Lost Boys: UT Panel Explores Crisis of Race & Gender [Watch]

Nearly half of young men of color age 15 to 24 who graduate from high school are unemployed, incarcerated, or dead.

That sobering statistic (from a 2010 College Board report) was the jumping-off point at last night’s opening panel for UT’s 26th annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights.

The panel brought together five researchers and diversity advocates to discuss the dire educational situation for young men who are African American, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander American, and Native American.

A standing-room-only crowd of UT students, faculty, and staff, as well as Austin community members, packed a room at John Hargis Hall.

Ronald Williams, the College Board’s vice president, moderated a discussion that was provocative and sobering. The panelists agreed that schools and communities must do more to support male students of color—starting by talking more openly about race and gender.

“We’re still beating the drum of color blindness, and that leaves no room for important conversations about race and gender,” said Kevin Foster, MA ’94, PhD ’01, assistant professor of educational administration and founder of ICUSP, an enrichment program in Texas public schools. “What I see in our schools is fear of darker-skinned boys, and it’s destructive.”

“Only 8 percent of Native American male high school graduates go on to any post-secondary education,” said Mario Garza, director of the Indigenous Cultures Institute. “People think that Indians have disappeared from America. You know, there’s Last of the Mohicans, and in every Western movie the Indian goes off into the sunset. But we didn’t disappear. We are here, and we are struggling.”

One need the panelists agreed on was for more diversity among teachers. Foster said that 85 percent of elementary and secondary teachers are female, versus 60 percent in previous generations—and most are white and middle-class. “When you are a male student of color, and you don’t have teachers who look like you or who have shared the same experiences, how do you begin to have these conversations at school?” Foster said.

Neil Horikoshi, president and director of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, spoke passionately about the model minority myth—the widespread false belief that Asian Americans always excel in school and don’t need extra help. “Thirty percent of PhDs in the U.S. are awarded to Asians,” Horikoshi said. “But only 2 percent of PhDs go to Asian Americans. There is so much people don’t know.”

Learn more in this College Board video:


Photo by Zen Ren


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