Demonstrated Effects of Mentoring on Black Male Youth.
(ThyBlackMan.com) The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that as of 2008, there were more than 846,000 black men in prison, making up 40.2 percent of all inmates in the system. More African-American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began. Black male achievement begins to decline as early as the fourth grade and by high school, black males are more likely to drop out. In 2001, only 42.8 percent graduated from high school, compared to 70.8 percent for their white counterparts. African-American men are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white males, and black males who work in comparable jobs earn only 75 percent of what white men earn.
What is mentoring?
Mentoring is a time-proven strategy that can help young people of all circumstances achieve their potential. Mentors are caring individuals who, along with parents or guardians, provide young people with support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement and a constructive example. But mentoring is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Every young person who would benefit from a mentoring relationship has individual needs. Effective mentoring programs offer enough flexibility to help meet each mentee’s personal needs, yet allow mentoring relationships to flourish within a safe structure.
6 Reasons why mentoring works:
Both formal and informal mentoring have the potential to benefit black boys in a range of areas, including academics (e.g., grades), social-emotional well-being (e.g., relationships with others), mental health (e.g., alcohol use), and preventing risky behaviors (e.g., sexual activity).
- Cultural mistrust may influence black boys’ perceptions of their white mentors and thus the quality of their relationships with them.
- Mentoring may be able to lessen the negative effects of racial discrimination on Black boys.
- Group mentoring approaches seem to support Black male youth’s social-emotional development through group processes (e.g., unity, brotherhood, trust).
- Mentoring that promotes Black boys’ racial identity may in turn lead to positive effects in other aspects of their lives (e.g., academic outcomes). This process may be facilitated by connecting Black male youth with mentors who have shared life experiences; engaging Black men as mentors has the potential to be useful in this regard, although it should be noted that research to inform the possible merits of this strategy is largely lacking.
- Research suggests that Black men are more likely to serve as informal rather than formal mentors and that they experience barriers to serving as mentors in formal mentoring programs.
- Developing close and supportive mentoring relationships may be a mechanism by which mentoring promotes positive outcomes in Black boys.
Black boys may have less access to informal mentors compared to Black girls.
One of the biggest challenges in serving youth especially a black male youth is determining how to meet the broader, collective needs of that group while also allowing for mentoring to be tailored to the needs of the individual. This certainly comes into play when thinking about Black boys and young men in our programs. As noted previously, each individual will have diverse needs, life histories, and life goals, even if there are some aspects of being Black in our society that are perhaps more universal.
Mentoring programs are encouraged to be bold actors in this conversation and to work with other community leaders to address the systemic and deeply rooted reasons behind the inequality and injustice that haunt too many of the black male youth who come looking for mentors. The focus of a program’s work should always be on the quality and consistency of the mentoring provided. But purposefully engaging in actions to address root causes of poverty, inequality, and injustice is also essential to the work.
Mentoring is always about building up the potential of individuals to live the lives they want, but there also needs to be a recognition that those lives don’t happen in a vacuum and that mentored youth will have an easier time reaching their goals if there are efforts to improve the communities they live in. Programs should consider making it a priority to offer mentees and mentors a chance to be engaged in their community, to give back through service projects or other activities. Also, look for opportunities for your program to work with others to reduce the inequality and systemic racism that plague so many American cities that house our young black men.
Staff Writer; Amber Ogden
One may also view more of her work over at; AmberOgden.com.