Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Everette Howard, dead at 18. He won the battle but lost the war.

The statistics say that young black men are about 50% on average to graduate from high school with their white counterparts. In Ohio the graduation rate is 41% for black males, lower than the national average. The racial achievement gap is now greater than the national average. I could cite report after report that states the reading level, the math scores, the higher rates of violence in public schools and on and on lead to a devastating future academically for black males. To top that off there is a documented public school to prison pipeline that is reported in newspapers around the world every year. Add to that single parent households and the numbers of black males who fail in the "system" is said to be even higher.

Everette Howard beat all of those odds. Even in Cincinnati where black male achievement is so low that there is a call to action to reverse the failing trend. Everette, an athlete, ranked in the top ten percent of his high school class. He was captain of the wrestling team, a support to his teachers, he taught Bible study, fed the homeless, and did I say he did great in school? So well that high school was not a deterrent to his success, his three Rs were great actually, he was considered an excellent writer. He beat the odds, graduated high school and was on his way to college. On scholarship. For two sports, wrestling and football. This young man made it. Except for one thing, in his desire to stop a fight, he was in a confrontation with police. Police who likely knew that according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics(BJS), black males are incarcerated at a rate more than 6.5 times that of white males. Maybe the campus police at the University of Cincinnati  assumed Everette was or would be the 1 in 8 black males in prison on any given day. Maybe, because so few make it to college, maybe because there are so few present in comparison to their white counterparts on any college campus...maybe these campus police assumed he had no right to be there, that he was a threat. Maybe they could not imagine that an 18 year old black male on a college campus was in an Upward Bound program two weeks shy of beginning his own college career. Maybe that is why young Everette Howard, was tasered by a campus police officer when he approached them at University of Cincinnati last weekend. Maybe, the officer was so shocked to see a young black man doing the right thing the right way was such a shock to his reality that his first thought was to taser him and then handcuff him on the ground.

Is the problem that the officer responded to his reality, that only 6 % of the students on the UC campus are black? That only 3.6% of the faculty at UC are black? Is it that the campus police officer sees so few black people, least of which are black male students on college campuses around the country including his own, that he assumed that this young man made him feel unsafe? The officer made the decision that Everette Howard deserved to be tasered, not listened to, despite the fact that Everette was the one who was on the side of peace and safety, for which the officer himself stands.

Lastly, let me say this. In all of the commentary about Everette Howard we see mention of his mother and in some articles it says his parents. In one video of his mom we see her with an unidentified woman holding her hand. There has been no mention of Everette's dad. I wonder why that is? This young man has a father. Somewhere. Even if he passed away he has a dad. I wonder why in so many articles about young men, their fathers are not mentioned? It bothers me to see this. There is the assumption particularly when the boys are black, that there is no man in the mix. Even I assumed he is the son of a single mom, but there is no mention one way or the other of his mother's marital status. This is a message to fathers of black young men: the world needs to see men hurting, crying, caring and fighting for your children, too. Black boys are in a battle for status, excellence and achievement.

Black boys need of mentors, fathers, examples and support to help them avoid prison, death and statistics that predict their demise in so many different ways. Even when they are successful, like Everette was, they may win the battle. Everette did. This young man, on his way to college and even more success--a good guy, one who made it past all of the doom and gloom predicted for black boys and young black men. He made it, he won the battle. But until we make changes in the reality of what "is" for black men in America, until the hearts and minds of everyone watching-- including police, especially police-- changes, black men will continue to lose the war. And the outcome of the war affects us all- every color, every gender every creed.


What happened on campus and the messsage from Everette's mom.

Black Boys Report

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