‘Bro. Prez’ and the Black student
Welcome to the site, and my first post! First, big ups to my ace boon coon, C.D. Moody, Jr. His blog, “Moody Speaks”, has inspired me to try to update this blog often-at least weekly. (I’ve been a pro writer for 35 years, but writing ain’t my entire life. I promise to do the best I can to keep things current while I’m actually living my life.) Let’s get to today’s point. This now-famous picture of the young son of a presidental staffer touching the hair of President Barack Obama (referred to as”Bro. Prez” herein going forward) reminds me of how his election has impacted Black students. (The young man wanted to determine if his and Bro. Prez’s hair felt similar.) As in everything, there are unintended consequences. The election of The First Black President was notable with regard to Black students because I believe it reset expectations of Black people generally. How? He’s no “affirmative action” president, at least with respect to winning a tough primary in 2007 & 2008 and 2 reelection campaigns. Many of the usual pundits & talking head use Bro. Prez’s election as the key rationale justifying their conclusions that race is no longer an issue in 21st century America, and that we now live in a “post-racial society.” When I wrote the original EXCELLENCE WITHOUT EXCUSE in 1993, I wrote about how Black students could use the generally low expectations that instructors had about the ability of Black students to perform academically. By becoming the “exception to the rule,” instructors would give them the benefit of the doubt. (You’ll have to read the book for more.) Things have changed since then. Bro. Prez’s achievement now causes many people – most of whom don’t give a damn about Black student performance anyway – to say, “If he can do it, you can.” Both the low expectation and the high expectation camps are wrong. Black students CAN excel academically, whether expectations of their academic potentialities are low or high – IF they are taught the skills-time management, goal setting, reading, test-taking, etc. – necessary to succeed. So really, it’s not as much about the expectations as much as it’s about the fundamental skills. Black boys don’t come out of the womb dunking basketballs. They aren’t born with the skills they need to track and catch a football thrown 50 yards in the air, or the skills to smack a 95 mph fastball with a sliver of wood. They were taught basic fundamentals and built on those same fundamentals over two decades or so to get to that point. And the expectations weren’t high or low; they were REASONABLE given their interests and basic talents. And as their athletic skills improved, the expectations increased. The moral of the story: Without the skills, the level of expectations is irrelevant. Who’s teaching our kids the academic skills with the same drive and aggressiveness that we teach athletic skills? Where’s the individual and systemic commitment to do so?