jones and Kanye West what the view is like from under the bus?

Christopher J. Metzler is the author of The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a ‘post-racial’ America and an associate dean at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies.

The Perils of being young, African American and Male

The Perils of Being Young, African American and Male

By James Ewers

jewers1There is an unhealthy generational gap within the African American male community. It is acute and now more serious than ever. There are some stark differences to what was and what is. Black men my age grew up respecting social customs. For example, we loved our parents and honored our teachers. Our neighborhoods looked out for us. Courtesy and good manners were the rule and not the exception. Using appropriate language with our friends and adults was the common practice. We did not stray from these tenets. We respected girls and women. Sure, my generation had girl friends but we didn’t go around calling them nasty names. We answered the telephone by saying hello and not “yo”.

I and other black men of my generation respected our parents. Personally, I loved and feared my parents both at the same time. My mom provided me with exceptional spankings. She orchestrated my spankings. First, she told me to go in the backyard and get a switch. As she spanked me, she always provided me with wonderful commentary. She would usually tell me how much it was hurting her to do this to me. My thinking was if it was hurting her so much, why wouldn’t she stop? My dad, with his heavy Jamaican accent, chastised me even more. His technique was to make me feel so ashamed for committing the indiscretion. Now after all of this was done the embarrassment of it all set in for me. Whenever the kids in my neighborhood got a spanking, everyone knew about it. All of the adults looked at you with shame and we kids just tried to console each other. There was no number to call to say your parents were disciplining you. Quite frankly, that would not have prevented parents from fulfilling their role as parents.

Going to school was a time for learning and for making friends. Our generation of African American men respected teachers. We would never berate them or talk back to them. I simply can’t fathom talking back to a teacher. Our discipline problems never involved guns and knives. If anything, we may have gotten out of hand with another student but never a teacher. I and many others of my time can honestly say that school was a safe place to be. We just enjoyed school and couldn’t wait until the next day. Our neighborhoods were for the most part quiet and serene places. During the school year we were in the house at an appropriate time. When the street lights came on, we were in the house. Police cars in neighborhoods were a rarity. I am sure that I speak for many African American men during this time when I say we didn’t see our friends with handcuffs on getting into police cruisers. We didn’t have street gangs who tormented each other and neighborhoods. Experiences like I just described happened rarely whether you grew up in cities or towns. Did African American males who came of age in the 1950s and ’60s have perfect environments? No. However, there was a certain level of love, respect and civility that we gave to each other and our families and friends. Even those we didn’t know received the same treatment.

Hurt, harm and danger seem to be words that are used too frequently with today’s generation of African American males. When I look out at some African American males in their 20’s and 30’s, I wonder what has happened. Some seem destined and almost determined to go down the wrong track. In the words of the young, they simply love “drama.” I observe and listen to young black men and I wonder, what has happened? Conversations about dope and not hope go on too often. Going to visit a friend in jail and not in college seems to be happening too frequently. Am I being overly concerned? I don’t think so.

Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues

Being Black, Male and Educated in Today’s World

By James Ewers

There are far too many black males being portrayed as useless citizens in our society.  We see pictures of us being sent to jail or being expelled from school.  Some of us still turn a blind eye to what is going on around us.  The CNN Special, “Black in America” pointed out that African Americans make up 13 percent of the population, yet we commit 49 percent of the homicides.  That statistic should send a sobering message to all of us, black and white, who see ourselves as difference-makers. 



Obviously, we as African Americans have come a long way since the days of segregation.  While our gains educationally have been significant, we still have a very long way to go.  The achievement gap, according to some, has increased between black children and white children.  Some of this achievement gap data is being played out every day.  Recently, I went to the public library to check out some books and made a casual observation about who was in the library.  While some may disagree, there is more value in some African American homes placed on an Xbox and a Nintendo Wii than getting a library card and using it.  It doesn’t matter how proficient your child is on either game as the more compelling question is, can they pass the third grade proficiency test?  I don’t have anything against these games. However they can’t be put ahead of education.



