I’m running late to my first class of the day. Before you judge me, it’s an 8am Political Science class in the MLC.
Why did I sign up for an 8am? I’m already regretting this decision. I just throw on a red Georgia t-shirt, black basketball shorts, and a pair of Nike slides and walk out the back door of Payne Hall.
Luckily, the teacher has not shown up yet either. I see a seat in the front row and I sit down. I take out my notebook and pen and wait for my professor to walk in. I look around, and it really is 300 students in this class. I always thought that was an exaggeration.
300 students and I can easily count all the black students in this class. Even more alarming, I can count all the black male students on one hand. Coming from Stephenson High School in DeKalb County, this is a sight I’m not used to.
Today, a new organization on campus is holding their first meeting, Black Male Leadership Society (BMLS). This was one of the few, if not the only all black male organization on campus that’s not Greek. My friends and I walk into the meeting room a little anxious to see the outlook for this organization.
Tevin, Daryl, and Charles stood at the front of the room and gave their mission, goal, and outlook for BMLS for the year. Truly, I believe everyone in the room was thoroughly impressed.
Then, they began a slideshow with quotes, questions, and stats. The next slide came across, and I was floored.
“2.67%.” That was the percentage of black undergraduate males on campus entering fall of 2012.
I’m a numbers guy. I like to look at the numbers, and I dive into what they really mean. 2.67%, what does that mean for the state of black males on campus? Let’s examine:
According to Forbes, UGA is 7.33% African-American. UGA’s undergraduate enrollment is 26, 373 students. After doing the math, the amount of AA students on campus equals an estimate of around 2,000. That gives us an estimate 1,300 female AA students and 700 male AA students.
700 includes all the athletes on campus. Imagine how much revenue black UGA football players, basketball players, track, and other athletes bring in. Yet, we are only less than 3% of the school’s total population.
It makes me appreciate black men on campus a lot more. Our generation as a whole was taught not to see color. To be honest, we don’t.
As shallow as it is, we don’t judge you by the color of your skin, sexuality, or religious beliefs, but how you dress, body counts, and music preferences. It’s incredibly stupid at times, but I think it’s better than the former option.
Don’t tell me it’s not a big deal. You can’t tell me how to feel until you are one of a handful of black males in a 300 person classroom. A lot of pressure is put on us. We can’t just be average, but we have to be excellent.
The sad truth is, “You have to be twice as good to get half of what they have.” (Thanks Shonda and Eli Pope).
That’s why I sit in the front of every classroom. I do it to let every peer and instructor know that I belong here. I answer every question the professor asks for that reason. I belong. We belong.
Do I judge the UGA Admissions Office? To an extent, yes. But not really. They have made a concerned effort to reach out to urban areas to recruit black males to come to UGA.
Could they have more diversity programs? Yes. Could UGA increase funding for black organizations on campus? Of course, but the sole blame can’t go on them.
Do I blame the media? Yes. Black people have been stereotyped since Birth of a Nation in 1904 and even before that. Men seen as savage beasts looking to de-flower and rape innocent white women.
Black women seen as secondary, unimportant, and the only thing they had for society was a career as a maid or babysitting white children.
Those media stereotypes ultimately killed Trayvon Martin. They have killed millions of other blacks males and females. Black men are not always angry. Black women are not weak.
We don’t hate other races, we just want our race to be well represented. There are numerous positive examples in the black community. Show them.
Do I blame black artists and musicians? Hell Yes. Personally, I love the Migos, Travis Porter, and other hip hop artists’ music, but do you have to degrade women and excite violence all the time?
Whether you want to or not, you are role models. An occasional positive song couldn’t hurt too much.
On campus, I’ve personally challenged the black men in my year. Black women on campus in my class are excelling, setting standards, and breaking barriers. They are the president, vice-president, executives of numerous organizations on campus, but where are black men.
We have to ease the burden on our black women. The only way we can do that is matching their excellence. It’s not that I don’t see men in my year excelling because there are numerous candidates.
However, we can be much better. I’m not pointing the finger at everybody else. I know I have to raise my game exponentially as well.
I just want to tell those kids who I hope will read this today, tomorrow, or years from now and tell them you can do anything. No dream is too big. Nothing is out of reach. Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week.
I didn’t write this to cast blame or complain. I wrote this for people to understand where black people, especially the black male comes from.
I don’t want sympathy, but empathy. Know our burdens and sacrifices. Respect them and know we walk with a heavy heart, mind, and soul.
I’ll end this post with an excerpt from W.E.B. Du Bois’ “Souls of Black Folk.”
“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.”