Black women are currently attending universities at historically high rates. While such achievements must be applauded, it brings to light a blaring inconsistency between the level of Black male achievement to Black female achievement from the same socio-economic backgrounds. Why are Black women attending universities at historic highs, while their male counterparts are both attending university at historic lows, since integration, and graduating at rates of 2/3 the graduation rate of Black women?
Admittedly, the trend in Black female achievement aligns with female educational success across the states with women now attending universities at a higher rate than men. Graduation rates for women as a whole are also statistically greater than graduation rates of men as whole. However, it is the degree of difference between the genders in the African American community compared to other ethnic communities that are truly startling.
One explanation for these discrepancies is a difference of socialization, even within the same home environments. Over half of African American homes are single mother led households. As a result, many Black men lack male role models within their household.
While at the same time, the sisters of these same men grow up under a matriarch that whether by circumstance or choice, practice self-sufficiency.
While Black males and females may arise from the same households and socioeconomic classes, the way they view their gender roles vis a vis society and vis a vis each other are affected by the presence of their or lack there of gender specific parental role model.
In addition to not having Black male role models in the home, Black male role models are also lacking within the educational environment with less than two percent of educators being both Black and male. Without Black male role models in the home and in schools, Black men often resort to seeking out Black male role models as represented by popular media, many of whom occupy admirable social positions not as a result of education but as a result of another sort of prowess, such as athletic or musical ability.
Taking cues from their role models or peer group, education becomes a non-priority in the minds of many Black men.
The difference between the role of education in the lives of the different genders is further seen to be representative of the gender differences. Consequently, educational attainment is seen as girly or feminine, and the exact opposite of the Black masculine ideal.
The system that originally derives from a lack of Black male role models that prioritize education becomes perpetuated by gender stereotyping, an influence which is especially strong throughout the Black community.
(Jeremy Bamidele is a nationally syndicated journalist and an adjunct faculty member at Rancho Santiago Community College District. He recently served as a host for the Black Male/Female Relationship Conference at the University of Pennsylvania.)