We can’t undo the past yet we can be better forecasters about the future of our young African American boys if we become more proactive.  Educating African American boys might arguably be the single greatest priority in our communities. The biggest piece in this educational equation is that education must be viewed as invaluable in our quest for success.  It can’t be seem as a maybe but should be seen as a must!  National statistics show that young black boys are more likely to be suspended or expelled before completing high school than any other group. 



There are some factors that have led to this statistic being what it is.  First, a dearth of successful African American role models has contributed to young male students not seeing enough of us and they therefore think dreaming big dreams is out of the question. Therefore invariably when you ask a young African American boy what he wants to do, he will give you the name of a sports star or a music star.  As a product of the legitimate old school, I knew as much about Dr. King, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Whitney Young as I did Jim Brown, Willie Mays and Jessie Owens.  Maybe we need to invest in copies of Jet, Essence and Ebony so that our boys can see successful African American males in business, the military, education, law and medicine. 



Behavior has also contributed to this dilemma. Fighting and destroying school property only creates a negative opinion about young black males. Simply put, knowing how to comport yourself will put you in a favorable position with the education community. Another factor is the lack of diversity training in many of our school systems. There are teachers who are simply ill-equipped to interact successfully with young black males. It is my thinking that diversity training should be mandated for every school system.



Valuing education means talking about it in our homes, then our boys will have an increased chance to become an educated black male. Of course being black, male and educated brings on increased responsibility and opportunity. If you have these three characteristics, you have a chance to be a change agent each day. For those of us who are blessed to have a college degree it means that we must do more. Here are two ways of thinking about being black, male and educated. I believe the vast majority of people will give us the respect that we have earned. I would like to believe that our opinions about matters of the day are valued and valuable. On the other side are those who fear us because of our color, our maleness and our education. We become instant threats to some who are unwilling to accept us because we bring new ideas and inclusion to the process. Maybe in the end that is the dual role for those of us who are black, male and educated; that is, we are both respected and feared. 


Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues








CNN’s Black in America Sounds Clarion Call To Do More

By James Ewers


I am black in America so the recent two-part series produced by CNN entitled “Black in America” did appeal to me. This special program to my mind was not only for black people but for white people as well. For whatever judgment you rendered about the series let us give both CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien credit for undertaking this project. It was two years in the making and was well worth watching. It validated some of my thinking and gave me further insight into some other areas that were eye opening. I remember a few years ago when some said that Bill Cosby was exposing our “dirty laundry” in public when he talked about the issue of self-responsibility in the African American community. Some thought that he was too candid and much too skeptical. Well if Bill Cosby exposed our dirty laundry, then CNN wasn’t far behind. 


One of the more compelling topics broached on the series was HIV/AIDS. While watching the snippets was painful, the information needed to get out there so that people would know.  HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among young women in the black community. According to the report, one in 20 people in Washington, D.C., are infected with HIV/AIDS. Wherever you are and if you are black, you ought to pay serious attention to this statistic. The takeaway from these statistics is that we as African Americans must make better choices and decisions. HIV/AIDS education must begin, I believe, at the elementary school level. While some may think otherwise, I think to talk about this dreaded disease at the middle school level may be too late. There are a lot of conversations that we have with our children around the dinner table and this must be one of them. In order for our present generation to survive and future generations to thrive, we must become much more proactive about this issue. 


T.D. Jakes, a prominent African American minister, in essence said that black churches have a responsibility in this area. This responsibility just didn’t happen as it has been our responsibility all along; we have just ignored it, thinking that it might go away. Many in the black community think that sermons on Sunday and education programs during the week will help. As for our black community in Middletown what church will begin a ministry that will target HIV/AIDS?


“Black in America” started off on Wednesday showing related black families going to their family reunion in Atlanta, Georgia. The strength and resoluteness of the black family cannot be overlooked or minimized. I spoke with a good friend of mine recently who also had his family reunion in Georgia. I could see the pride on his face as he brought me a souvenir. The black family is steadfast and unmovable because it is our bedrock and the centerpiece of our entire experience. Black folks have long understood that, when all else fails, we still have our families. Dollar bills will come and go but our families will remain strong and consistent. I thought the segment on the family reunion was good, as you could see the connectivity between generations.


