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Is There a Black Male Mentor Shortage?

By Marlon Aldridge, Sr.

Let me answer this question very quickly. NO! We are simply not organized to handle this crisis in our communities-in this case, the safety and development of our young Black boys. (Note: I do not minimize the safety and development of black girls, but many of us have really been concerned about the plight of Black boys, especially their moms.)

With that said, there is one issue that disturbs me; mainly, a new mindset in the Black community: parents letting their children decide how they spend their time away from school and family. This is a BIG mistake. Black children had little say in how they spent their leisure time when I was growing up, at least in my household. I suspect that overburdened parents do not want to fuss with their children about these issues any more.

What? “Fuss with children”. Where were these parents when my siblings and I were growing up? We did what we were told, period!

Evidence

I wouldn’t be worthy of running a think tank if I didn’t provide a little evidence. During the last U.S. Census, there were about 5.5 million Black males less than 18 years old compared to about 5.3 million Black females. By contrast, there were about 13 million Black adult males compared to about 15 million Black adult females. From this perspective alone, we can see that there are more adult males than there are Black male minors. Let’s go a step further. About thirty one percent of Black children live in two-parent households compared to about 77 percent of White children. If we assume that half of the children are boys, then about 1.7 million boys live with both parents while 3.8 million do not. About five percent of Black children (590,076) live with their dads alone while 45 percent (about 4.8 million) live with their moms alone. For all intents and purposes, Black children live with their moms. From this perspective, we see that Black children suffer the most when both parents are not in the home or when they divorce. This is especially true for Black boys. Until we remedy this problem, mentoring programs are a must.

Table 1 - Living Arrangements of Black Children under 18 Years Old, 2010

 

Total

Living w/Both Parents

Living w/ Dad Alone

Living w/ Mom Alone

Living in other Families

 

10,747,776

3,355,225

590,076

4,854,591

1,947,884

Boys

5,481,366

1,711,165

300,939

2,475,841

993,421

Girls

5,266,410

1,644,060

289,137

2,378,750

954,463

Sources:  U.S. Census, 2006-2010 ACS, Relationship to Householder for Children Under 18 Years in Households and 2010 ACS, Own Children under 18 by Family Type and Age Note: Boys and girls estimates are my own based on population tables which show that boys represent almost 51 percent of children under 18 years old. I split those groupings with that proportion in mind.

Often, I get calls from mentor program leaders, who desperately want me to help them recruit Black male mentors. I want to help because it’s my job. At the “Tank”, our mission is to develop and support Black organizations and professionals. I am deeply committed to this mission.

Let me return to an earlier statement that I made, “We are simply not organized to handle this crisis in our communities-in this case, the safety and development of our young Black boys.”

We as a people are highly unorganized. We are not organized in such a way that we are able to solve environmental problems. I use the term environmental here to suggest that too many of us are affected by the same issue regardless of where we live. For example, the plight of young black males should not be linked to personal deficits in character but to common problems affecting us all. Said another away, when the flu virus is in the environment, we are all likely to get sick. Let’s immunize ourselves against this flu by getting organized. Let’s quarantine this issue of not being able to provide positive adult male mentors for at-risk young males.

Recommendations

1.    Let’s make sure that we structure our mentoring programs using best practices. Here’s one source, http://www.mentoring.org/downloads/mentoring_1222.pdf. Please suggest others.

2.    Let’s form local mentoring referral cooperatives, which recruit mentors on a consistent basis using diverse forms of advertising. Mentoring organizations should be members and contribute financially to recruitment advertising.

3.    Let’s engage in a public relations campaign to ease prospective mentors concerns about time commitments and other concerns. Many of them think that they have to be one-on-one with youth. Mentoring can be done in groups where other mentors and youth are present or in school settings during normal school hours like lunch time. It can also be done online.

4.    Let’s encourage parents to insist that their children stay active in extra-curricular activities where other positive adults are present to act as great influencers and role models. They should work with coaches and instructors to reinforce positive behaviors in youth when they are misbehaving. Oftentimes, parents punish youth by forcing them to quit activities that they like. This is a grave mistake.

For Mentoring Program Leaders

If you have a mentoring program and are in need of mentors, please us the comments box below to enter your details and contact information.

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