As the head of President Barack Obama’s Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans, David J. Johns has been in a position to make some real change in the lives of young Black boys. It’s a responsibility he clearly takes very seriously.
Speaking at the H.I.S. BET Town Hall Meeting at Morehouse College in Atlanta on September 19, Johns said, “I think it’s really important to start these conversations about Black men by not reinforcing these stereotypes that are offered about us, but to celebrate how complex and complicated we are.”
He adds, “There are a number of mistruths that circulate popularly about Black men. Most commonly they are negative and destructive, both in the way that they reflect Black men in society and in the way they impact the opportunities Black men and boys are able to take advantage of.”
Johns believes changing these perceptions begins in the classroom. “Fewer than 2 percent of educators, from pre-K to 12th grade, are Black men. Most people will go their entire lives and only see white women [as teachers],” he points out. Believing that young Black men would end up either dead or in jail, “educators would take themselves off the hook. They would say…’preparing him for college is not necessarily my responsibility.’”
“So many of these negative images are controlled by popular media, and we need to do a better job of celebrating images and ideologies that contradict those negative stereotypes,” said the former elementary school teacher. Added Johns, “educators do God’s work.”
(Photo: Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images for BET)