One aspect that could have been talked about more was the increase in the number of African Americans who are graduating from colleges across the country. Highlighted in the piece was the fact that more African American women are graduating from college than men. The ongoing challenge that has existed over a period of many years now is how to get more African American males in college and to graduate them. The road to college is filled with potholes called jail, drugs, and poor choices for many black males. I believe strongly that education must be valued in our black households. If it is valued, then in the end it doesn’t matter as much if your parents went to college. All that matters is that they see the importance of getting a college education. I found it a bit amusing on one level that a high school counselor on the special told the African American boy at the time that he should not consider college. Does that still happen today in 2008?


African Americans make up 13 percent of the population yet represent 49 percent of the homicides. This statistic is just horrific. There is no other way to say it. Presidential candidate, Barack Obama, in a recent talk at the NAACP Convention in Cincinnati spoke of personal responsibility and accountability in the black community. If we want to see change, then we must be the change and not wait for it. If we don’t begin it, then who; if not now, when? We, as African American parents and love providers, must provide our children at an early age with a set of instructions that will ward off poor choices and their consequences. Poor decision making results in no dreams of success and generally low expectations. We must teach our children that good things happen when you work hard and treat all people with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, big clothes don’t mean big dreams. We can, we must, and we will do better. We have no choice!


I would hope that mentoring groups and churches would invest in a copy of this series as it can be instructive. There is much to talk about as our future can be bright if we want it to be. The terms and conditions of our future are up to us. While the circumstances are dire in some cases, we have the brainpower to make a difference in the future. Despair must be replaced with hope, and protraction must be replaced with interaction. African Americans who have achieved have a moral obligation to help others who have not been as fortunate. We cannot think that, because we have a bigger house or a bigger car, we have arrived. It is only when we enrich the lives of others that our own lives will be enriched. 


While the CNN special pointed out some of our challenges, it also showed that we have much to be proud of in the black community. As one of my colleagues has said, we have gone from picking cotton to picking presidents. Maybe our dirty laundry was exposed, but we have a chance to clean it up!


Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues

In Memory of One Black Male Educator

Hello. My name is Emmett L. Gill, Jr., and I am an assistant professor at the Rutgers University School of Social Work. I might be what you consider a non-traditional academic – I study the intersection between sports and society, I am relatively young (below 40 in dog years), and I am a black male. I hope this mix of variables will make for some interesting blogging as I attempt to stimulate your intellectual juices with a few appetizers on academics and athletics in higher education.

However, before I delve into academics and athletics please bear with me while I share with you my memories of a black male educator – Emmett L. Gill, Sr. –my Dad! Senior was in the field of education for 36 years – rising from the ranks of a middle school English teacher to assistant principal of one of the largest, most challenging city high schools in North Carolina. In other words, my father was getting his Joe Clark on well before Lean on Me hit the big screen. Labeled as a gentle giant my father was 6’4”, 300-plus, but his students and colleagues viewed him as gentle because of his soft voice and uncanny ability to bring peace to almost any situation.

One of my fathers’ “people tools” was his desire to teach young men and women how to use sport to obtain an education. My father accepted a basketball scholarship to Winston Salem Teachers College to play basketball for the legendary Clarence “Big House” Gaines – while also lettering in football and golf. As a teacher and administrator he used his experiences to motivate at-risk males to obtain their high school education and for marginal student-athletes to use their athletic prowess to obtain a functional degree. I did not understand it when I was younger, but my father had a vested interest, I mean a passion, for influencing students’ lives. I cannot make a trip home without one of his former students stopping me and expressing to me how my father influenced their life. It’s funny how social learning and modeling works because I am driven by a similar purpose.

On Tuesday, April 29, 2008, at the age of 69 my father was called home by his lord and savior. I will miss him dearly as will my mother, sister, and the scores of students he schooled. My father raised an educator and scores of teachers, librarians, mental health workers, accountants, contractors, bankers and yes professional athletes – I hope that I can influence my students the way Mr. Gill influenced his “Gillites”.

While I have shed many tears I must get back to work in memory of one of the greatest black male educators we will ever see – my Dad – Senior – Mr. G!

Dr. Gill is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Rutgers University.