African-American men are institutionally disadvantaged toward succeeding at the university level, and one Ohio State professor thinks the future looks dim.
More than 30 people faced heavy snow Thursday night to hear OSU associate professor Terrell Strayhorn give a talk titled, “Black masculinity and its influence on academic and life success,” at the OSU African American and African Studies Community Extension Center.
Out of the 49 percent of African-American males who graduate high school, two out of three at the university level will drop out, Strayhorn said.
“If you look at all students in the country, the students with the most depressing outcomes are black men,” he said.
While Strayhorn made it clear that all African-American men were not underprepared or overwhelmed by college, he said there is a group that is unprepared though the individuals might not necessarily be at fault.
“Retention and persistence or graduation rates are not just a function of the individual,” Strayhorn said. “There are men, black men, who finish high school unprepared for college. But their unpreparedness has social, economic and political roots.”
Strayhorn also focused on the idea of what being an African-American man looks like and how many are succumbing to a false image of “hyper masculinity” that trades brutish intimidation and confidence for humility.
“He’s not going to ask for help because men don’t ask for help. Men should be able to do it on their own, should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and make it,” Strayhorn said. “So this is where masculinity becomes a major problem for some black boys, because they get into college environments and their academic success actually depends on one of the most critical and basic skills, help seeking.”
The talk reminded some audience members of their time at universities and that the experience of African-American males at universities has been roughly the same for decades.
“These were the same issues when I was at Ohio State University,” said Melvin Richardson, a 1965 graduate. “It’s different but in terms of the challenges of involvement of black males … I don’t see hardly any progress.”
Still some of those in the audience said they would encourage their own African-American male friends to become more aware of their situation and grateful for their opportunity to attend universities.
“I want to talk to them, let them know some of the stuff that I learned, encourage them to go see some more of Dr. Strayhorn’s speeches and things like that,” said Preshuslee Thompson, a second-year in criminology and sociology. “I don’t think they understand the privilege that they have for being here and I don’t think they see the importance that their enrollment at Ohio State holds.”
Strayhorn encouraged students to be advocates for strong racial and ethnic diversity as OSU moves toward becoming a “highly selective institution.”
“Students can consume this information, be aware of it and situate it in the national numbers,” Strayhorn said. “All students at Ohio State should be advocating for more black men get into Ohio State because we all benefit.”